Unlocking the Golden Cage: An Intimate Biography of Hilde Bruch, M.D.

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9780936077161: Unlocking the Golden Cage: An Intimate Biography of Hilde Bruch, M.D.

This biography of Hilde Bruch is a colorful, personal account of a legendary figure in modern psychiatry. Although she is best known as a pioneer in the field of eating disorders and is considered a major contributor to the conceptualization of anorexia nervosa, those accomplishments came in her "golden years" after an already prodigious career. Bruch authored more than 250 articles and six books, including The Golden Cage, a bestseller that introduced anorexia nervosa into popular culture. In the 60’s, when thinness was a national obsession, she became widely known and quoted—remaining the worlds foremost authority on eating disorders well into her eighties.

Hilde’s story begins in a turn-of-the-century German hamlet, where she stood out as an exceptionally intelligent and intuitive child who watched skeptically as Kaiser Wilhelm’s troops grandly marched off to World War I. Later, as a young Jewish physician, she experienced and fled the prejudice of the Third Reich to England and eventually New York, escaping the terrible fate of numerous family members who died in Nazi concentration camps. She spent her own childbearing years as a pediatrician advising mothers while loving their children, through it all remaining ironically outside the biological experience of motherhood. Blessed with a flawless memory, unshakable confidence, and unflagging mental energy, Hilde was ruthlessly organized, mercilessly prepared, and intimidatingly productive.

Yet despite her professional achievements, her personal life, which has never been disclosed before, was sometimes a struggle. She coped with depression for many years and desperately fought from afar to help some of her family escape from Nazi Germany. Her romantic involvements—at least one of which was a clandestine relationship with a prominent married physician—were ultimately unhappy affairs.

Hilde spent her final twenty years as the "Grande Dame" of Baylor University Medical School in Houston and traveling the world lecturing about eating disorders and teaching today’s experts. Despite the debilitating advances of Parkinson’s Disease, Hilde continued writing and speaking until her death in 1984, after which she was eulogized in the Journal of the American Medical Association for her contributions as an author, pediatrician, and psychiatrist.

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About the Author:

Joanne Hatch Bruch is married to Herbert Bruch, Hilde’s nephew, whose guardianship she assumed after his parents and sister were killed in the holocaust. When Hilde died in 1984, Joanne sorted through the voluminous keepsakes of a sentimental "pack rat," whose roots were locked in dog-eared and yellowing documents from an earlier lifetime, and discovered a fascinating story. Joanne has taught high school, is a mother and grandmother, and lives with Herbert in Devon, PA.


"... fascinating, richly contextual, and admirably forthright account of the early pioneer of eating disorders." -- Kathryn J. Zerbe, M.D. Author, The Body Betrayed Helen Malsin Professor The Menninger Clinic

"... illuminates the distinguished career and fascinating personal struggles of the woman who unlocked the field of eating disorders. -- David M. Garner, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor Department of Psychology Bowling Green State University

"This bold and intimate biography that tells the human side of her story." -- Joel Yager, M.D. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque Editor, Eating Disorders Review

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