Nov 16, 2013

Elizabeth Packard: Sent to an Insane Asylum for speaking her mind

Last week, I went to see a play called: Mrs. Packard.  It was based on the life of Elizabeth Parsons Ware and her life.  Elizabeth was encouraged to marry Theophilus Packard in 1839.  They had six children.  He was a Presbyterian minister who was a diehard Calvinist.  He believed that God was a harsh and judging deity, while she leaned towards a more loving and merciful God, thru Christ, who is our teacher and friend. They also disagreed about child rearing and slavery.  If a wife is not behaving how the husband wishes her to behave, he had the right to commit her to an insane asylum.  That is exactly what her husband did. She was kidnapped from the bathroom and taken to the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois to teach her a lesson. Once the misbehaving wife's spirit is broken, like that of a horse, and pledges that she will obey her husband in everything because he is superior, she is allowed to come back home. Some women refused to lie and spent their entire lives in the institution.

Dr. Mcfarland was the superintendent of the Insane Asylum when Elizabeth first arrived.  At first he took a liking to her, but when she wouldn't bend on her views he sent her to the 8th floor, where the really crazy women resided.  Elizabeth saw the deplorable state of the women and their surroundings that she began cleaning it up. She never was swayed from her views that landed her in such a place. Elizabeth remained in the hospital from 1860-1863.To keep her sanity, Elizabeth wrote about her life in the facility. Paper was smuggled to her by the staff knowing that she was banned from writing.

The picture came from here.
She was then released to go back home to her husband. Who boarded her up in a room in their home.  She managed to write a letter and a neighbor found it. Elizabeth was then released. There was a court case and it took the jury only 7 minutes to declare that Elizabeth was indeed sane. Imagine that.  Her husband moved with the children to another state. It took Elizabeth nine years to get back custody of her children.  Afterwards, she became heavily involved in treatment of the mentally ill and women's rights. She lived to be 81 years old.

As I sat there watching this women's life become a nightmare,  I thought about the millions of women who are living right now.  We just recently read about the little girl named Malala Yousafzai who was shot because she wanted an education. The thousands and thousands of girls who are raped and then thrown aside by their cultures because they are now considered not good enough to marry or are forced to marry the rapist to save the reputation of the family. I could go on and on about this subject. We have advanced with the rights of women here in America and in Europe, but there are areas of the world who are at least 100 years or more behind in their beliefs that women are valuable. I sure would like to see some changes in this area for the better in my lifetime...I really would.