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The Woman They Could Not Silence

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Fascinating biography of one woman's experiances in an asylum during the 1860s.  Committed there by her husband, mostly for believing she had free will and for differing with his theological ideas, Elizabeth Packard believes her time there will be short and she will return to her life and six children.  When her efforts to convince the Warden and the Trustees to release her fail, she is "demoted" from one ward to the next, seeing deeper into the care (or lack there of) received by women who truely do suffer from mental illness.  Author Kate Moore relies on journals, letters and transcripts to reconstruct the thoughts and acts of the main players, and relates a gripping tale which is a fast read.  Highly recommend.
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“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 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.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the opportunity to read this book. I’m rounding up from 4.5 stars.
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Interesting and thought-provoking story and history. Appreciated the point of view, and a look at the complex world of both women's rights and mental illness.
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Incredibly moving story of Elizabeth Packard and her struggle to free herself from her controlling husband and the insane asylum he had her committed to. Her efforts to prove herself sane and escape the nightmare she finds herself in, simply for speaking her mind and expressing opinions other than her husband’s, is gripping to the end. Highly recommended.
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From the author of Radium Girls comes the inspiring story of Elizabeth Packard, the woman responsible for publicly unmasking the treatment of patients in insane asylums and the wrongful incarceration of women in these institutions. The Woman They Could Not Silence is heavily researched, as any work by Kate Moore is bound to be, and detailed in such a way that the reader can easily envision the time period. The story focuses on one woman’s story, but humanizes all who had to face the stripping of rights by laws that allowed husbands and fathers to enjoy the convenience of claiming mental instability for opinionated women. The story can be long-winded at times,  but for readers of courtroom drama, this book is not lacking in that regard. A thorough history of nineteenth century definitions of insanity. 
Thank you @netgalley for this advance copy for review! Pub date 6/22/21
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The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

I thoroughly enjoyed my advance copy from Net Galley of “The Woman They Could Not Silence” by Kate Moore. If there was ever a topic that riles me more, it would be that of male subjugation of women and this story exposes a time in history whereby a woman’s voice was basically erased once she became the property of a husband. That these men could be so arrogant as to believe that all husbands would have their wife’s best interests at heart and could thereby determine their fate. Contrarily, their own threatened insecurities could easily condemn a woman to false imprisonment in a psychiatric ward. Kate Moore shows us the true grit of a determined Elizabeth Packard who against all odds was able to change the tide for many women. Her manipulative husband, Theophilus, plots and succeeds in having his wife locked up in the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois. The hospital director, a Dr. Andrew McFarland, manages to keep Elizabeth and others isolated from most communication with the outside world.  It is a tale most important to learn of not only the squalid conditions and brutal treatment of “patients” kept there, but also of their human rights and dignities that were stripped of them. 
It would not have been an easy undertaking for Ms. Moore to weave Elizabeth Packard’s personal writings within a complex unravelling of historical events, but she did so marvelously.  For me, it was a page turner and was difficult to put down. Thank you again for having had the opportunity to read this advance copy.
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"...Kate Moore’s expert research and impassioned storytelling combine to create an absolutely unputdownable account of Elizabeth’s harrowing experience. Readers will be shocked, horrified, and inspired. A veritable tour de force about how far women’s rights have come and how far we still have to go..." - full review to appear in BookList
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 Though women make up the majority of the population of the world, they do not enjoy the same rights as men.
Going back to the early  Roman period, women were passed from the father's control to the husbands' control. They were at the mercy of her husbands' whims. Women in ancient China were considered inferior and had subordinate legal status. In Imperial China, the “ THE THREE OBEDIENCES” promoted daughters to obey their fathers, wives to obey their husbands, and widows to obey their sons.
In the middle ages, the English church and cultures regarded women as weak, irrational, and vulnerable to temptation who constantly needed to be kept in check. In overall Europe during the Middle Ages, women were considered   inferior to man in legal status.
So the status in North America in the 19th century was no different. Men made the laws to their advantage. Women could not voice their opinions. The superiority of men was never questioned. Women's chief office is to bear children.
Though it was written in the constitution that freedom of religion was respected, any married woman whose views were not the same as her husbands were called rebellious and termed insanely.
If the husband was fearful of the wife having an opinion that was not his way, they were told that they had a diseased brain, had an attack of derangement, and were now different from her formal conduct. Also, another reason given is “ her lack of interest in her husband”. This was a classic case for insanity and to be sent off to the asylum.
A married woman can hold nothing, as they were nothing and nobody, had no legal identities of her own. They were just a shadow, the silent unseen shadow of her spouse, termed COVERTURE. Also in the 19th century, doctors were certain that the woman's menstrual cycle made them liable to go mad, despite no scientific evidence.
Kate Moore, tells an extraordinary story of Elizabeth Packard, wife of  Theophilus  Packard,a pastor. They were married 21 years and had 5 children. The age difference between them was 15 years. He sent her off to an asylum in June of 1860 because of her difference of thought and speaking her mind. Theophilus was jealous that she is more popular in the church because of her different thoughts.  To  Elizabeth god is love, but to  Theophilus god was a tyrant who dispensed His mercy sparingly and secretly and that one never knew if one had done enough to be saved. He devises a plan so that Elizabeth can be sent off to an asylum in Jacksonville, Illinois.
She will not go on her own will and was eventually carried to the train station.” It is for your good, I want to save your soul” so said her husband. So Elizabeth was received at the asylum at the request of Theophilus. She fought back, “I have a mind of my own, and I will think and act as I  please”. She asked Theophilus for a legal trial and let her see her children. But he refused.
From then on, Elizabeth had to prove that she is sane. She tried to convince the Hospital Superintendent of her sanity. But he was in cahoots with Theophilus. Over 3 years she attempted many discussions but to no avail.
This is the story of her struggle and her vision to show the people the condition of the asylums. She started her fight for women's rights. And to free “sisters  “ wrongfully put into asylums. Story of one woman fighting for freedom and the men who tried to make her disappear. She stood steadfast in her beliefs even with all the emotional trauma that she had to endure.
 Kate Moore has written a beautiful and extensively researched story about Elizabeth Packard. A story about pain, terror, and heartbreak she had to endure. Though she was facing unimaginable hardships, she remained strong. Her determination and perseverance got her support from the legislature to change laws for equality for women's rights. 

It was an absolute astounding and emotional read. Heartbreakingly at times.
I would recommend this book to all who follow the #metoo movement and who want to know of the incredible unacknowledged and unheard of heroes and heroines of the past.

Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the chance to read the ARC.
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I found this book fascinating and timely.  Learning about Elizabeth Packard and how she was accused of insanity, is still a battle women have to face in current times.  Mental Health is a serious issue but so is being labeled insane because you won't do as your husband wants you to do.  So many women have had to face that battle.  Elizabeth never gave up on her battle for proving she was sane, getting legislation passed to right the wrong she faced, getting back her children, etc.  She was a force to be reckoned with.
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The time is June 1860 and Elizabeth Packard's life is about to become a nightmare. Her husband of 21 years and the father of her 6 children puts her in an insane asylum because she dares to have a mind of her own which differs from his. There is no trial to confirm or deny his allegations of her madness because she has no rights. Everything she has including the clothes on her back belongs to her husband. In 1860 married women were the sole property of their husbands as the law considered married couples to be as one person. All Elizabeth wants to is be vindicated and reunited with her children.  As we follow her story with all the adversity she endures it becomes clear that she is a  person of formidable intellect and strength of character.  Kate Moore has done a brilliant job in bringing Elizabeth Packard  and her remarkable life into the 21st century.  I was not prepared for how compelling her story would be and how it still resonates 161 years later.
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I loved this book! It was such a strong well written story. It was exactly what I needed with everything going on in the world! A mind bending escape!
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After Kate Moore's The Radium Girls, she's a must-read for me. I found the book fascinating and emotionally moving. The Woman They Could Not Silence is no different. I love how she writes about human rights and the etymology of laws that we can sometimes take for granted today. It reminds you to be attentive and speak up. It is also a testament to untold heroes. In this book, she turns her attention to Elizabeth Packard who we have to thank for better healthcare today.
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This reminded me so much of a meme that keeps floating around, a huge list of things a woman can be institutionalized for. Unfortunately that list was at one time true. And for some, it probably still is to this day. This book was so good, informative and really p*ssed me off many times. Terrific writing as well
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Great but shocking story

I loved this book. Aside from the heart-wrenching personal stories, the book constituted a good history of psychiatry. Once I started reading, I could not put the book down. The only fault I saw was the frequent foreshadowing. I had read and loved Kate Moore’s “The Radium Girls” so I had high expectations for this book and I wasn’t disappointed. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of medicine.   
Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the advance reader copy.
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Another hit from Kate Moore. I am thoroughly enjoying the education she's giving us in regards to women who previously did not have the spotlight on them, and especially so considering the suffering they endured.

It's a sinuous story of deception, domination, depravation and, thankfully, deliverance. While some of the bombshell moments land better than others, it's not necessarily Moore's fault, I don't perceive, as she's just trying to mold this into a narrative that better ensures it's classification as a page-turner. 

The idea that Packard isn't someone I learned about in middle school or, at the very least, college, is eye-opening and unfortunate, especially considering the story presented here. The notion of how completely powerless women were (in a legal sense) during this period shouldn't surprise too much, but the mere action of observing an actual tale of it affecting lives gives it a nightmarish tinge, sending chills down my spine on several occasions. I can hardly fathom having my freedom domineered by someone who does not have my best interests at heart, but to have that same person leverage that power to remove me from my children, presumably for the rest of my life? It's no wonder why Moore chose this as her next work. 

Structured into numerous, small chapters, it makes this read (550-ish pages) manageable if it's a bedside-table situation, and allows for you to whittle through it quickly--word of warning, though: As mentioned earlier, some of these aforementioned chapters don't go quietly into the night. I might have mumbled, "I'm sorry--what?" at a "new" development a few times before feeling compelled to go on further than I had at first intended to. 

That postscript section was absolutely delicious, by the way. 

A hearty recommend from me. Undoubtedly will be one of the best books of the year in its respective category. 

Many thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the advance read.
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This was such an intense read.  I had to stop at parts because I was so angry and frustrated by the treatment of this woman.  I love learning things through books and this was an eye opener.
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I liked learning about Elizabeth Packard, an early American feminist who had every odd stacked against her. Reading this made me all the more grateful to be an opinionated woman in the 21st century.

I felt the first half of the book was rather slow and monotonous, but the second half was interesting and fast-paced. You’ll surely come to realize as you read that today’s misogynist Trumpy men have always existed in some fashion, ready to silence the voice of women who dare to speak their truth and stand up for their rights, ready to sling a “she’s crazy” at any woman who dares to call them out. Slightly disheartening to realize, but also encouraging to note the resiliency of the female spirit that cannot be crushed no matter the hills we must climb. For all her successes, I was surprised I’d never heard of Packard before coming upon this book.
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This was such an important story--absolutely inspiring but also showing that there still is more work to do in terms of equality for women and the discourse around mental health. 

This tells the story of Elizabeth Packard, who in 1860 whose husband had her sent to an insane asylum because her religious views differed from his. Because she was married, she was not entitled to a trial or any proof other than her husband's word of her sanity. Elizabeth resolved to not only improving conditions in asylums, she also worked tirelessly to grant rights for women, in particular married women. 

At times this was really hard to read, seeing just how much women were disregarded, that to have an opinion at all was considered unfeminine, and therefore must be a sign of insanity. The situation was impossible for a woman whose husband wants to commit her - any protestation of sanity is taken as a sign itself of insanity. 

It was also hard to think about how 150 years later, many of these attitudes have not fundamentally changed. Women in politics are still seen as "unstable" if they show passion or excitement. 

Elizabeth Packard was incredibly inspiring in what she accomplished in the system in which she existed. She had some options to settle, and even though she knew she was taking a harder path, she wanted to truly change the system to make it better for all women.  I'd definitely recommend reading this book for a great look at how women's rights and the approach to mental health has changed!
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A husband feels threatened by his wife's intellect and forthrightness, so he has her committed to an insane asylum.  
As if that's not bad enough, while there, she becomes a patient of Dr. McFarland.  Can she trust him?  She confides in him, but again and again, she wonders......
How did I not know the story of this remarkable woman?  I asked myself many times throughout this book, "Would I have this much GRIT to keep fighting against the system that did not give women the rights they should have?"  
I really liked this book.  Not only did I learn about the amazing Elizabeth Packard, and the difference she made in the world, but it made me look at myself and ponder what I would have done in this situation.  This was a book I couldn't wait to continue reading each day, so that I could find out the end result of all Elizabeth's unnecessary pain and suffering.  
Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy of this book!
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Date reviewed/posted: January 23, 2021
Publication date: June 22, 2021

When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, AND the worst sciatica attack in your life means you MIGHT sleep 3 hours a night,  superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today.

I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

From the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Radium Girls comes another dark and dramatic but ultimately uplifting tale of a forgotten woman whose inspirational journey sparked lasting change for women's rights and exposed injustices that still resonate today.

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...

Bestselling author Kate Moore brings her sparkling narrative voice to The Woman They Could Not Silence, an unputdownable story of the forgotten woman who courageously fought for her own freedom—and in so doing freed millions more. Elizabeth's refusal to be silenced and her ceaseless quest for justice not only challenged the medical science of the day, and led to a giant leap forward in human rights, it also showcased the most salutary lesson: sometimes, the greatest heroes we have are those inside ourselves.

Oh, what a book. Hubby and I are binge-watching "North and South" and Virgilia in there deserved a mental hospital during civil war times, but Elizabeth did not. Remember, these were the days when men who wanted to divorce their wives just needed to say that they were "hysterical" and they were stuck in Hootie-ha-hotels and the men remarried leaving the women in horrific situations.  (Yes, Virgilia deserved it....she was heinous!)

The book was expertly crafted and it was a fascinating read that I am going to use as our July book club pick and recommend to anyone, friends, family, etc. in search of a great read. It is utterly inhalable and should and will be enjoyed by all the women in your life and the men as well.
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