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Elizabeth Packard

Elizabeth Packard: A Noble Fight

Linda V. Carlisle
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 272
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    Elizabeth Packard
    Book Description:

    Elizabeth Packard's story is one of courage and accomplishment in the face of injustice and heartbreak. In 1860, her husband, a strong-willed Calvinist minister, committed her to an Illinois insane asylum in an effort to protect their six children and his church from what he considered her heretical religious ideas. _x000B__x000B_Upon her release three years later (as her husband sought to return her to an asylum), Packard obtained a jury trial and was declared sane. Before the trial ended, however, her husband sold their home and left for Massachusetts with their young children and her personal property. His actions were perfectly legal under Illinois and Massachusetts law; Packard had no legal recourse by which to recover her children and property. _x000B__x000B_This experience in the legal system, along with her experience as an asylum patient, launched Packard into a career as an advocate for the civil rights of married women and the mentally ill. She wrote numerous books and lobbied legislatures literally from coast to coast advocating more stringent commitment laws, protections for the rights of asylum patients, and laws to give married women equal rights in matters of child custody, property, and earnings. Despite strong opposition from the psychiatric community, Packard's laws were passed in state after state, with lasting impact on commitment and care of the mentally ill in the United States._x000B__x000B_Packard's life demonstrates how dissonant streams of American social and intellectual history led to conflict between the freethinking Packard, her Calvinist husband, her asylum doctor, and America's fledgling psychiatric profession. It is this conflict--along with her personal battle to transcend the stigma of insanity and regain custody of her children--that makes Elizabeth Packard's story both forceful and compelling.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09007-3
    Subjects: Psychology, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    IN THE SPRING OF 1875, a distraught Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the slain president, was involuntarily committed to a private mental hospital in Batavia, Illinois, by a court order requested by her son, Robert Lincoln. Fifteen years earlier, an unknown Illinois woman named Elizabeth Packard was also involuntarily committed to a state mental hospital in Jacksonville. There are remarkable connections between the two cases. Both women contested their confinement, both were examined and declared insane by Dr. Andrew McFarland, both had explored Spiritualism, and both were befriended by Chicago attorneys and activists James and Myra Bradwell.

    For three decades...

  6. 1 “All the Love His Bachelor Heart Could Muster”
    (pp. 16-23)

    ELIZABETH PARSONS WARE WAS BORN in Ware, Massachusetts, on 28 December 1816. She was the fifth child born to Reverend Samuel and Mary Tirrill Ware, but the first to survive infancy. Two sons, Samuel and Austin, were born later and also survived to adulthood. When ill health forced her father to leave the ministry, the family moved to nearby Conway, Massachusetts, where they remained until Elizabeth was about sixteen. As a teenager, she boarded at the Conway, Massachusetts, home of Reverend Daniel Crosby while attending Mr. Bradford’s school.¹

    Around 1832, the Ware family moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, where Elizabeth attended...

  7. 2 “New Notions and Wild Vagaries”
    (pp. 24-34)

    IN RECALLING THEIR decision to marry, both Elizabeth and Theophilus Packard intimated that, given the choice again, they would choose differently. His diary entries about their marriage were written many years after the fact and, thus, the immediacy of any happy emotion was surely tempered by subsequent events. Nevertheless, his feelings about marriage appeared to be quite pragmatic. He was settled as a minister and he needed a wife. There seemed almost a touch of regret as he recalled leaving his father’s house, which had been his “pleasant and happy home for 37 years,” to move into his own home...

  8. 3 Breaking the Mold
    (pp. 35-43)

    “FAREWELL! FATHER, MOTHER, BROTHERS! I leave thee this pleasant September morning, 1854, to seek my Western home in Lyme, Ohio. My little group of loved ones are all in good health and spirits—five in number—the oldest, Theophilus, twelve years of age—the youngest, George Hastings, seventeen months—a nursing babe.”¹

    Thus, Elizabeth Packard described the family’s departure from their native Massachusetts. A decade later she could still recall in minute detail how she had dressed the children for travel. The older boys (Theo, Isaac, and Samuel) wore overcoats, caps, and gloves and each carried a carpetbag. Daughter Libby...

  9. 4 Free Love and True Womanhood
    (pp. 44-56)

    MANTENO WAS A SMALL farming village platted on the rich prairie of Kankakee County in east-central Illinois. The arrival of the railroad in 1853 encouraged growth and, by the time the Packards arrived there in 1857, the thriving community boasted a depot, grain warehouse, feed mill, general store, saloon, boarding house, hotel, post office, two schools, and three religious denominations—Catholic, Methodist, and Presbyterian. By 1860, the U.S. Census recorded Manteno’s population as 861.

    The Presbyterian church in this frontier community was a humble mission compared with the prestigious church Theophilus and his father had served in Massachusetts. The congregation...

  10. 5 “The Forms of Law”
    (pp. 57-67)

    BY JUNE 1860, the conflict between the Packards had, quite literally, reached a maddening degree for both husband and wife. Indeed, the entire family was in significant distress and there can be little doubt that Theophilus was truthful in his statement that it was impossible for him to “live with her comfortably in the family.” Unable to either cajole or coerce his wife into submission, he had reached an intolerable place in his marriage.

    He tried to send her away, at least temporarily, to stay with relatives. On 1 May 1860, her elderly father, Samuel Ware, wrote Theophilus that he...

  11. 6 Andrew McFarland and Mental Medicine
    (pp. 68-77)

    ELIZABETH WAS AT FIRST impressed by asylum superintendent Dr. Andrew McFarland. She described him as a “fine looking gentleman” and was charmed by his sophistication and attentiveness. McFarland, she said, “very gallantly” permitted her ample time to share her thoughts, while her husband “sat entirely speechless.” She believed McFarland, unless her “womanly instincts” deceived her, was equally charmed by her.¹

    McFarland’s friends described him as urbane, sophisticated, domineering, and so self-controlled as to appear “impassable and cold.” But they also knew him as a man who held “tenderest sympathies” for the “poor, afflicted, and distressed.”² Like the Packards, Andrew McFarland...

  12. 7 “A World of Trouble”
    (pp. 78-90)

    ANDREW MCFARLAND was about to learn what Theophilus Packard knew: Elizabeth Packard could be a troublesome woman. It was impertinent for her to insist that the systematic theology of a noted theologian or minister was unreasonable in the light of common sense. Yet even when her ideas were clearly absurd, she defended them so ably that the average person found it difficult to contradict her. But, above all, she perversely refused to acquiesce to either her husband’s or her doctor’s view of proper thought and behavior. And she would cause, as McFarland later told her husband, “a world of trouble”...

  13. 8 “An Unendurable Annoyance”
    (pp. 91-103)

    AFTER TWO YEARS OF EXTRAORDINARY difficulty with Elizabeth Packard, Andrew McFarland was anxious to see her leave his institution. At the September 1862 meeting of the asylum’s board of trustees, he recommended they discharge her “for reasons of general expediency.”¹ However, Theophilus attended the meeting and urged that she be kept at the asylum.²

    He evidently presented sworn statements from a doctor, a neighbor, and members of his church regarding his wife’s conduct just prior to her commitment. The doctor offered examples of what he considered insane behavior, including “her almost incessant talking about her husband and the doctrines of...

  14. 9 From Courtroom to Activism
    (pp. 104-117)

    TESTIMONY IN PACKARD’S trial began on 12 January 1864 and caused an immediate sensation. A noisy crowd packed the courtroom, and it was clear the predominantly female assemblage favored Packard as the heroine of the drama unfolding before them.

    Theophilus hired attorneys Thomas P. Bonfield, Mason B. Loomis, and C. A. Lake to represent him. Bonfield, a well-known Kankakee County pioneer, wrote later that he was astonished that the case was not immediately dismissed. He objected to a jury trial and pointed out that it was customary for the judge to rule inhabeas corpus cases. He believed, too, that...

  15. 10 “My Pen Shall Rage”
    (pp. 118-131)

    IN HER ASYLUM NOTES, Packard recorded that she understood that angry words—“the utterances of my natural indignation”—would likely be construed, literally, as madness. Thus, she said, “Reason taught me to be quiet while in the asylum, that I might rage all the more vehemently when I got out.” Now she declared, “My pen shall rage if my tongue didn’t . . . It shall rage, and it will rage, until he, whose right it is, shall rule over humanity.”¹ Now she began to deliver on that promise.

    Her campaign would be fueled not only by her writing and...

  16. 11 Shooting the Rattlesnakes
    (pp. 132-144)

    FOLLOWING HER DEFEAT in Connecticut in June 1866, Packard returned to her father’s home to ponder her next move. In late August, Samuel Ware died, having “repented of the wrongs . . . innocently done” to his daughter.¹ He bequeathed $2,000 to charity, but left most of his $14,211 estate to his three children in equal parts.² Dispersal of the money was delayed when Packard’s stepmother contested the will.³ Thus, Packard returned to Chicago in late 1866 without her share of the inheritance, but apparently with substantial profits from sales of her books.

    She recorded that she sent her husband...

  17. 12 Vindication and “Virtuous Action”
    (pp. 145-154)

    THEREPORT OF THE INVESTIGATING COMMITTEEappeared in the 6 December 1867 edition of theChicago Tribuneeven before reaching the hands of Governor Oglesby, who was touring in Europe. As might be expected, it reignited the furor that had simmered throughout the investigation.

    TheIllinois State Registerapplauded itself for supporting Packard who, they said, had “tried in vain to get the attention of politicians and presses of the dominant party.” Now, they reported, “Mrs. Packard’s statements appear to be true.”¹

    Meanwhile, theJacksonville Journal“refuse[d] to believe a word against” Mc-Farland and insisted he was “wrongfully accused ....

  18. 13 Triumph and Disaster
    (pp. 155-164)

    BY 1869 PACKARD HAD “sold enough [books] to purchase a nice little cottage and a lot in Chicago, free from all encumbrances.”¹ The property, valued at $5,000, was located at 1496 Prairie Avenue, several blocks from the district that would, within a few decades, be home to wealthy businessmen such as Marshall Field, George Pullman, Philip Armour, William Kimball, and Joseph Sears.²

    Packard perhaps chose to settle in Chicago because her three oldest sons were living there.Edwards City Directoriesfor the 1860s show Theo and Isaac boarding at 245 W. Monroe and Samuel renting at 122 Cottage Grove Avenue....

  19. 14 Working in Her Calling
    (pp. 165-176)

    IN 1872 WITH HER REFORMS in place in Illinois and her family scattered, Packard looked for other fields of service. Iowa was a logical choice. Not only did she still have good friends in Mount Pleasant, but also her son, Theo, and his wife had settled there.

    Her focus in Iowa was patients’ rights legislation, and she recorded that she began her efforts with letters to Representatives J. Vanderventer and J. M. Hovey. Hovey was chair of the House Committee on Insane Asylums. When both men discouraged her from pursuing this legislation, she again turned to the press, which provided...

  20. 15 “Great and Noble Work”
    (pp. 177-189)

    IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AMSAII’s “Project of The Law” clearly slowed, but did not stop, Packard’s progress. From 1875 on in state after state, asylum superintendents promoted legislation to repeal or amend Packard’s laws. Indeed, the degree of Packard’s success is remarkable given the countermeasures of the AMSAII.

    Because of these countermeasures, the effectiveness and longevity of the specific laws for which Packard was responsible varied from state to state. In Iowa, for example, comments by Superintendent Albert Reynolds of the Hospital for the Insane in Independence indicated that the visiting committee in that state remained relatively ineffective, despite Packard’s efforts....

  21. 16 Final Campaigns
    (pp. 190-200)

    THERE IS CONSIDERABLE EVIDENCE that Packard’s legislative activities continued during the 1880s and 1890s. An article in theAtchison Daily Championnotes that she appeared before the Kansas legislature in 1881 “to secure additional legal protection for married women and for inmates of insane asylums.”¹

    In 1883 she sent an “Open Letter to the Legislatures of Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado,” requesting passage of a postal rights bill and a bill to protect the personal identity of married women. The letter included statements of support from ministers, doctors, and lawyers along with signatures of 804 legal voters. One testimonial noted that...

  22. Notes
    (pp. 201-232)
  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-250)
  24. Index
    (pp. 251-259)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-261)