Delsartean hypnosis for girls' bodies and minds: Annie Payson Call and the Lasell Seminary nerve training controversy

Hist Psychol. 2012 May;15(2):124-44. doi: 10.1037/a0023682.


In the summer of 1890, news that two students at Lasell Seminary for Young Women in Auburndale, MA had suffered a complete nervous collapse as a result of being hypnotized by an instructor in a nerve training class caused a brief but sharp national sensation regarding hypnotism and nerve training in girls' education. The instructor, Annie Payson Call, denied practicing hypnotism, and the seminary's principal defended both Call and the "mind concentration" course she taught at Lasell. Call's approach to nerve training blended Delsartean relaxation exercises, New Thought psychology, and self-hypnotic techniques into a therapeutic regimen which can be termed "Delsartean hypnosis." Developed further in her 1891 popular self-help handbook, Power Through Repose, Call's variety of Delsartean hypnosis was incorporated into the procedures of proponents of suggestive therapeutics, and it served as a model for subsequent relaxation training programs in the early- and mid-20th century.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis / history*
  • Hypnosis / methods
  • Relaxation Therapy / education
  • Relaxation Therapy / history*
  • United States

Personal name as subject

  • Annie Payson Call