Elizabeth Packard was a woman ahead of her time, who dared to challenge societal norms and fight for her own autonomy. Unfortunately, her progressive views and strong will were seen as a threat to her husband’s authority, leading to her wrongful confinement in a psychiatric hospital for three years.
Born in 1816 in Massachusetts, Elizabeth married Theophilus Packard in 1839, and together they had six children. Despite being a devoted wife and mother, Elizabeth did not agree with her husband’s strict interpretation of religion and believed in women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Her views and actions, including publishing her own writings, teaching Sunday school, and speaking out against her husband’s religious beliefs, angered Theophilus, who saw her behavior as a betrayal of her marital duties.
In 1860, Theophilus had Elizabeth declared insane and committed to the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane without a trial or a medical examination. Despite being deemed sane by the hospital staff, Elizabeth remained confined for three years due to her husband’s influence and the prevailing societal belief that women were subservient to men and could not be trusted to make their own decisions.
During her confinement, Elizabeth advocated for herself and other women’s rights, writing and publishing a book about her experiences called “The Great Drama: A Poem of the Laws of Spiritual Development.” Her case also gained national attention and helped to spark a larger conversation about the need for reform in the treatment of women with mental illness.
Elizabeth’s strength and resilience, as well as support from her children, eventually led to her release from the hospital in 1863, and she continued to fight for women’s rights and mental health reform for the rest of her life. Her legacy serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for gender equality and the need for individuals to stand up against injustice and oppression.