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…
What an amazing read. It’s sad to know that many people are unaware of Elizabeth’s story, despite all she has done for women’s rights. And she went through a lot in order to help not only herself, but the other women with her in the asylum and generations of women to come. Her story would make a great film. Every time I thought it was coming to a conclusion, another twist brought me down another path.
Of course, that means The Women They Could Not Silence was a long read. As someone who struggles to consume non-fiction, it did take me longer than usual to read it. However, the wonder that was Elizabeth Packard kept me persevering and coming back for more.
This book will make you both happy and sad. Happy for what Elizabeth achieved but sad for everything she had to go through and knowing that some of the same attitudes are still at play within many people today.
Interested in reading? Pick up your copy of the book here.