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The Woman They Could Not Silence

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The Woman They Could Not Silence is a thoroughly researched novel that tells the true story of a Elizabeth Packard, a mid-19th century wife and mother. After her husband, Theophilus, commits her to an asylum for thinking and speaking her mind, Elizabeth realizes that she will have to save herself. Elizabeth becomes a voice not only for herself but for many other women who were falsely imprisoned by their husbands during this time.  
After finally securing her own freedom, she helped to expose the poor treatment of asylum patients and fought for women’s rights, all while trying to regain custody of her own children. 
I was saddened and angered while reading this novel about such an important woman in American history. We should all know about Elizabeth Packard!  I found this novel easier to read than most non-fiction, but it still felt longer than necessary. This would be a good choice for a book club discussion and is perfect for those who love women’s history.
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This story was fascinating. It's inconceivable to learn what women dealt with only 150 or so years ago in this country. Throughout the story I was able to relate what I was learning to things that are happening in our country today. Kudos to Elizabeth Packard and all of the brave women of that era.
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Don't miss this read!!

In The Woman They Could Not Silence, Kate Moore has written a book that gives readers a fascinating, enlightening, infuriating, and horrifying look at the state of women's rights in America (or lack thereof) during the 1800's and society's and the medical community's view of mental illness. She tells the true story of Elizabeth Packard, housewife, mother of six, married to Theophilos Packard, a preacher.

This woman, who I had not heard of prior to reading this book, was quite a powerhouse! The first women's rights convention, held in 1848, made Elizabeth realize that she had a mind and a will of her own, and a right to her opinions. What's more, she could make her thoughts known. Her newfound autonomy horrified her husband, who was used to controlling everything in the household, especially his wife. Her unbridled outspokenness began to cause trouble within his congregation, not only by engaging in debates regarding certain tenets of the faith, but the men found her behavior unseemly and feared their wives would follow her lead.

On 6/18/1860, Theophilus committed Elizabeth, at age 43, to the Illinois State Hospital, an insane asylum. The law at the time required a six man jury trial to commit a person, however, this law did not apply to married women. Their husbands could commit them at anytime with no evidence of insanity required. The reasons for committing a woman were numerous and could range from being disagreeable, stepping outside society's strictly defined gender spheres, even reading a novel.

During her confinement, Elizabeth continued to speak out and work for the rights of women, and made it her goal to better the lives of her fellow inmates, even taking it upon herself to wash them, and make clean linens and clothes for them. The medical theories and practices regarding mental illness were appalling, and she brought them to the public's attention. There is much to admire about this woman, who never stopped working for what she believed in.

This is quite a compelling read which held my attention throughout. Don't be put off by the length of the book. I promise you, you will be drawn into this well-written novel and will be so glad that you read it! I cannot imagine the hours Kate Moore spent meticulously researching her subject (all events and dialogue in the book were taken from Elizabeth's writings and from records) before writing this book which bring's Elizabeth Packard's life to light.

Kate Moore has written a book that is unforgettable. I wish I could give it 100 stars!!

My thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebook for allowing me to read a review copy of the book. All opinions and any errors stated here are my own.
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Interesting and inspiring. If anyone needs proof of a patriarchy, look no further.

I appreciated the content but the arrangement and flow could have been better.

The writing style was overly dramatic and distracting in parts, with strange, almost silly metaphors that drew my attention away from the story.
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Worth a read but I didn't enjoy as much as Radium Girls. Will be interested to see what Kate Moore writes about next!
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Another fascinating book by the author.The story of Elizabeth Packard a woman imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband kept me reading late into the night.Perfect for book club discussion a brave strong woman who deserves recognition
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In The Woman They Could Not Silence, Kate Moore once agains tackles an incredibly grim and complicated portion of our history in an accessible and compelling way. Thoroughly researched and skillfully crafted, Elizabeth Packard’s harrowing journey through the murky medical systems, ruled by a patronizing group of doctors, unfolds. Sent to an asylum by her overbearing and strict husband for merely speaking her opinion, Elizabeth Packard quickly discovered that the law was far from being on her side. Faced with her new reality, Elizabeth swiftly begins contacting close friends and collecting information to build the case of her sanity. But in an era where women were unable to own property, control their finances, or be placed in an asylum for simply reading novels, Elizabeth faced a monumental battle. 
Kate Moore writes excellent narrative non-fiction and really brought Elizabeth’s story to life. Just as in her previous books, Moore really focused on the people and their humanity. While the situations these women were placed in were cruel and barbaric, Moore also placed emphasis on the women’s roles in society at the time and their lack of rights within the laws. At no point does Moore excuse anyone’s behavior, only placing the situations in context of the time period. While this heartbreaking and emotional story is well researched and well written, it did feel longer than necessary and the beginning of the book was much slower in pacing than the last half. Overall, Kate Moore has given us another important and emotionally moving look at the complicated history of medicine and mental health. 
Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the opportunity to read and review this title. All opinions and mistakes are my own.
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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. 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.
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4.5 stars, rounded up. This was easily my most anticipated nonfiction of 2021, and after reading Elizabeth Packard's story, I can't wait for more readers to get their hands on it and find out more about this woman and her legacy. When Packard was committed to an asylum by her husband, she quickly found out she had very little recourse in the laws of the time, and based on the understandings of mental health at the time, very little she could do to "prove" that she didn't belong there- and neither did many of the other women she encountered during her time at the Illinois State Hospital. It's infuriating to read about how little agency women had, and the uphill battle that Elizabeth Packard faced in her quest to get back to her children and to make public the injustices she had learned of. Her work to change laws and understandings of the time had a lasting impact, and it's unfortunate that this book was the first time I learned about this passionate fighter for justice.
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A very interesting novel.  I had never heard of Elizabeth Packard but we all should hear of her now.  The fact that back in the 1860s men could send women to an insane asylum  for just speaking their mind or disagreeing with their husbands is very scary.  It was a well thought out and well written non-fiction novel and the author cited all her research.  At times one just wanted to scream at all the obstacles put in her way by the men and it can be upsetting at times.  Luckily Elizabeth prevailed. She worked to change the ways women are admitted to insane asylums and worked to release women being held there by abusive husbands.  
An excellent read.
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I had no idea who Elizabeth Packard was, but we should ALL know who she is. This narrative nonfiction is so well written, I devoured it although it was extremely infuriating to read. I can't stop thinking about it. This would be a great book club selection.
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Interesting well-written and researched look at women and insane asylums in the 1800s in America that is based on a true story. Elizabeth Packard, a middle-aged woman with 6 children, is sent to an asylum by her husband not because she is insane but to get rid of her. Why? She was outspoken, and dared to have and express an opinion that ran contrary to her husband’s. Men had all the power over their wives and could do with them as they pleased.  Insane asylums, run by men, were only too happy to receive payment to imprision these women. Not surprisingly, the conditions in the asylums were horrific and abuse was rampant.  Elizabeth was kept in the asylum with no proof of insanity for three years. But her husband and the men who ran the asylums underestimated her , her intelligence and her unwavering will to return to her children. Elizabeth was eventually released and she worked tirelessly to stop the exploitation of women in these asylums.  This was a fascinating, insightful look at the plight of women in the 1800s.  I felt infuriated, sad, but ultimately inspired by this story.  Very well done! 

Thanks to Sourcebooks and Netgalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I really enjoyed this book. It was an interesting glimpse back in time where women could be committed to insane asylums for the simplest disagreement with her husband. It has pictures throughout the book so you can visualize the people and the settings. All in all a well done book! 4 stars.
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I saw Kate Moore at Bookfest and was interested in her newest book. Conceivably I could have been incarcerated in an insane asylum, according to 19th century standards, for reading novels. Well, I love reading and would have been possible fodder. I am well aware of the lack of rights married women had in 19th century America and Moore tells a good tale of a woman who fought back, Elizabeth Packard. I had never heard of her, but she had a lot of influence in gaining protection for women. I wanted to throttle her spiteful, petty husband for most of the book.  The separation from her children had a profound impact on all of them. This book is a good contribution to the social and legal history of women’s rights in America.
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Nonfiction from the author of The Radium Girls!
Historically we all know how backward 19th century thought was concerning women, getting to know the main character Elizabeth, then reading how she was treated was heart-rending. It made me thankful to all our embattled ancestors who had to endure this for modern women's rights. It's depressing and sickening to imagine myself in this position. 

Although the events illustrated are not pleasant to read 'The Woman They Could Not Silence' by Kate Moore should be recommended reading for all to bear witness, so that this history never repeats itself. The way she masterfully weaves the life of Elizabeth Packard into an interesting story is pure genius. I didn't want to put the book down. Elizabeth was such an intelligent, strong and self assured woman. She was the perfect subject for a book like this. 

"The law did not apply to married women. They could be received at an asylum simply by the request of the husband. Because married women at that time in the eyes of the law were civilly dead. They were not citizens,  they were shadows: subsumed within the legal identities of their husbands from the moment they took their marital vows." 

"...psychiatrists mistakenly deduced that slavery must be advantageous to mental health. Those few people of color admitted to asylums therefore found the cause of their derangement often listed as just one word: “freedom.” One physician even theorized that to run away from slavery was itself madness." 

There is a warning in the beginning of this book that cautions that the author uses vernacular of the time period in all it's insulting glory. To the modern ear it's shocking but I think in terms of this book we need that shock. We as readers need the full experience of how horrifying the treatment was. It also holds a mirror up to our current society in terms of things that haven't changed enough from then til now. Thanks to Sourcebooks for my egalley. 

“Don’t sneer at the suggestion of our aspiring to an equality with the men!… Because perverted manhood has trodden us so long under foot, shall we choose to lick the dust?" -Elizabeth Packard
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Elizabeth Packard is the subject of Kate Moore’s new book, The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear. But I’ll venture to guess you’ve never heard of Mrs. Packard. Although her story is quite dramatic, you won’t find her in history books. And, if her husband Theophilus had anything to say about it, she would have lived out her days in an asylum for the insane. Yet, she was quite sane.

The Packards lived in 19th century midwestern America, and the events of Moore’s book begin just as rumblings of the Civil War start. Their home is also a civil war of sorts, with Elizabeth supporting abolition and her pastor husband opposing. Mrs. Packard spent most of her life birthing and raising six children, keeping house, and being the dutiful pastor’s wife. Then Theophilus moved his church from one doctrine to another, more conservative one. And Mrs. Packard objected. Publicly. Mr. Packard reacted by packing her off to the asylum. He needed just two amenable doctors to “certify” his wife as insane.

And off she goes to Jacksonville, Illinois’ State Hospital, run by Dr. Andrew McFarland. Calling him a misogynistic enabler of vindictive husbands is an understatement. So, Elizabeth fights while stuck in her corner of this triangle. As best she can, she creates a place for herself in the asylum. Initially, she makes some friends among both patients and staff. She even connects with McFarland.

And then things go south, and she ups her game and fights even harder to get out of the hospital. Because it’s not just her life, but the lives of the many other unjustly incarcerated wives that depend on her ability to escape with her mind intact.

My conclusions
Moore tells readers right up front that she chose Mrs. Packard’s story because she gets out from under this unjust commitment. So, there’s no spoiler in saying that here. And it takes hundreds of pages with extensive details to explain how she breaks these bonds. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just complicated.

Moore combines social history with biography. This is much more than just Elizabeth’s story. It’s the story of all women in that male-centric society. And it’s about a politically divided country, which only adds to the divisions in place between men and women. Moore connects these various stories well and uses events of the day as a foil for Packard’s complex journey to freedom.

But at the heart of the story is one strong woman who took stock of her own situation. Then she determined to help all the other female patients in asylums across the country. She could’ve just taken the abuse from her husband, McFarland, and the staff. Instead, she fought back with her words, both verbal and written. She found a way when the situation seemed hopeless.

As inspiring as this is, there are places in the book where the story drags a bit. The machinations of the legal and mental health system in that era move slowly. Still, it’s worth persisting because Elizabeth Packard is remarkable. And Kate Moore does a stellar job telling her story.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for an advance copy of The Woman They Could Not Silence, publication date June 22, 2021.

Well, Kate Moore did it again. This book was a treasure trove of information about Elizabeth Packard, an absolute beast of a woman. It was fascinating to read her life story and life’s work.

I was both fascinated and horrified by McFarland. His “character” was spine-chilling, as was Mr. Packard’s methodical and insidious erosion of Elizabeth’s freedom. 

As one or two other people mentioned, the work is full of quotes and they can be distracting if you focus on it. However, I also felt they added a very human element to the book, having Elizabeth’s own words as well as several other people’s.

Elizabeth Packard is an Inspiration and Kate Moore and did an amazing job bringing her to life on the pages.
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I was so happy to receive this ARC thru Net Galley and Source Books because of how much I enjoyed reading Radium Girls. Kate Moore did not disappoint. Elizabeth Packard was committed to an insane asylum in the 1800s by her husband because of some differences in viewpoints. She fought to prove her sanity both inside the asylum and after her discharge. She did so much afterwards to help the women that she encountered in the institution and for changes to rights for married women. This book was so well researched but also written so well that at times I forgot it was non fiction. It is a great book that came out at just the right time where we find ourselves again (still) fighting for equality for women.
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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. 

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.

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!!
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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
by Kate Moore
SOURCEBOOKS (non-fiction)
Biographies & Memoirs
Pub Date 22 Jun 2021   |   Archive Date 26 Jun 2021

Possibly, one of the most important books you will read this summer.  Kate Moore, author of the Radium Girls as well, does intense research so not only is this book true but it is also so incredibly sad that this type of behavior was allowed in those times. I will recommend this to our patrons.  Thanks to Net Galley and the Publisher for this ARC. Well-written book! 
5 stars
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