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Suffolk Libraries Day: Meet the Author: Kate Wilby

Join us on Suffolk Libraries Day for the chance to meet author Kate Wilby and hear about her book First, and Before All Things. This work of historical fiction is inspired by the true story of Mary Chapman, the compassionate and understanding founder of the Bethel Hospital for Lunaticks in Norwich and draws on historical documents including Mary’s will and the building agreement for the Bethel.

“Mary had little education beyond being able to read and write, no vote and no right to own property and she lived at a time when the accepted norm for the treatment of the ‘insane’ was the brutality and ridicule of Bedlam. As the kind and pious, and unmarried, daughter, Mary becomes a carer to those of her kindred affected by ‘mental torment’, and she seems destined for a lonely life, resigning herself to simply ‘doing her duty’.

“Then, aged 35, she marries the Reverend Samuel Chapman, and together they plan to create a sanctuary for the ‘poor lunaticks’ of Norwich. Following Samuel’s death, and inspired by her enduring love for her beloved husband, an ageing Mary has to fight the 18th-century attitudes towards women as she strives to fulfil her promise to Samuel to build the place they had envisioned.”