December 31, 2018 – Our time machine travels back to a two-mile sliver of land in New York City’s East River. Since 1971, it has been known as Roosevelt Island. But the Victorians knew it as Blackwell’s Island, a dreaded name synonymous with illness, insanity, poverty, prisons and purgatory. You could suffer there for a variety of crimes, or for things as simple as being a woman walking alone late at night, an immigrant who didn’t speak English, or someone too poor to make bail.
Charles Dickens described the place as “a lounging, listless madhouse.”
Joining us to tell the true story of those who preceded us in the great story of Gotham is Stacy Horn. She brings us, Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York. Stacy’s book is the first contemporary investigative account of Blackwell’s, which she delivers by digging into the records of reformers, reporters and journalists like the intrepid Nellie Bly.
Stacy Horn is the author of five nonfiction books, including Imperfect Harmony. She’s the founder of the social network Echo and also works at the ASPCA, listing among her credentials “cat butler.” Find her at StacyHorn.com or @StacyHorn on Twitter.