THE WOMEN THEY COULD NOT SILENCE
One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make her Disappear
By: Kate Moore
Narrated by: Kate Moore
Published: June 22, 2021
Elizabeth Packard is someone every woman should know about. If you’ve ever used your voice to stand up for something or someone. If you have ever expressed your opinion. If you can worship whatever religion you want. For these reasons and more you should be grateful to have been born in the 1900s or 2000s and that you can’t just be sent to an asylum for standing up for your beliefs or disagreeing with your husband.
In 1860, Theophilus, husband of twenty-one years to Elizabeth Packard, decides that his wife is getting a bit too intelligent and outspoken. So, without any other corroboration or reason beyond her husband saying she was insane, Elizabeth Packard was committed to an asylum in Illinois. Thanks to detailed journal writing and a book, written by Elizabeth herself, Kate Moore was able to provide readers with a detailed account of Elizabeth’s horrific years in the asylum.
Elizabeth Packard can’t believe how easy it was for her husband to have her committed and upon her arrival, she finds numerous other women and wives, also committed by their husbands. She assumes she will only be there for a few days but when she sadly realizes she will not be going home anytime soon, she sets off on a mission to make sure this doesn’t happen to any more women in the future. She was frequently punished for her outspokenness and for helping other women in the ward. After witnessing deplorable conditions on certain wards, she decided to not only fight for women’s rights outside of the asylum but also for those inside, demanding better care for women. Her months of bathing women that hadn’t been bathed, washing their sheets, combing their hair only to start the cycle back over again when she finished the last woman brought me to tears. She put her own needs aside to offer a bit of love and kindness to women who had basically been thrown away by their families.
I listened to this on audio and whether you read or listen to the narration, it’s heavy and I had to take frequent breaks. But, this is a story that needs to be heard. I can’t imagine what life would be like for women if Elizabeth Packard hadn’t been so determined to go against the doctor and director of the hospital she was admitted to as well as to fight her husband for custody of their children. The ending is quite remarkable and her resilience amazed me. Kate Moore’s research was impeccable and her attention to detail made this narrative non-fiction gripping and emotional. Thanks to her, Elizabeth Packard’s story has reached those of us who had never heard her story.
Kate Moore is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Radium Girls, which won the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Best History, was voted U.S. librarians’ favorite nonfiction book of 2017, and was named a Notable Nonfiction Book of 2018 by the American Library Association. A British writer based in London, Kate writes across a variety of genres and has had multiple titles on the Sunday Times bestseller list. For more information, check out her website, HERE.