The Private War of Mrs. Packard

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9781557783301: The Private War of Mrs. Packard

Recounts the life of the nineteenth century reformer who helped make it unlawful to commit the mentally ill without judicial approval

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From Kirkus Reviews:

All the makings of a TV docudrama in an unlikely source: the story of feisty Elizabeth Packard, little-known 19th-century advocate of the rights of mental patients, by journalist (Newsweek, The New York Times, etc.) and TV-writer Sapinsley. Packard's troubles began when her vocal deviation from the Calvinist thinking of her aptly named preacher-husband Theophilus became a decided embarrassment to him. Announcing that since she ``persistently refused my will or wishes...it must be that she is insane,'' he took advantage of the law that allowed a husband to have a wife committed to a lunatic asylum simply on his say-so- -plus the ever-ready consent of the admitting doctor. Released three years later through the efforts of her eldest son and subsequently declared sane in a sensational jury trial, Packard spent the rest of her life working to change the laws so that no other wives could be subjected to the same treatment. Gifted with a keen intelligence, determination, and great physical stamina, she managed to support herself through her writings, regain custody of her children, and persuade numerous state legislatures to rewrite the laws regarding commitment and treatment of mental patients. Sapinsley's experience in writing TV documentaries (The Twentieth Century, etc.) is evident in her selection of scenes that dramatize the story. Hampered by the destruction of court and legislative records, she has nevertheless created a vital portrait of a remarkable woman, ingeniously piecing it together from family records, contemporary newspaper clippings, and Packard's own writings. An eye-opener. (Photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

This is a fascinating biography of a pioneering crusader who heretofore has been ignored by historians. Popular journalist and author Sapinsley uses family records and an assortment of other primary materials to tell the story of Elizabeth Packard, an otherwise conventional 19th-century wife and mother who was committed to an insane asylum by her husband because of her unorthodox ideas on religion and child-rearing. After winning her freedom in a highly publicized trial, Packard spent the rest of her life lobbying for changes in state laws governing the commitment of individuals to mental institutions. Although geared to general readers, this volume should interest historians as well because it details the sorts of tensions that inspired the fledgling feminists of the same period. Recommended for history and women's studies collections.
- Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., N.J.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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