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The Woman They Could Not Silence

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Member Reviews

This was a very powerful book that taught me a lot. There were parts that dragged for me, but overall I found this book very informative and intriguing. I knew about the lack of rights that married women had in the 19th century, but I was unaware of what implications that lack of rights could lead to. Elizabeth endured years without her own biological children, and tirelessly fought the entire time for not only her rights but the rights of other women who were unjustly put into asylums. The author also added an air of creepiness to the asylum portions, which I enjoyed. A long read, but definitely a recommended one.
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I received an advance copy of The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore in both audio and digital form from Blackstone publishers and Sourcebooks through Netgalley 

CW: Forced Institutionalization, Mistreatment of Patients, Abuse of the Mentally Ill, Sexism. 

What It’s About: Elizabeth Packard is a wife and mother of six in 1860, when she begins to share her opinions on religion and her husband feeling threatened, declares she is insane and puts her in an institution for the insane. Her harrowing journey from abused woman to abused patient to advocate to freed woman and back a few times is documented in this book.  

What I Love: Kate Moore is a talented scholar. She present’s Elizabeth Packard as a woman who was fighting for women’s rights prior to when most people think the book began. If anyone has ever read the Yellow Wallpaper or other fictional accounts of women being made to be viewed as unstable if they were not a perfect woman. This story is actually really quite inspiring and I think a lot of people will learn from this book. The way women in this country have been and are treated is appalling and this book really does bring light to a lot of that. 

What I Didn’t Love: Honestly I thought it was a bit dense. It was hard to listen to, this book is loaded in details and quotes from primary documents. It is an in depth exploration of Packard’s life and at times it truly was just too much for me. I think this might be because I have the opposite problem of others with audio, I usually do better with fiction. Additionally, I thought that this book was very repetitive and that certain parts just seemed to keep coming up, to be fair, I actually think that Elizabeth just kept going through the same thing in the same pattern over and over but it got a bit repetitive and maybe stylistically could have been done better. That said, it is a history so this should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Who Should Read This: People who love well researched and detailed histories. People who want to learn more about the abuses women faced pre-women’s right.  

Quick Summary: A woman forcibly institutionalized becomes a leading advocate for the rights of women and the mentally ill.
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Fascinating story of what many women have gone through all throughout history.  The depth of research that Kate Moore gathers to tell her stories in astounding.  A difficult, but engaging, read.
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Thanks to the publishers, Netgalley and the amazing author for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.  

What an incredible story about an indomitable and inspiring woman.  When I read about women of character like Elizabeth Packard I feel a desire to make people do better.  This is feminism and compassion at its finest.  I am also well angry about the treatment of people in her situation and am aware we still have a long way to go when we still see women made to feel 'crazy' for voicing their opinions.  This happens in daily life.  It happens to people i love.  And the fact that her tormentors, especially Dr McFarland, have not been outed as vile criminals. fills me with rage.  

I'm so glad I read this.   You should read it too.
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Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks for a free ARC in exchange for my honest review!

The Woman They Could Not Silence tells the story of Elizabeth Packard's fight for equal rights for women in marriage in America during the Civil War period and after. This is a very slow-paced book which is not something that I usually enjoy. Kate Moore as with The Radium Girls has done her research and you really feel that you know Elizabeth Packard after you finish this book. I wish I had liked Elizabeth more as a character but that was not Moore's fault. She was honest about who Elizabeth was, flaws and all.
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4 worthy stars

Why haven’t I ever heard of Elizabeth Packard – even in a college Women’s history class? Thank you, Kate Moore, for bringing this strong, smart, (definitely not insane) woman to our attention!
Women’s rights during the Civil War were pretty much non-existent. I found it appalling how many rights husbands had and astonishing how husbands could have their wives locked up in an insane asylum with no evidence, just 2 doctors’ signatures. This happened to Elizabeth Packard. Theophilus, a pastor, believed everyone, including himself was damned. Wife, Elizabeth saw good in all. “Theo” could not cope with Elizabeth’s independent mind and spirit. She even “asserted herself in public too, such as in a Bible class run by his church.” Besides locking her in her room, he conceived a plan to put her in an insane asylum. 

Elizabeth Packard not only kept her sanity but helped others in the asylum. Elizabeth writes of the abuses that occurred in the asylum and later gives court testimony regarding the terrible circumstances.  After she was released, Elizabeth published books, self-publishing at first because her work was not accepted. She did crowdfunding, as there were no readily available jobs after the Civil War.  She worked with legislatures to help get rid of discriminatory laws and help those declared insane. 

Kate Moore, author of Radium Girls, did an incredible amount of research, using original sources, to bring Elizabeth’s important story to light. The prose is clear, if not always concise. Quotes used the more formal language of the 19th century, which may bother some readers. I don’t think this book is as emotional as Radium Girls, but I found myself rooting for Elizabeth, an American hero who deserves much more recognition. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I cannot get over how much time and research Kate Moore puts into her books. She takes history and makes it so much more accessible, readable, and understandable for all sorts of folks - she is truly an artist with her craft. I learned so much from this book, just as I did with Radium Girls, and honestly, I will read any book of hers that is published in the future.
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Happy Women's Equality Day! Today I want to share a book about a remarkable woman, Elizabeth Packard, "the woman they could not silence." Thank you to Sourcebooks for providing my ARC on NetGalley. This book was published on June 22, and it's Kate Moore's follow-up to her bestseller The Radium Girls.

It's 1860, and Elizabeth Packard has lost her freedom. Her husband had her committed to an asylum because she is too intelligent and independent for him to control any other way. What follows is a long and winding tale of her pursuit of freedom. She attempts to work with her doctor Andrew McFarland, finds that effort unsuccessful, and then mounts a major court case in order to win her freedom. She subsequently works to free her friends in confinement and to publish her ideas for the world to read.

I was completely in awe of Elizabeth's strength while reading this story, and it's also eye-opening to see how much women were controlled by their husbands just a little over 150 years ago. I think we're all aware of the long fight for equality that continues today, but this story really put things in perspective for me.

This book is a little long and intimidating due to the long course of justice in the case (hence my post-pub date review). But it's definitely worth the read if you enjoy narrative nonfiction. I'm so looking forward to what Kate Moore writes next!
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This book was infuriating and so well-researched. An important piece of women's history and excellent writing from Kate Moore, as always.
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This is an amazing book that every current feminist woman needs to read. I couldn't believe how well researched this book was, and how much I learned about the history of oppressing women in the name of insanity. Mental health has been coming to the forefront of national issues, especially during the pandemic, and this book highlights how far we really have come, while still showing how much better we can do. This book was upsetting, inspiring, and such an important part of women's history. I received a free copy of this book from netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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First line: This is not a book about mental health, but about how it can be used as a weapon.

Summary: Elizabeth Packard, a wife and mother of six, has displeased her husband with her differing views on religion and politics. According to the laws of the land he is within his rights to commit her to an insane asylum. And this is exactly what he does. However, Elizabeth will not go quietly. For three years she lives inside the walls of the institution, writing her story and about the abuses of the staff and the superintendent. Finally, when she is released her problems are not over. There is still a battle to be won and no one is going to silence her until it is finished.

My Thoughts: If you are looking for a non-fiction book that reads like fiction then this is it. The story is very easy to follow, the flow is consistent throughout and the plot is compelling. Elizabeth’s story is probably more common than anybody realizes. A husband, father, or brother has become disgruntled with a woman and sends them away. It is sad and fascinating all at the same time.

I listened and read this at the same time. Both were very enjoyable ways to consume this book. The reader did a great job and kept my attention while I was doing other things as I listened.

I did get a little frustrated at times with Elizabeth. Even though she knew that certain men were the ones that put her in the asylum she continued to try and persuade them to change their minds. I liked to see that she was smart enough to manipulate the situations she was in or make the best of her times in the asylum. She kept her wits about her which many other women would not be able to do.

With her limited resources she improved the lives of many of the women trapped in the asylum with her. And when she left she did not forget the ones that were still imprisoned. She was an intelligent woman who knew how to get her points heard. Because of her campaigning she brought about changes for married women and patients in the asylums.

FYI: From the author of Radium Girls.
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Kate Moore, has followed up her hugely successful title <i>The Radium Girls</i>  with another book I'm absolutely convinced will be a resounding success.     In her superbly researched work of narrative non-fiction  <b>The Woman They Could Not Silence</b>
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. "<i> Most states then had no limits on relatives’“right of disposal”  to commit their loved ones.</i>.   I was shocked by some of the reasons.     <i>"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"</i>....another shocker was <i> “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.”</i>  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  <i> "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..."</i>

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.
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Already impressed with her Radium Girls, I picked up this book for Kate Moore.

The detailed narrative brings us the struggle of Elizabeth Packard, and her courage in fighting out a society that did not treat its intellectual women right. A very inspiring read.
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This is the true story of Elizabeth Packard who lived in Civil War times. She was a courageous woman who fought back against her controlling husband who had her committed to an insane asylum because she expressed her own views that were different from his. She also fought to have laws for women changed, against the doctor who ran the asylum and brought the mistreatment of patients to light. Very well-researched and written.
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“She blocked out all that usually dominated and made the world stop and stare.”

Incredible true story about a woman who never gave up fighting for her truth.  In 1860, Elizabeth Packard was unjustly detained in an asylum by her husband for speaking her own mind and not sharing his beliefs.  While most people would have given up against the myriad of obstacles she faced, she never did.  Against all odds, she was not only able to secure a release from her prison, but was also legally declared sane by a jury.  Elizabeth Packard eloquently and tenaciously represented the oppressed, championing the rights of women and the mentally ill for the rest of her life.  She was responsible for several laws promoting the rights of married women and of the mentally ill.  She wrote several books about her experiences.  And she ultimately helped initiate an investigation into the abusive behaviors toward asylum patients in Jacksonville, IL.  She was a pioneer, a reformer, a hero, but mostly, a mother.

The author’s absolute passion for Elizabeth Packard comes through loud and clear.  Her book is extensively researched and comes together impeccably detailed.  While it is a work of non-fiction, the narrative and sudden twists make it read like a novel.  The content is overwhelming to the heart and forces the reader to pause and reflect on how things have changed and yet how they still remain the same.  After reading this, you will think twice before flippantly calling another person crazy again.
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4.5 stars

Read a finished copy from the library.

Review going up on 7-28-21

Kate Moore does not shy away from the lesser told stories, and she tells those stories well. In fact so well that you forget your reading a non-fiction book at times because of how easy her books are to read. 

The Woman They Could Not Silence is about Elizabeth Packard who is one of the first women to fight for women's rights and succeed in doing so. But Mrs. Packard's journey was hard and long, and at times has you wondering how she didn't just give up because of how many things were working against her.
Elizabeth Packard was put into an Insane Asylum by her husband because she had different beliefs than him when it came to religion and wasn't afraid to speak those beliefs. This was a big problem because her husband was a preacher and he can't have his wife going against him. Her husband was able to get doctors to believe she was insane in several different ways, and with this had her locked up in an Asylum for three years before she was finally released. During those three years though she saw fellow patients being treated horribly by staff, as well as seeing multiple other women also falsely accused of being insane and put into the asylum by either their husbands or fathers. 
Once she was finally released we see her having lost everything and not even being able to see her children. This leaves her wanting to publish the book she was writing during her time in the asylum to show what it was like in one and how terribly people were being treated.
The last half of the book is this entire journey as well as seeing her become an advocate for all people in insane asylums to be treated justly and for women to have more rights so that they would stop being put into insane asylums by their male family members who didn't like what they were doing.

Overall I loved learning about Elizabeth Packard and seeing all that she was finally able to do to get women's rights and to become an advocate for those falsely accused of insanity.
I can't wait to read Moore's next book and see what she is going to teach us about next.
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"What a story—and what a telling! Kate Moore has hit another one out of the park. In the best tradition of The Radium Girls, Moore recounts the stunning true account of a woman who fought back against a tyrannical husband, a complicit doctor, and 19th-century laws that gave men shocking power to silence and confine their wives. By challenging these norms, Elizabeth Packard became a heroine on the scale of the suffragists. In Moore's expert hands, this beautifully-written tale unspools with drama and power, and puts Elizabeth Packard on the map at the most relevant moment imaginable. You will be riveted—and inspired. Bravo!"
—Liza Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Code Girls

“The Woman They Could Not Silence tells the captivating story of Elizabeth Packard, a forgotten heroine whose harrowing ordeal in an insane asylum seems straight from the mind of Stephen King—except every word is true. Blending impeccable research with novelistic flair, Kate Moore brings the indomitable Packard to brilliant life, and proves she belongs among our most celebrated women leaders.”—Abbott Kahler, author (as Karen Abbott) of The Ghosts of Eden Park
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This narrative non-fiction book paints a picture of a situation that was unfortunately all to common in the 1800s: Elizabeth Packard, a perfectly sane woman, is sent to an asylum because she challenges her husband. Forced to leave her children and life behind, Elizabeth is imprisoned in the Illinois State Hospital where she learns how many women are in the same position that she's been forced into. When Elizabeth refuses to stay quiet and submit, she's treated horrifically and then must fight her way back to freedom. 
This book details one woman's arduous pursuit for freedom, as well as the women she meets along the way. It also details that horrific facts of how patients were treated, and how little doctors knew about mental illness and how they tried to cure them.
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I've read Radium Girls also by Kate Moore and absolutely loved that book, so I was very excited to get the opportunity to read this latest book by Moore. I had never heard of or learned about Elizabeth Packard, but her story is so incredibly important as part of the history of both womens rights and mental illness. There is plenty of historical fiction that sheds the light on how women, especially married, were unfairly committed to insane asylums for so many reasons that we'd find absolutely ridiculous today. Moore takes it so much further by crafting an engaging non-fiction narrative around the lead up to and fight Elizabeth Packard went through to change laws from which women, like myself, benefit. My only critique of the book is that Moore has done such an incredible amount of research, but it often overtakes the narrative itself where I found myself struggling to make it through certain large parts in the first half of the book, making it overly long in my opinion. I would still recommend this to anyone who really enjoyed Radium Girls though.
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Elizabeth Packard is the civil rights and women's rights activist you have never heard of. She pioneered women's ability to speak, earn wages, and live independently both inside and outside the bounds of marriage. In 1860, when Elizabeth beguns to openly disagree with the teachings of her very religious husband, he decides something must be done to protect his pride and his reputation. Thankfully for him, the laws in the US (namely in Illinois) allowed for wives (and other women) to be committed to an asylum with little to no cause. And thus, Elizabeth's decade's long fight to prove her sanity and the fight to allow others to do the same began.

I really enjoyed reading Radium Girls so when I was offered the chance to review this book, I was pretty excited. Also, as a mental health professional I was very intrigued to learn about this pioneer who clearly had such a larg impact on many of our laws and yet I never learned about her! The author did a great job at making this story alive and accessible despite the change in the times. I found myself identifying with and empathizing with many of the problems and issues presented in this book, even today. Makes you question how much has really changed over time.

It was clear the author did EXTENSIVE research to prepare for this novel. However, the use of "quotes" and superscripts proved a bit excessive to me and at times disrupted the reading flow for me. I use "quotes" because often, the author would use ONE WORD and put it in quotation marks with a superscript. Almost every single chapter had 40-50 such quotes with superscripts and the Notes section of the book citing all of these was about 135 pages. That just seems like a lot to me and as I said, it interrupted the reading flow and on some occasions did not meaningfully add to the message. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
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