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The prisoners' hidden life, or, Insane asylums unveiled : as demonstrated by the report of the Investigating committee of the legislature of Illinois, together with Mrs. Packard's coadjutors' testimony (1868)

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One hundred and forty-seven years ago today, on June 18, 1860, Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard was committed to the Jacksonville (Illinois) Insane Asylum by her husband Theophilus Packard, a strict Calvinist minister, because she had begun to express liberal religious beliefs that differed from his own. The Packards, who lived in Manteno, Illinois, in Kankakee County, had been married for 21 years and had six children. In 1860, Illinois state law permitted a husband to commit his wife to insane asylum without any court hearing or psychiatric examination. Mrs. Packard spent three years in the Jacksonville hospital. After her release, she separated from her husband and began to campaign for the rights of women and the mentally ill. She founded the Anti-Insane Asylum Society, published numerous books, including this one, and was instrumental in the 1867 passage of an Illinois law "Bill for the Protection of Personal Liberty," which guaranteed the right to a public hearing to anyone, including wives, who were accused of insanity.


See also related work Marital power exemplified in Mrs. Packard's trial, and self-defence from the charge of insanity, or, Three years' imprisonment for religious belief, by the arbitrary will of a husband : with an appeal to the government to so change the laws as to afford legal protection to married women (1870) from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


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