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The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear

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1860: As the clash between the states rolls slowly to a boil, Elizabeth Packard, housewife and mother of six, is facing her own battle. The enemy sits across the table and sleeps in the next room. Her husband of twenty-one years is plotting against her because he feels increasingly threatened - by Elizabeth's intellect, independence, and unwillingness to stifle her own tho 1860: As the clash between the states rolls slowly to a boil, Elizabeth Packard, housewife and mother of six, is facing her own battle. The enemy sits across the table and sleeps in the next room. Her husband of twenty-one years is plotting against her because he feels increasingly threatened - by Elizabeth's intellect, independence, and unwillingness to stifle her own thoughts. So Theophilus makes a plan to put his wife back in her place. One summer morning, he has her committed to an insane asylum. The horrific conditions inside the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, are overseen by Dr. Andrew McFarland, a man who will prove to be even more dangerous to Elizabeth than her traitorous husband. But most disturbing is that Elizabeth is not the only sane woman confined to the institution. There are many rational women on her ward who tell the same story: they've been committed not because they need medical treatment, but to keep them in line - conveniently labeled "crazy" so their voices are ignored. No one is willing to fight for their freedom and, disenfranchised both by gender and the stigma of their supposed madness, they cannot possibly fight for themselves. But Elizabeth is about to discover that the merit of losing everything is that you then have nothing to lose...


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1860: As the clash between the states rolls slowly to a boil, Elizabeth Packard, housewife and mother of six, is facing her own battle. The enemy sits across the table and sleeps in the next room. Her husband of twenty-one years is plotting against her because he feels increasingly threatened - by Elizabeth's intellect, independence, and unwillingness to stifle her own tho 1860: As the clash between the states rolls slowly to a boil, Elizabeth Packard, housewife and mother of six, is facing her own battle. The enemy sits across the table and sleeps in the next room. Her husband of twenty-one years is plotting against her because he feels increasingly threatened - by Elizabeth's intellect, independence, and unwillingness to stifle her own thoughts. So Theophilus makes a plan to put his wife back in her place. One summer morning, he has her committed to an insane asylum. The horrific conditions inside the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, are overseen by Dr. Andrew McFarland, a man who will prove to be even more dangerous to Elizabeth than her traitorous husband. But most disturbing is that Elizabeth is not the only sane woman confined to the institution. There are many rational women on her ward who tell the same story: they've been committed not because they need medical treatment, but to keep them in line - conveniently labeled "crazy" so their voices are ignored. No one is willing to fight for their freedom and, disenfranchised both by gender and the stigma of their supposed madness, they cannot possibly fight for themselves. But Elizabeth is about to discover that the merit of losing everything is that you then have nothing to lose...

30 review for The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    This book was incredibly frustrating but amazing. At this point I'll read whatever Kate Moore writes. Pick it up! This book was incredibly frustrating but amazing. At this point I'll read whatever Kate Moore writes. Pick it up!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

    Well I am now properly and rightly enraged. It’s seems that Kate Moore isn’t going to shy away from writing the stories of badass women that history wronged. I thought that The Radium Girls was infuriating, I had no idea how much angrier this book would make me. This is the story of Elizabeth Packard and her garbage husband who was intimidated by her intelligence so claimed she was insane and had her committed to an asylum. Only for her to discover that the asylum is just full of perfectly sane Well I am now properly and rightly enraged. It’s seems that Kate Moore isn’t going to shy away from writing the stories of badass women that history wronged. I thought that The Radium Girls was infuriating, I had no idea how much angrier this book would make me. This is the story of Elizabeth Packard and her garbage husband who was intimidated by her intelligence so claimed she was insane and had her committed to an asylum. Only for her to discover that the asylum is just full of perfectly sane women who’s husbands didn’t want to deal with them anymore. The torture and abuse these women went through was horrendous and the amount of injustices and blatant lies they were told is unfortunately not as appalling as it should be. This book embodies the whole “nasty woman” mentality and it’s brutal and incredibly empowering seeing how many times Packard was shoved down only to pick herself back up and keep trying. And yet have you ever heard of her? Probably not. The perseverance this woman had to continually keep trying to have her voice heard speaks volumes of how suppressed women have been and yet still keep screaming. I got chills, I cried, I raged, I did victory laps, this book brought out so many visceral reactions. And yet it’s another piece of history that no one knows about simply because it’s a woman’s story. The post script at the end really gut punches you with how far we think we’ve come with feminism only to realize we’re still dealing with the same struggles and same suppression she went through. This is yet another story that I want to put in everyone’s hands and will recommend relentlessly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    This book tells the true story of Elizabeth Packard, a mid-19th century wife and mother who fought for women's rights in America. Elizabeth Packard Historically, women in the United States had no rights. "Women....were subsumed within the legal identities of their husbands. The husband and wife are one, said the law, and that one is the husband." Thus a husband owned all his wife's possessions, could take custody of the couple's children, and had the power "to deprive [his wife] of her liberty an This book tells the true story of Elizabeth Packard, a mid-19th century wife and mother who fought for women's rights in America. Elizabeth Packard Historically, women in the United States had no rights. "Women....were subsumed within the legal identities of their husbands. The husband and wife are one, said the law, and that one is the husband." Thus a husband owned all his wife's possessions, could take custody of the couple's children, and had the power "to deprive [his wife] of her liberty and to administer chastisement." In June 1860, Illinois resident Elizabeth Packard had been married to her pastor husband Theophilus for twenty-one years. Theophilus Packard The Packards had six children, who were "the sun, moon, and stars" to Elizabeth, and she spent her days "making their world as wondrous as she could." Elizabeth Packard and her children Elizabeth's husband Theophilus was of a less gentle nature. He was an autocratic man who had at times confiscated Elizabeth's mail, refused her access to her own money (from her father), and isolated her from her friends. Elizabeth felt "the net [Theophilus] cast about her felt more like a cage than the protection marriage had promised." Things were about to get much worse though. In the bible class run by Theophilus's Presbyterian church, Elizabeth had expressed views that differed from her husband's. In Theophilus's eyes, this meant his wife was insane, and he determined to have her committed to an asylum. In 1860 a husband could have his wife committed by merely asserting she was mad and getting medical certificates from two doctors. Theophilus approached two physicians he knew, and they agreed to affirm that Elizabeth had "derangement of mind...upon religious matters." Elizabeth soon found herself in Illinois's Jacksonville Insane Asylum, over two hundred miles from her home in Manteno. The Packard family home in Manteno, Illinois Elizabeth resisted being transported to Jacksonville Insane Asylum Jacksonville Insane Asylum Jacksonville Asylum operated under the supervision of Dr. Andrew McFarland, who answered to a Board of Trustees that rubber-stamped all his decisions. Dr. Andrew McFarland As the saying goes, 'absolute power corrupts absolutely', and McFarland was a dictator who ran the institute more like a prison than a hospital. Moreover, McFarland - who had little training in the field of mental health - couldn't tell an insane person from a bunch of carrots. McFarland allowed perfectly rational women to stagnate in Jacksonville for years on the say-so of their husbands....who often had ulterior motives. When Elizabeth arrived at Jacksonville Asylum, she found McFarland to be a fine-looking gentleman with a nice manner. At first, Elizabeth thought Dr. McFarland was a charming man Elizabeth thought the doctor would realize how intelligent, well-spoken, and sane she was, and would release her immediately. This didn't happen however, and Elizabeth was incarcerated for years.....during which she sorely missed her beloved children. Elizabeth's children lament their mother's absence McFarland had theories about ingratiating himself with patients for therapeutic purposes, and he got close to Elizabeth to help 'cure' her. As a result, Elizabeth developed a complicated love/hate relationship with the doctor, which is detailed in the book. While in Jacksonville Asylum, Elizabeth observed the abusive treatment of patients, and met competent women who were incarcerated by scurrilous husbands. Dr. McFarland overseeing a recalcitrant patient's punishment Patients were routinely abused by staff Elizabeth recorded her observations in a secret journal, and wrote a book while in Jacksonville. All of these proved useful later on. Once Elizabeth was released from the asylum, she published her writings, and campaigned day and night to change America's laws. Elizabeth wanted to secure equal rights for women and get asylum reform....and a nice bonus would be to get McFarland fired. Elizabeth went door to door; spoke to legislators; implored governors; attended court; testified before the Jacksonville Board of Trustees; and more. Elizabeth published pamphlets Elizabeth published books Elizabeth met with legislators The Illinois senate debating laws about women's rights Of course Dr. McFarland, Theophilus, supervisors of asylums, profiteers associated with mental hospitals, and newspapers (run by men) fought Elizabeth tooth and nail, and the suspense of the book lies in 'who would win?' Theophilus opposed Elizabeth's campaign for reforms The story is interesting, and the topic is VERY important, but the narrative is much too detailed and over-long. Kate Moore did extensive research for the book, and she includes too much of it in the narrative. Trial transcripts, witness testimony, and the like could have been summarized with no loss of impact. Still, Elizabeth Packard was a force majeure for women's rights, and her contribution was almost forgotten until Kate Moore unearthed it. Thus, this is a very important book, highly recommended. Thanks to Netgalley, Kate Moore, and Sourcebooks for a copy of the book. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    3.5 Stars “As Elizabeth put it, “I have neglected no duties, have injured no one, have always tried to do unto others as I would wish to be done by; and yet, here in America, I am imprisoned because I could not say I believed what I did not believe.” ― Kate Moore, From What a remarkable and inspiring woman Elizabeth Packard was, an ordinary Victorian housewife and mother of six, until the first women’s rights convention was held in 1848 inspiring Elizabeth and many other women to dream of 3.5 Stars “As Elizabeth put it, “I have neglected no duties, have injured no one, have always tried to do unto others as I would wish to be done by; and yet, here in America, I am imprisoned because I could not say I believed what I did not believe.” ― Kate Moore, From What a remarkable and inspiring woman Elizabeth Packard was, an ordinary Victorian housewife and mother of six, until the first women’s rights convention was held in 1848 inspiring Elizabeth and many other women to dream of greater freedoms. She began voicing her opinion on politics and religion, opinions that her husband did not agree with. So in order to silence her he had her committed to an asylum and declared slightly insane. This is her story and her fight for justice and her legacy to all readers of how far we have come and how far we still have to go. This was quite a read, and the author Kate Moore has certainly done her research with this story. You cant help but admire Elizabeth for her strength and determination and also her ability to fight the injustices inflicted on her in such a graceful manner. I listened to this one on audio which was narrated by Kate Moore herself and it was excellent. However my only complaint of the book was the length. I felt the book was quite lengthy at 560 pages and I found myself tuning out a little towards the end as the account was so drawn out. Having said that I did enjoy the book and feel it is an important and informative read. Never ever let anyone tell you that you don’t have the right to an opinion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore was both inspirational and riveting. I listened to the audiobook that was masterfully read by the author. It is embarrassing that I had no idea who Elizabeth Packard was prior to listening to this captivating audiobook. How she slipped through history without more of a presence was hard to fathom! Elizabeth Packard was a true heroine in women’s rights. Author, Kate Moore, impeccably researched this book and combined her research with her masterful s The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore was both inspirational and riveting. I listened to the audiobook that was masterfully read by the author. It is embarrassing that I had no idea who Elizabeth Packard was prior to listening to this captivating audiobook. How she slipped through history without more of a presence was hard to fathom! Elizabeth Packard was a true heroine in women’s rights. Author, Kate Moore, impeccably researched this book and combined her research with her masterful storytelling and talent to remind everyone about this all but forgotten woman who changed the history of women’s rights. The Woman They Could Not Silence was a true account of Elizabeth Packard’s time in an insane asylum and her long and difficult fight she fought in the name of mental health rights for women and the rights of married women. Kate Moore relied heavily on letters, memoirs and trial transcripts to detail the obstacles Elizabeth faced both before her confinement in the insane asylum and after. Although The Woman They Could Not Silence was quite long (over 14 and half hours of listening time), I found that I could not pull myself away from her story. I wanted to know more. In the year 1860, Elizabeth Packard had been married for twenty one years to Theophilus Packard. Elizabeth was a housewife and patient and loving mother to their six children. Her children were Elizabeth’s heart and sole. She lived for them. Theophilus was a Calvinist minister and quite threatened by Elizabeth’s remarkable intelligence, unheard of independence and inability to hold back her own thoughts on any subject she found contrary to her own thoughts. In those days, a woman lost all her rights as a U.S. citizen when they married. In the eyes of the law, in 1860, the man was always right. The husband was regarded as being in sole possession of the property where a husband and wife lived and the husband would be awarded complete possession of the children if either were to be contested in a court of law. The laws always favored the husband. Based on these laws, Theophilus had no trouble having Elizabeth committed to the Illinois State Hospital insane asylum located in Jacksonville, Illinois, against her will. He proclaimed her insane just because she had begun to question his religious views. Theophilus had two friends write letters for him to support his findings. That was all Theophilus needed to have Elizabeth committed. At the Illinois State Hospital, Elizabeth quickly learned that she was not the only sane housewife to be committed without evidence of insanity. Dr. Andrew McFarland, the doctor in charge of the asylum, held the power to silence Elizabeth and keep her locked up for three long years. All that time, Elizabeth fought back against her cruel husband, unmoving and detestable doctor who showed the world a different side of him than he showed the patients at the asylum and the 19th century laws that gave men, and especially husbands, absolute power over women and wives. Elizabeth was determined to change those laws and give women their undeniable rights as citizens. The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore was both powerful and dramatic. Elizabeth Packard’s accomplishments were historic and heroic. She got her points across through her voice during the trials she endured, the books she wrote and by seeking intervention and reform by the government both through individual states and by the national government. Elizabeth Packard became an advocate for women’s rights. The Woman They Could Not Silence was a testament to how far women’s rights have progressed from those dire days of 1860 but also how far they still need to come. Hats off to the courageous and undying bravery Elizabeth Packard displayed as she fought for her own freedom and rights and those of her fellow women. This is a book not to be missed. I highly recommend this book. Thank you to Blackstone Publishing for giving me the opportunity to listen to the audiobook of The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen R

    A million thanks to Kate Moore for bringing Elizabeth’s story to life. I was awed by Kate’s extensive research and compelling storytelling. Kate points out in her Author Note that this is a nonfiction book and that everything in it is based on careful historical research. Every line of dialogue comes from a memoir, letter, trial transcript or some other record made by someone who was present at the time. It is an incredible story. Elizabeth was a remarkable person. Her husband Theophilus felt so A million thanks to Kate Moore for bringing Elizabeth’s story to life. I was awed by Kate’s extensive research and compelling storytelling. Kate points out in her Author Note that this is a nonfiction book and that everything in it is based on careful historical research. Every line of dialogue comes from a memoir, letter, trial transcript or some other record made by someone who was present at the time. It is an incredible story. Elizabeth was a remarkable person. Her husband Theophilus felt so threatened by her independent thinking and philosophy that he conspired to have her committed, tearing her away from her beloved children. He could not cope with his independent, outspoken wife who was gaining influence so began a conspiracy theory of derangement. At the time, the law stated that women could be put in an asylum simply based on the request of the husband. As I turned the pages, I became so angry about how women were treated, their intelligence stifled, the ease in which husbands had the ability to force a woman to be locked up in an asylum based on nonsense like simply reading a novel, having sunstroke, or domestic troubles. There is a historical chart Moore includes that lists these numerous causes of insanity. The list is insanity!! The misinformation of science of the times was staggering, quackery rampant. For example, it was once believed that a woman’s insanity sprang from the position of her uterus. Moore has meticulously researched historical records. Actual documents and photos are included and as I looked at a photo of the behemoth-sized Illinois State Hospital in the early 1860’s, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness for the many thousands of persons placed there based on fraudulent and idiotic diagnoses of mental illness. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Taury

    Not enough stars for this amazing book of one woman’s strength to go up again misogynistic men in the mid-late 1800s. Elizabeth Packard wanted to use her brain for more than being barefoot and pregnant. As she started to challenge her Reverend husband he plotted to have her committed to an insane asylum. After 3 years lock up in the worst ward possible she was granted release sited as unchanged, a lost cause. Her husband continues to work to have her locked away for life. She was finally found t Not enough stars for this amazing book of one woman’s strength to go up again misogynistic men in the mid-late 1800s. Elizabeth Packard wanted to use her brain for more than being barefoot and pregnant. As she started to challenge her Reverend husband he plotted to have her committed to an insane asylum. After 3 years lock up in the worst ward possible she was granted release sited as unchanged, a lost cause. Her husband continues to work to have her locked away for life. She was finally found to be sane. She then goes up against a man’s world to change the laws of insane against women! Outstanding NF book that was an easy rapid read. Kept my attention the whole time. A perfect book for Women’s history month. Between Elizabeth Packard and Nelly Bly this month, I feel I have learned a lot about the poor treatment of women in the 1800s.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    In all honestly, I was somewhat disappointed in the book. I loved The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women and immediately bought this book when it was released, hoping and expecting the same riveting experience as I had with the other book. While I feel the author does a good job presenting us with a woman from history that I don't think many have ever heard of, a strong, effective and courageous woman whom I'm happy to have learned about, the writing just didn't work for me. In all honestly, I was somewhat disappointed in the book. I loved The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women and immediately bought this book when it was released, hoping and expecting the same riveting experience as I had with the other book. While I feel the author does a good job presenting us with a woman from history that I don't think many have ever heard of, a strong, effective and courageous woman whom I'm happy to have learned about, the writing just didn't work for me. I felt the writing was too full of dramatic effect and lots and lots of quotes which did not give me that narrative non-fiction flow I love. While the first half of the book held my interest, the second half started to drag and I feel we could have had a more concise experience in that second half.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Thoughts soon.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    To all the women who have had someone call them crazy. 4.5 stars. I stumbled across The Woman They Could Not Silence on Netgalley and immediately put in a request because I loved Kate Moore's last book, The Radium Girls. In a similar vein, her new book shines a light on an important part of women's history that has been somewhat lost to time. Moore excels at writing this kind of journalistic memoir in a way that is riveting to read and immediately connects readers to the protagonists. Despite thi To all the women who have had someone call them crazy. 4.5 stars. I stumbled across The Woman They Could Not Silence on Netgalley and immediately put in a request because I loved Kate Moore's last book, The Radium Girls. In a similar vein, her new book shines a light on an important part of women's history that has been somewhat lost to time. Moore excels at writing this kind of journalistic memoir in a way that is riveting to read and immediately connects readers to the protagonists. Despite this being a non-fiction book, it reads like fiction, bringing historical figures to light in a way that makes readers really empathize with their plight. In short, Moore knows how to ignite righteous anger at the injustices that have been, and continue to be, perpetrated against women. This story starts in Illinois in 1860 and centers around one woman, Elizabeth Packard. After 21 years of marriage and bearing 6 children with her husband Theophilus, he has Elizabeth committed to the Illinois State Insane Asylum against her will. Her crime? Questioning Theophilus' bible study teachings in the church in which he is a pastor. Pushing back against your husband, questioning religion, and being intelligent in general were all signs of mental illness in the 1860's, and as such, Theophilus has no difficulty in getting his wife locked up. Elizabeth immediately fights back against the claim that she is insane, but recognizing that such pleas will only make her look more insane, she does her best to maintain her dignity at the asylum and after her first meeting with the state hospital director, Dr. Andrew McFarland, with whom she develops a good relationship, she is sure her release will not be long in coming. Though Dr. McFarland is unable to determine the root of Elizabeth's insanity, he is convinced it is there and will be revealed in time. Due to her intelligence, she is granted special privileges at the hospital. However, despite these privileges, Elizabeth soon becomes aware of the level of abuse that is being perpetrated by hospital aides within the walls of the hospital and starts stirring up trouble with the other inmates. This results in the revoking of Elizabeth's privileges and life at the hospital soon becomes very hard for her. The rest of the novel is about Elizabeth's struggles in the asylum and her fight for freedom. Elizabeth is very intelligent and an accomplished writer, and though Dr. McFarland tries to silence her within the walls of the hospital, she is determined to record and share her story. She makes friends within the asylum and keeps a secret journal of all the abuses she witnesses. I couldn't help but compare her to Alexander Hamilton because the woman constantly wrote like she was running out of time! However, her goals are not only to record history, but to change it. Elizabeth is strategic in going about this. She knows that raging against the machine will get you nowhere in an insane asylum and so she goes about cultivating relationships and manipulating those around her, including McFarland. I found it really interesting to read about Elizabeth's experiences and progression while at the asylum. The whole system is completely unjust for so many reasons, but the two that stand are that, first, almost no proof is required to lock a woman up in an asylum. All Theophilus needed was 2 certificates of insanity from local doctors, which he was easily able to procure thanks to his influence as a man and pastor. Unmarried women are entitled to a trial before being shipped off to the asylum, but married women need only the desire of their husbands. As they are considered his property, they are not permitted any voice of their own. Many of the other women in the asylum were in the same situation as Elizabeth and had been sent there without any legal rights. Second, the whole premise of what qualifies a person as insane or cured is entirely stacked against the patients. Like I said, women could basically be committed for showing any inkling of self thought or governance. Theophilus didn't like that Elizabeth was questioning things or flouting his authority, so he quickly put an end to it. But what's really enraging is that women who push back against the diagnosis of insanity only further the diagnosis. Showing any kind of indignation at anything is basically a sign of insanity. Women were only considered cured when they would finally submit to everything: the will of the abusive attendants, their doctor, and their husbands. The injustice of the system is that it literally conspires to make you insane and then only release you at the moment when your spirit is finally irreparably broken. I say Elizabeth's progression is interesting because she somehow manages to hold on to this one thread of truth throughout the entire ordeal, the idea that 'I am not insane'. She is determined to be free and she is determined to be free under her own will, not through submission. The longer she is imprisoned, the more frenzied she becomes in her desperation to get out. She documents her experiences and ideas in a kind of manic fervour that you can't help but question if maybe she is going a little bit insane. Rather than diminish, her ideas of justice and equality of women only grow more and more ambitious to the point where she envisions women as totally equal to men and able to even hold public office, something that is quite radical in 1860 and unlikely to get you released from an insane asylum. I don't want to give away the whole book because even though it's historical, it's still a story and I did take joy from the experience of having no idea whether Elizabeth was going to succeed and to what degree. She inspired a book to be written about her, so I knew she was going to have some level of success, but it was honestly so bleak, it was hard to imagine how a woman would ever recover from either the trauma or the stigma of such an asylum. But Elizabeth is a fighter and I honestly can't imagine a woman with more spirit. She had a lot of influence on early American politics and it is a shame that her name is virtually unknown, even among the roll call of suffragettes. But such is the way of women's history and I love that we keep hearing about more and more women who have contributed greatly to our society but who's legacies have been little preserved. The author added a post script at the end of the book that I really liked. The book will make obvious the impact Elizabeth's writings and efforts had on the women's rights movement, but it also highlights how these same ideas are still present in today's society. The idea of insanity is still used today to threaten, discredit, and silence women. Men have always used the excuse of 'craziness' to belittle women. The idea that fault lies only with women is still wildly believed by many men and women, even if only subconsciously. When men don't like the ideas or actions put forth by women, it's only too easy for them to dismiss them entirely with the callously thrown away phrase "she's crazy". I think we see it used most often by men to either dismiss the actions or requests or a partner or to speak of their ex. But even women use it to describe other women, particularly in scenarios where it relates to how other women interact with men (I'm thinking of reality television here). But the idea is everywhere. Moore draws attention to its presence even at the top level of the American government when Trump once screamed at Pelosi for being wrong in the head. Powerful men still seek to silence women through the threat of insanity. For this reason, I thought this an extremely important read. A lot of the content didn't surprise me, but experiencing it through Elizabeth's eyes did help to put it into perspective. Even after all the work that Elizabeth did, Dr. McFarland is still kindly remembered by the eyes of history while Elizabeth has more or less been forgotten. This wasn't a perfect book. I thought the writing was a little simplified in the beginning, though it got much stronger as the story went on. I also thought the story could have been shortened, some parts are a little over indulgent and I fear the length may deter some readers from this. But overall, still an excellent read and I would definitely recommend!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Metcalf

    Kate Moore, has followed up her hugely successful title The Radium Girls  with another book I'm absolutely convinced will be a resounding success.     In her superbly researched work of narrative non-fiction  The Woman They Could Not Silence Moore once again demonstrates her skill at bringing the voices of women from history alive.  She wrote a compelling story that alternately incited feelings of anger in me and made me want to jump with joy.  All in all it provided a fabulous insight into the l Kate Moore, has followed up her hugely successful title The Radium Girls  with another book I'm absolutely convinced will be a resounding success.     In her superbly researched work of narrative non-fiction  The Woman They Could Not Silence Moore once again demonstrates her skill at bringing the voices of women from history alive.  She wrote a compelling story that alternately incited feelings of anger in me and made me want to jump with joy.  All in all it provided a fabulous insight into the life of Elizabeth Packard a woman who was instrumental in progressing the rights of women and those in the mental asylums of the nineteenth century. At times I wanted to rail against the unfairness, the injustices levelled at our protagonist and other women of her time.   Elizabeth Packard (1816 - 1897), wife and mother of six was locked away in a lunatic asylum (to use the terminology of her day), accused of insanity.  There was no need for a trial nor proof of illness. " Most states then had no limits on relatives’“right of disposal”  to commit their loved ones..   I was shocked by some of the reasons.     "An unbuttoned blouse, an undone bun, or even simple carelessness of dress was considered damning evidence a woman’s mind roamed free from its moorings"....another shocker was “novel reading.”  Doctors believed that those who indulged in this “pernicious habit” lived “a dreamy kind of existence, so nearly allied to insanity that the slightest exciting cause is sufficient to derange.”  Women of the Goodreads community would have been in strife in the nineteenth century!!!   Questioning her pastor husbands religious views, speaking her mind and challenging him were the main grounds for Elizabeths committment and he had her locked away with ease. With the benefit of hindsight she was certainly outspoken and a radical thinker but there is no doubt she was sane.    She was educated, a former teacher, and was both likeable and popular.   During her first few months at the asylum she was granted privileges and freedoms few others had.   However, she spent much longer amongst some truly deranged and unwell women.    Their conditions were abysmal.  Filthy,  violence filled wards where patients were at the mercy of cruel attendants. Throughout it all Elizabeth treated  these women with kindness and compassion, and it only strengthened her determination to stand up for not only herself, but also for these downtrodden, mistreated women. Her educated mind would not allow her to accept the situation and the seeds of feminism began to sprout.     Throughout her life she never gave up her battle, advocating  for womens rights.  In total  "she secured the passage of thirty-four bills in forty -four legislatures across twenty-four states. She campaigned for women’s equal rights and for the rights of the mentally ill..." What a remarkable woman she was especially given the prevalent attitudes towards women in those days.   It was an equally impressive, must read book.     I don't think of myself as a feminist but this book sure opened my eyes to just how far we've progressed and thanks must go to women like Elizabeth Packard for working tirelessly to make this possible. Thanks to Kate Moore for her dedication to unveiling the story in such an interesting way.    Thanks too to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review which it was my pleasure to provide.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    "A lunatic asylum is a grand receptacle for all who are troublesome."--a superintendent of a mental hospital. "The Woman They Could Not Silence" is a riveting tale about Elizabeth Packard who was committed to the Jaacksonville Insane Asylum in 1860 by her husband. Elizabeth was a wife and mother of six children who upset her pastor husband when she revealed her more liberal religious views during Bible study classes. Theophilus Packard was told to quiet his wife by the conservative trustees in hi "A lunatic asylum is a grand receptacle for all who are troublesome."--a superintendent of a mental hospital. "The Woman They Could Not Silence" is a riveting tale about Elizabeth Packard who was committed to the Jaacksonville Insane Asylum in 1860 by her husband. Elizabeth was a wife and mother of six children who upset her pastor husband when she revealed her more liberal religious views during Bible study classes. Theophilus Packard was told to quiet his wife by the conservative trustees in his church. Her controlling husband felt threatened by his intelligent, articulate, and charismatic wife. Female mental illness at that time included having a strong will, unusual zealousness, incessant talking, or expressing disappointment about a situation. Married women had no legal recourse if their husband wanted to commit them. Elizabeth spent three years locked away in the asylum. She witnessed other sane individuals in the same circumstances. Patients were physically abused by the staff, and lived in filthy surroundings. She wrote about her observations and hid her writings in the linings of her clothes. The doctor at the asylum talked to her to gather information to discredit her, but had no type of treatment plan. Elizabeth was eventually released, but she had to work to clear her name since her husband later imprisoned her in their home. She went on to campaign tirelessly for the release of other sane patients, for better conditions for the mentally ill, and for women's rights. She lobbied legislators to change the 19th Century laws that were used to unfairly control women. Although it is a nonfiction book, Elizabeth Packard's story reads like a legal thriller in some places as her husband and her doctor tried to silence her. It's both heartbreaking and an inspiration to read about this remarkable woman.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karen R

    A million thanks to Kate Moore for bringing Elizabeth’s story to life. As with Lilac Girls, I was awed by Kate’s extensive research and compelling storytelling. Kate points out in her Author Note that this is a nonfiction book and that everything in it is based on careful historical research. Every line of dialogue comes from a memoir, letter, trial transcript or some other record made by someone who was present at the time. It is an incredible story. Elizabeth was a remarkable person. Her husban A million thanks to Kate Moore for bringing Elizabeth’s story to life. As with Lilac Girls, I was awed by Kate’s extensive research and compelling storytelling. Kate points out in her Author Note that this is a nonfiction book and that everything in it is based on careful historical research. Every line of dialogue comes from a memoir, letter, trial transcript or some other record made by someone who was present at the time. It is an incredible story. Elizabeth was a remarkable person. Her husband Theophilus felt so threatened by Elizabeth’s independent thinking and philosophy that he conspired to have her committed, tearing her away from her beloved children. He could not cope with his independent, outspoken wife who was gaining influence so began a conspiracy theory of derangement. At the time, the law stated that women could be put in an asylum simply based on the request of the husband. As I turned the pages, I became so angry about how women were treated, their intelligence stifled, the ease in which husbands had the ability to force a woman to be locked up in an asylum based on nonsense like simply reading a novel, having sunstroke, or domestic troubles. There is a historical chart Moore includes that lists these numerous causes of insanity. The list is insanity!! The misinformation of science of the times was staggering, quackery rampant. For example, it was once believed that a woman’s insanity sprang from the position of her uterus. Moore has meticulously researched historical records. Actual documents and photos are included and as I looked at a photo of the behemoth-sized Illinois State Hospital in the early 1860’s, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness for the many thousands of persons placed there based on fraudulent and idiotic diagnoses of mental illness.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lou (nonfiction fiend)

    The Woman They Could Not Silence is the long-awaited new book from the bestselling author of The Radium Girls and tells the dark and dramatic yet uplifting and inspirational, long-neglected story of women’s rights pioneer Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard (1816–1897), and it’s every inch as riveting and impeccably researched as its predecessor. It's a well-established fact that many of those in Victorian America who were placed into insane asylums were actually there for reasons other than having l The Woman They Could Not Silence is the long-awaited new book from the bestselling author of The Radium Girls and tells the dark and dramatic yet uplifting and inspirational, long-neglected story of women’s rights pioneer Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard (1816–1897), and it’s every inch as riveting and impeccably researched as its predecessor. It's a well-established fact that many of those in Victorian America who were placed into insane asylums were actually there for reasons other than having lost their sanity or their touch with reality, and that was certainly the case for Elizabeth Packard whose cruel, treacherous husband, Theophilus Packard, a Presbyterian minister 15 years her senior forced her into treatment. The objective of this was to put his wife back in her place but little did he know, her 3-year term at the facility would only serve to perpetuate and solidify her beliefs and actually helped fuel her enduring fight for freedom and equality for all women. This is a compelling, captivating and truly exquisite piece of narrative nonfiction by one of the best historical storytellers on the writing scene. It's beautifully written, rich in period detail and intricate from start to finish and I don't believe anyone could have done a better job at presenting this memoir of such an important and sadly overlooked woman who we all should be paying homage to for her sacrifices in order to further the civil rights of both women and those in involuntary medical facilities. Packard was one of the first to shine a light on gender-based injustices and start the ball rolling towards a more egalitarian ideal. She was an extraordinary woman far ahead of her time who courageously fought for what she truly believed regardless of the adverse situation it usually resulted in. That is true dedication and fearlessness to the cause. A scintillating, fascinating and important book and one I can't recommend highly enough.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Darla

    Elizabeth Packard is not a household name, but she should be. When her selfish and cruel husband put her away in the asylum in Jacksonville, Illinois, he thought he had taken away her voice. That was just the beginning of Elizabeth's life work and dedication to women's rights. While in the asylum she realized that women like her were not protected from the whims of men who did not want women to use their minds or color outside the lines. She was motivated to get back to her six children and also Elizabeth Packard is not a household name, but she should be. When her selfish and cruel husband put her away in the asylum in Jacksonville, Illinois, he thought he had taken away her voice. That was just the beginning of Elizabeth's life work and dedication to women's rights. While in the asylum she realized that women like her were not protected from the whims of men who did not want women to use their minds or color outside the lines. She was motivated to get back to her six children and also to free the women she met inside. Her story is inspiring. While in the asylum she was at all times trying to make conditions better for those with her. She also used her gift for writing to document what she saw and experienced at the time. Later she would use that information in court to be declared sane, then to support herself and help pass laws on behalf of women who were victimized by current statutes. It is encouraging to see that there were men who stepped up to assist Elizabeth in her quest. We owe her a great debt and I hope many will read her story and know her name. Kate Moore did extensive research to write her story and if you loved The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women, you will also want to pick this one up. Thank you to Sourcebooks and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chrystal

    Inarguably, the subject of this book merits strong interest. Unfortunately, its portrayal, by means of the written and otherwise expressed experiences of a single woman, doesn’t do it justice. The proponent, one Mrs. Packard, is a goody-goody of irritating proportions who, while thinking highly of herself and in particular (and justifiably) her intellectual capacity, yet continues to display ridiculous credulity over a number of years. After her experience with her husband, the townsfolk, the as Inarguably, the subject of this book merits strong interest. Unfortunately, its portrayal, by means of the written and otherwise expressed experiences of a single woman, doesn’t do it justice. The proponent, one Mrs. Packard, is a goody-goody of irritating proportions who, while thinking highly of herself and in particular (and justifiably) her intellectual capacity, yet continues to display ridiculous credulity over a number of years. After her experience with her husband, the townsfolk, the asylum’s superintendent Dr. MacFarland and others, she assumes that rationality will win over. But rationality has nothing to do with it. It shouldn’t have taken over four years shut away in an asylum (and over halfway through the book) for she-of-superior-intellect to conclude that the power structure put in place and maintained by men in aid of controlling and getting rid of inconvenient women, was bloody well not going to crumble so easily. Kate Moore did a phenomenal job with Radium Girls and for that reason, I was expecting something of equal quality with this book. Her research is no less excellent. However, the problem perhaps lies in the fact that the focus here is on one woman's fight for justice, a woman who happens to be bloated with self-regard. While I admire the exposure of the system Packard ultimately accomplished, I simply don't like her and after persevering through 60% of the book, waiting for CONCRETE ADVANCEMENT and still zilch, I couldn't continue. So... DNF.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Fascinating character! Entirely too long. I also felt there were so many quotation marks it became extremely distracting. I started envisioning a Saturday Night Live character telling the story and constantly using air quotes.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS for an egalley in exchange for an honest review I am starting my #summerreading recommendations off with a nonfiction book. This is the story of an Illinois mother of six who was involuntarily committed to an insane asylum in 1860 by her husband and her fight to take on the American legal system. Meticulously researched and well-paced, Kate Moore had me very invested in the life of Elizabeth Packard. Publication Date 26/06/21 Goodreads review published 03/07/2 Thanks to NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS for an egalley in exchange for an honest review I am starting my #summerreading recommendations off with a nonfiction book. This is the story of an Illinois mother of six who was involuntarily committed to an insane asylum in 1860 by her husband and her fight to take on the American legal system. Meticulously researched and well-paced, Kate Moore had me very invested in the life of Elizabeth Packard. Publication Date 26/06/21 Goodreads review published 03/07/21 #erinrossreads2021 #readersofinstagram #goodreads #teachersandbooks #netgalley #sourcebooks

  19. 5 out of 5

    Schizanthus Nerd

    “Can [a woman] not even think her own thoughts, and speak her own words, unless her thoughts and expressions harmonize with those of her husband?” Taking inspiration from the #MeToo movement, Kate Moore delved into the history of women who, more often than not, have been labelled ‘crazy’ and silenced for speaking the truth. Kate wondered if there was a woman whose perseverance, despite everything that was done to discredit her, prevailed. She found Elizabeth Packard who, in 1860, was taken agai “Can [a woman] not even think her own thoughts, and speak her own words, unless her thoughts and expressions harmonize with those of her husband?” Taking inspiration from the #MeToo movement, Kate Moore delved into the history of women who, more often than not, have been labelled ‘crazy’ and silenced for speaking the truth. Kate wondered if there was a woman whose perseverance, despite everything that was done to discredit her, prevailed. She found Elizabeth Packard who, in 1860, was taken against her will to Jacksonville Insane Asylum, two hundred miles from her home, because of her “excessive application of body & mind.” The person who was responsible for this injustice was her husband of 21 years and the father of her six children. The evidence of her so called insanity? “I, though a woman, have just as good a right to my opinion, as my husband has to his.” Elizabeth, after being a dutiful wife, mother and homemaker for almost all of her adult life, heard about the women’s rights movement and gave herself permission to think for herself. She also disagreed with her preacher husband about matters of religion and, with her great intellect and her persuasive arguments, he was afraid of the consequences of her speaking her mind. This was a time when most states “had no limits on relatives’ “right of disposal” to commit their loved ones”, where an insanity trial had to take place before you were admitted to a state hospital (but not if you were a married woman) and where “married women had no legal identities of their own.” The thought of me living in 1860 terrifies me. I’m certain I too would have been institutionalised and I don’t know I would have been able to sustain the fortitude that Elizabeth displayed. Don’t think that you wouldn’t have also been at risk of such a fate, as one common cause of committal to an asylum in Elizabeth’s time was “novel reading.” In the asylum, Elizabeth met other patients, including other sane women who had been trapped there for years, similarly pathologised for their personality. The asylum served as a “storage unit for unsatisfactory wives”. She also witnessed patients being abused by the staff. Elizabeth was determined to prove that she was sane and secure her release from the asylum. She also wanted to enact change that would see her new friends also released and to protect the mentally ill from abuse. But what Elizabeth wanted more than anything was to be able to parent her children again. This is a thoroughly researched and well written account of the life of a woman I’m sad to say I had never heard of before but will certainly not forget. So in the end, this is a book about power. Who wields it. Who owns it. And the methods they use. And above all, it’s about fighting back. Content warnings include (view spoiler)[ derogatory terms used to describe mental illness and mention of death by suicide, domestic violence, eating disorders, medical abuse, mental illness, racism, slavery, suicidal ideation and suicide attempt (hide spoiler)] . Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the opportunity to read this book. I’m rounding up from 4.5 stars. Blog - https://schizanthusnerd.com

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    Wowee! I adored this. A little known area of history (or figure of it, at least) that I think everyone should know. I was absolutely hooked. Where is my movie adaptation?! Paging Focus Features! Of course, I came to this book because of Radium Girls--which I read earlier in June and Amazon recommended this to me as soon as I finished. Kate Moore is such a brilliant narrative non-fiction writer--she really makes real people characters in their story, walks you through everything with so much tensi Wowee! I adored this. A little known area of history (or figure of it, at least) that I think everyone should know. I was absolutely hooked. Where is my movie adaptation?! Paging Focus Features! Of course, I came to this book because of Radium Girls--which I read earlier in June and Amazon recommended this to me as soon as I finished. Kate Moore is such a brilliant narrative non-fiction writer--she really makes real people characters in their story, walks you through everything with so much tension and stakes, without having to embellish history. I'm in awe of her research and notation skills. Seriously: even if you're not really a non-fiction/history reader, but you're interested in women's rights and a chapter of American history that runs parallel to the Civil War (Elizabeth was committed in 1860), read this. It reads like fiction but IT'S ALL TRUE. What I found especially chilling, and I know it's why Moore chose this subject, is how reading it I was struck by how absolutely screwed I would have been had I been born/lived in this time period. I would 100% have been locked up in asylum--I am a LOT like Elizabeth (save the religious fervor lol), and several of the other women profiled. Talkative. Opinionated. Smart. Your husband could literally commit you FOR LIFE for those things. But I don't know if I would have had Elizabeth's strength and fortitude. I won't spoil all the twists and turns--though it is history--because I went in knowing very little, and I think it benefits the reading experience. But this book has everything! A strong heroine at its center. A villainous husband. An asylum doctor with two faces. Romance... kind of! (but not really) Exposing abuse. Shedding a chilling light on both how far we have come and how far we have NOT come in 150 years. I thought about Britney Spears once or twice while reading--how easy it is to call a person (especially a woman) "crazy" and take away her rights. A must read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    3.5 stars Very enlightening on the rights—or lack thereof—of women in the 19th century. And how women were deemed hysterical (or too cantankerous or too obstinate or whatever their husbands or fathers deemed they were) were sent away into asylums, where they received horrific treatments and neglect from the quacks who were supposed to be treating them. It very much focuses on middle to upper class whyte women, although there is a small acknowledgement on what women of color and working/lower clas 3.5 stars Very enlightening on the rights—or lack thereof—of women in the 19th century. And how women were deemed hysterical (or too cantankerous or too obstinate or whatever their husbands or fathers deemed they were) were sent away into asylums, where they received horrific treatments and neglect from the quacks who were supposed to be treating them. It very much focuses on middle to upper class whyte women, although there is a small acknowledgement on what women of color and working/lower class whyte women faced. It was good but good gravy it was long (definitely could tell Moore did her research and then some). But hot damn Elizabeth was the most trusting woman on the planet, even though she was incredibly forthright and brilliant.

  22. 5 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    3.5 stars It is 186o and a woman is only property. She has no control of her own children, no ownership of land, property or furnishings. Her own clothes are not her own and can be kept from her. Most importantly a woman of that day has no voice - she is expected to keep her mouth shut and defer to her husband - whether she agrees or not. Under circumstances like these it was easy for a man to put his wife or daughter in an insane asylum, just on his word alone. That is what happened to Elizabet 3.5 stars It is 186o and a woman is only property. She has no control of her own children, no ownership of land, property or furnishings. Her own clothes are not her own and can be kept from her. Most importantly a woman of that day has no voice - she is expected to keep her mouth shut and defer to her husband - whether she agrees or not. Under circumstances like these it was easy for a man to put his wife or daughter in an insane asylum, just on his word alone. That is what happened to Elizabeth Packard, after 21 years of marriage when she began to speak out against her husbands values and religion. Then she had to fight the man in charge of the asylum, to retain her dignity, survival and ultimately her release. This is the story of Ms Packard, both in and out of the asylum, her work in righting the wrongs done to her and to many other perfectly sane women. It details the hardships she endured, both before and after her stay in the asylum, her writings and the laws she passed in favor or women's rights. Overall this book is very interesting and reads well. There were a couple times that I wished that the book would move a bit faster, but isn't that the usual process when a book is over 500 pages? Having already read Radium Girls by Kate Moore I was familiar with her style and the depth of her research. She brings to light the unknown women who sacrificed for what we have today. Both of her books are well worth the time and effort to read or listen to her CD's - which she narrates.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Many of us have seen the graphic that circulates social media with the list of reasons women could once be institutionalized. It’s an absurd list and in the book groups I’m in, “novel reading” is often circled. People laugh. And it is funny when you don’t think too deeply upon it. Because that list is a reality. Those were reasons women could once be institutionalized. That list exemplified the lack of rights women had. That list declared that women who actually thought for themselves, showed em Many of us have seen the graphic that circulates social media with the list of reasons women could once be institutionalized. It’s an absurd list and in the book groups I’m in, “novel reading” is often circled. People laugh. And it is funny when you don’t think too deeply upon it. Because that list is a reality. Those were reasons women could once be institutionalized. That list exemplified the lack of rights women had. That list declared that women who actually thought for themselves, showed emotions, used their imagination, or did anything else outside of the structure set for them as females could then be contained and controlled. So, while on the surface, that list may seem humorous, it’s actually quite terrifying. Elizabeth Packard lived during a time when the beliefs that list imposed were widely practiced. Because she had spoken out about women’s rights, possessed religious beliefs that contradicted her husband’s and simply proved to have a mind of her own, her husband was legally able to have her institutionalized and declared insane. That was the beginning of Elizabeth’s harrowing, gasp-inducing ordeal. She endured a number of institutional abuses and a painful separation from her children, while they were being conditioned to view her adversely in her absence. As the title of this book clearly conveys, that was not the end of Elizabeth’s story. I did appreciate that Moore included some of Elizabeth’s own misjudgements of other women when she possessed a positive perception of the male they condemned. Her mistakes show her humanness, as well as one of the many issues still prevalent in today’s society. We are often quick to dismiss claims of mistreatment when we don’t experience such mistreatment from the culprit ourselves. Fortunately, Elizabeth was able to learn from her own errors and came to fight for the very women she once misjudged. There is a particular short story - one I don’t want to mention by name in an effort to not spoil it for those who haven’t read it - that aptly demonstrates the disturbing effect of doing things simply because “this is the way it’s always been.” The story takes very little time to make a loud statement about not questioning practices and mob mentality. Its eerie message is evident to the reader and one might find it difficult to believe that such an absurdity could ever take place. We see it all play out in different ways again and again, however, and The Woman They Could Not Silence exemplifies this horror as a reality back in the 1800s. The value of the historical issue addressed in this book has not depreciated. We need to know this. And we need to recognize how those laws and toxic beliefs continue to subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) influence how we behave today. Kate Moore does not shy away from clearly stating how prevalent this issue is still; how quick society is to cast doubt on a woman’s claims with this simple statement: “She’s crazy.” We must all continue to be women they cannot silence. I do not think a single fictional horror story exists that can outdo the things that have happened and will happen in this world. We live the ultimate terror daily. The story detailed in this book is truly a terrifying one and while it’s part of history, it’s something that did happen - something that could happen again in different ways. So, if you really want to read something that will creep you out and make you think twice about turning out the lights, read this book about men with too much power, inhumane laws, and women who are silenced through imprisonment, manipulation, and mutilation. I promise you: This is a scary book. But it’s an important one and it needs to be read. “We are only just beginning to appreciate exactly how a person’s powerlessness may lead to struggles with their mental health.” ~Kate Moore “No human being can be subjected to the process to which you subject them here without being in great danger of becoming insane.” ~Elizabeth Packard I am immensely grateful to Bibliolifestyle & Sourcebooks for my finished copy and Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for my audio review copy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    Once again Kate Moore has given us an epic to honor a woman who suffered undeservedly, and gone down through history, virtually unknown. Elizabeth Packard, devoted wife to pastor Theophilus Packard for 21 years, and mother of their six children, was committed to an insane asylum by her husband, merely because she disagreed with him in Bible class. In 1860, men could easily commit their wives to asylums for the most innocuous reasons. Ms. Moore includes an historical chart with what was considered, Once again Kate Moore has given us an epic to honor a woman who suffered undeservedly, and gone down through history, virtually unknown. Elizabeth Packard, devoted wife to pastor Theophilus Packard for 21 years, and mother of their six children, was committed to an insane asylum by her husband, merely because she disagreed with him in Bible class. In 1860, men could easily commit their wives to asylums for the most innocuous reasons. Ms. Moore includes an historical chart with what was considered, 'causes of insanity,' such as sunstroke, reading a novel, 'domestic troubles' and such. Elizabeth was torn from her home and six children with no recourse what-so-ever. Doctors of that time were in agreement with the male, head-of-household. However, with her compelling storytelling and exhaustive research, Ms. Moore tells of Elizabeth Packard's perseverance in not only freeing herself, but changing laws for women and the mentally ill, nationwide. Many of these approximately 34 bills do not even mention her name. But she fought until her death for the rights of patients everywhere. I highly recommend this book, written in the same vane as Radium Girls, to learn of the historical battle one woman fought for all. Thank you Edelweiss, and Sourcebooks for the Advanced Readers' Copy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    As with Radium Girls, Kate Moore has put in an immense amount of research into the life of Elisabeth Packard. It expertly crafts a vivid image of the prejudices of the era against married women and the treatment of the mentally ill. Which leads to my main issue with the book; yes, it's focus is one woman and we see the era and point of view of this one woman, which of course had her own prejudices. At points you feel Elizabeth's passion for revolt, you understand her fight, and can appreciate the As with Radium Girls, Kate Moore has put in an immense amount of research into the life of Elisabeth Packard. It expertly crafts a vivid image of the prejudices of the era against married women and the treatment of the mentally ill. Which leads to my main issue with the book; yes, it's focus is one woman and we see the era and point of view of this one woman, which of course had her own prejudices. At points you feel Elizabeth's passion for revolt, you understand her fight, and can appreciate the advancements she achieved. However, I feel in order to make Elizabeth a more relatable and honorable person, Moore really glances over the fact that Elizabeth Packard was a racist. While she advocated for equality for married woman and the right for insane person's right to trial, she also spoke against the Union army and often quoted how her three years in an asylum was worse than the plight of enslaved people, or how slaves didn't have the same mental faculties to ever really be insane and the like. I think if you're going to put so much effort into researching a historical figure, you have the duty to write about every facet of that person, not just the bits that you think are admirable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Homeschoolmama

    Everyone should read this by book. It’s an important look back into the societal conditions women lived in during the Civil War era. Set in 1850-1860 ish, in Illinois, it’s a true story of a woman who was wrongly committed to a “lunatic asylum”, as it was referred to in those days. I’d never heard of Elizabeth Packard until I read this book. She was a married mother of six children, a religious woman who was an independent thinker, an intellectual with an unconventional mind. Her pastor husband Everyone should read this by book. It’s an important look back into the societal conditions women lived in during the Civil War era. Set in 1850-1860 ish, in Illinois, it’s a true story of a woman who was wrongly committed to a “lunatic asylum”, as it was referred to in those days. I’d never heard of Elizabeth Packard until I read this book. She was a married mother of six children, a religious woman who was an independent thinker, an intellectual with an unconventional mind. Her pastor husband didn’t like having an outspoken wife, so he had her committed to the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, IL. The author goes on to describe the conditions of this “hospital”, and Elizabeth’s valiant fight against the draconian laws at the time, in an effort to obtain not just her own freedom from such a cruel place, but to pave the way to freedom for her inmates at the asylum as well as generations of women who find themselves at the mercy of cruel husbands, fathers and those in political power. What an important history lesson for me. I was so impressed by Elizabeth’s persistence and strong moral character. Very inspiring. I’m so thankful for Elizabeth’s tireless advocacy work; without it I’m sure the mental health system would be much worse.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carolynn

    Such a well written book. I was angered at the injustices that Elizabeth Packard had to endure because of men who felt threatened by her intellect. I admire Elizabeth so much. Willing to fight for her rights and other unfairly imprisoned women, even to the detriment of her own reputation. She was a force to be reckoned with but not vindictive or vengeful. I HIGHLY recommend this book to any and all. This is a story I never really knew about. I'm thankful for the laws she got passed. Women, past, Such a well written book. I was angered at the injustices that Elizabeth Packard had to endure because of men who felt threatened by her intellect. I admire Elizabeth so much. Willing to fight for her rights and other unfairly imprisoned women, even to the detriment of her own reputation. She was a force to be reckoned with but not vindictive or vengeful. I HIGHLY recommend this book to any and all. This is a story I never really knew about. I'm thankful for the laws she got passed. Women, past, present and future are blessed to have had her fight for them. Kate Morris is a talented author of non fiction. I can't wait to read her other books. Radium Girls is next on my list!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    In 1860, when Theophilus Packard could not get his wife, Elizabeth, to agree with his religious views, he had her committed to an insane asylum. At that time, a woman could be committed to an insane asylum by her husband for any reason: reading novels, giggling too much, having an opinion contrary to her husband’s, religious excitement, disappointed love, hard study, change of life and any number of other frivolous reasons. A woman was her husband’s property, to be disposed of as he wished. But In 1860, when Theophilus Packard could not get his wife, Elizabeth, to agree with his religious views, he had her committed to an insane asylum. At that time, a woman could be committed to an insane asylum by her husband for any reason: reading novels, giggling too much, having an opinion contrary to her husband’s, religious excitement, disappointed love, hard study, change of life and any number of other frivolous reasons. A woman was her husband’s property, to be disposed of as he wished. But Theophilus did not count on his wife fighting back. And neither did the superintendent of the hospital, Dr. Andrew McFarland. Although it took her 3 years, during which Elizabeth suffered at the hands of Dr. McFarland and the cruel staff, Elizabeth eventually not only secured her discharge from the asylum, she managed to have herself declared legally sane. Theophilus took their three remaining underage children and moved to Massachusetts, where Elizabeth dared not follow, for he could have her committed in that state. So she remained in Illinois,crusading for the rights of the wrongfully committed, writing books, and changing laws until she was finally reunited with her children. Then she took her campaign all over the country, helping other women who found themselves unjustly committed to asylums. This is a well researched book about a woman who we have never heard of, but to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude. For powerful men still refer to women as “crazy”, in order to silence them. Martha Mitchell was silenced during the Watergate scandal; Bill Cosby referred to Janice Dickinson as “crazy” when she accused him of rape; Rose McGowan was subjected to baseless accusations of being “increasingly unglued” when she accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. And DJT accused Nancy Pelosi of being “a very sick person” when she defied him in 2019. So we have to remain vigilant. My only ding on this book would be the writing style. It comes off as a bit flowery at times, almost too much like historical fiction, although it is all fact. But this does not diminish the importance of this book. Some good quotes: “For similar reasons, one common cause of committal to an asylum in Elizabeth’s time was “novel reading”. Doctors believed that those who indulge in this “pernicious habit”lived a dreamy kind of existence, so nearly allied to insanity that the slightest exciting cause is sufficient to derange.” “In the 19th century, doctors were certain that women’s menstrual cycles made them liable, indeed likely, to go mad despite no confirmatory scientific evidence. Whether they were menstruating too much or too little, were pregnant, breast-feeding, infertile, or menopausal, every single life stage relating to women’s sexual organs was deemed saturated with risk.” “It was no coincidence that the word hysteria, in fact, derives from the ancient Greek for uterus.“ “Incessant talking, unusual zealousness, strong will. These were in fact, textbook examples of female insanity in the 19th century. Doctors frequently saw pathology in female personality.“ “Immediately, he put his theories into practice, carrying out countless operations in which he cut women’s clitorises “down to the base”, removing them either by scissors or knife - I always prefer the scissors.” “It was another cruel aspect of the legal framework that had seen Elizabeth committed to the asylum in the first place, under which married women had no legal identities of their own. They were denied all rights, because how could you grant rights to what was more no more than a shadow: the silent, unseen shadow of her spouse? Married women had no rights to property or even their own wages; their husbands owned it all. It was something known as coverture: a law inherited from England, dating back to the 1100s.“ “Because wronged women were not supposed to stand up for themselves. Wronged women were not supposed to come out fighting, or be angry, or battle for injustice to be overturned. Elizabeth’s course was unnatural in his eyes – and therefore insane.” “At last, we are acknowledging the debt we owe her but have never paid. Ahead of her time, she challenged a patriarchal system and a doctor dominated world, compelling both to be better and fairer. She did it all alone, bolstered only by her belief that she was right, in a world that continually told her she was wrong. She fought every day of her life to make things better, dedicating her life to others, wanting justice for all.“ “She was torn down for it, her reputation ravaged. Yet she squared her shoulders and dusted herself off after every single setback. She went back out there to meet that hostile world, with her hoopskirt swishing and her brown eyes gleaming, ready to fight another day“ “And yes, they called her crazy.” “But if that’s crazy, we should stand back and admire.” “For just look at what ‘crazy’ can do.” An absolute recommend.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marta

    Elizabeth Packard was a brilliant woman with astounding fortitude, will and perseverence. Anybody else would have gone completely insane from the cruel treatment she endured in an insane asylum (as many indeed did). Instead she emerged more empowered and with a mission: to free married women from the tyranny of abusive husbands and give them rights; and to protect mentally ill patients from abuse and torture. You read that right: in 1860, a married woman had literally no rights under the law. She Elizabeth Packard was a brilliant woman with astounding fortitude, will and perseverence. Anybody else would have gone completely insane from the cruel treatment she endured in an insane asylum (as many indeed did). Instead she emerged more empowered and with a mission: to free married women from the tyranny of abusive husbands and give them rights; and to protect mentally ill patients from abuse and torture. You read that right: in 1860, a married woman had literally no rights under the law. She was a nonentity (this was the actual legal term): all her possessions were her husband’s; her person, her children, the clothes she wore; all her earnings. If her husband decided to put her into an asylum, it was enough for him to say that she was insane. As she found out when she got there, this was quite often used to put away wives who became inconvenient or expressed their own opinions. The asylum had many perfectly sane and often unusually bright women with high intellect: exactly the type of woman whose capabilities and strong minds made their husbands feel threatened. The asylum directors and trustees were in league with them - I find your wife insane, you make me rich. Elizabeth experienced horrific things and watched brutal tortures take place. The details are graphic and gruesome (water torture, beatings, brutal smashing of a womans head, choking, restraints), hygiene is terrible, the director is indifferent and engages in his own mental tortures. Dr. McFarland seems the man who develops monomania over proving Elizabeth’s insanity, despite of finding no symptoms at all. Ironically, the attempts at silencing Elizabeth make her into a tireless campaigner and warrior for those two issues: women’s rights and the rights of the mentally ill. Before her commitment, her highest aspirations revolved around providing a happy home to her husband and their six children, and her religious studies. Her interest in religion got her into trouble: namely, having her own ideas about what she believed - which her husband did not approve. Elizabeth became famous as an author of several books exposing the horrors of insane asylums and the complete lack of basic rights of married women. With her eloquence and making her own suffering an example of what can go wrong without legal protection, she has proposed and supported dozens of new laws in multiple states. The laws established that an insanity trial by independent jurors must take place before sending anyone to an asylum. Women could apply to the law to get protection, could keep their property and earnings, and had a right to request custody of their children. The subject is very interesting and Moore has done a lot of research. Elizabeth wrote many books, memoirs, transcripts of her asylum diaries and court documents, so there was a wealth of detailed material to work from. Moore seemed to struggle with what to cut, thus the book tends to bog down in some parts with too much detail. She also inserts her opinions and commentary often when it is unwarranted: Elizabeth’s opinions stand on their own. Moore emphasizes in the preface that this is a nonfiction book and all dialogue comes from source documents. After this, she plunges right into a fictionalized depiction of Elizabeth’s bedroom, what she saw, did, thought, felt. She uses devices that do not belong into non-fiction: flowery descriptions, drama-filled, breathless states of agitation, thoughts she had no way of knowing, and worst of all, inane similies like “the sky was dark like her mind”. I have the audio so can’t quote verbatim. There were sentences like “she shined brightly as the silver moon and the stars” and similar effusive Victorian fangirl gushings about Elizabeth. At one point, Mr. and Mrs. Packard have stopped to admire the impressive Kankakee courthouse, which I highly doubt as they were rushing to a court hearing and were not talking to each other. She should have just said that the court house was an impressive building. I mention this because she uses this inappropriate device often - making her nonfiction characters see something so she can describe it - which belongs firmly in the fiction realm. Elizabeth Packard was a remarkable woman with a long and incredible story and accomplishments. I have never heard of her before and now I am astounded how could we forget someone so influential in women’s rights. With all its flaws, this is a great account of her life and the social and political ills it illuminates. I find the story and the woman fascinating.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jultri

    4.25/5. This is the remarkable story of Elizabeth Packard, the Victorian woman responsible for taking the fight of voiceless women to the highest levels, leaving behind a legacy of legal reforms that the world is still benefitting from. Hers was initially an ordinary existence, the wife of a pastor who lost herself for many years in domestic duties as mother of six and supportive spouse. However the emerging women's rights movement awoke the dormant intellect in her. She began to read widely, fee 4.25/5. This is the remarkable story of Elizabeth Packard, the Victorian woman responsible for taking the fight of voiceless women to the highest levels, leaving behind a legacy of legal reforms that the world is still benefitting from. Hers was initially an ordinary existence, the wife of a pastor who lost herself for many years in domestic duties as mother of six and supportive spouse. However the emerging women's rights movement awoke the dormant intellect in her. She began to read widely, feeding her long starved mind. Armed with knowledge, she started to question her husband's rigid theological teachings, going as far as to publicly opposing his views during his bible classes. Not only was Elizabeth unwilling to continue to remain silent and subservient to him, but she, and moreover her husband, had realised that she was a gifted speaker with superior linguistic eloquence and intellect and thus was more persuasive in her arguments than his traditional preachings. She was threatening the loyalty of his congregation and for that, he sought successfully to have her committed to an asylum for the insane. The proof of insanity - her unnatural lack of affection and respect for her husband and her overt 'excitability' on the subject of theology. Through Elizabeth's experiences, we are exposed to the horrors of the asylum, the complete lack of rights of those declared 'insane', many purely on the words of a spiteful husband or other male relative. Upon her hard fought release, she continued to speak up for the rights of married women and to improve the conditions at the mental asylums all over America. She was personally responsible for pushing the drafting and passing of legislations to secure better rights for these hitherto silent victims. Certainly, the fact that she never doubted her own abilities to succeed, even in the face of hopeless adversity, is admirable and makes her a worthy subject of this biography. However, I admit feeling intense frustration many times while listening to this book, frustration that such a capable and brilliant mind could be so naive (view spoiler)[ in her infatuated reliance on McFarland as her saviour. I guess, it was habitual for her to always lean on a male presence. (hide spoiler)] . Also, while her refusal to compromise her beliefs were laudable, she lost years of freedom and time with her children due to her determination to not give herself into her husband's domination again, years that she spent in the asylum instead under the domination of another arrogant and cruelly autocratic man, Superintendent Dr McFarland. Her worst mistake was that she thought too highly of her own ability to read people. Her power of persuasion though mighty did have its limit. However, she did achieve so much more once she started to make things happen herself, rather than rely on men to make it happen for her. I'm glad that this book has brought to my attention the achievements of this incredible woman. The author's own narration was solid.

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