The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear (Inspirational Nonfiction Gift for Fans of Women's History) - book cover
Community & Culture
  • Publisher : Sourcebooks
  • Published : 22 Jun 2021
  • Pages : 560
  • ISBN-10 : 1492696722
  • ISBN-13 : 9781492696728
  • Language : English

The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear (Inspirational Nonfiction Gift for Fans of Women's History)

From the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Radium Girls comes another dark and dramatic but ultimately uplifting tale of a forgotten woman hero whose inspirational journey sparked lasting change for women's rights and exposed injustices that still resonate today.

1860: As the clash between the states rolls slowly to a boil, Elizabeth Packard, housewife and mother of six, is facing her own battle. The enemy sits across the table and sleeps in the next room. Her husband of twenty-one years is plotting against her because he feels increasingly threatened―by Elizabeth's intellect, independence, and unwillingness to stifle her own thoughts. So he makes a plan to put his wife back in her place. One summer morning, he has her committed to an insane asylum.

The horrific conditions inside the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, are overseen by Dr. Andrew McFarland, a man who will prove to be even more dangerous to Elizabeth than her traitorous husband. But most disturbing is that Elizabeth is not the only sane woman confined to the institution. There are many rational women on her ward who tell the same story: they've been committed not because they need medical treatment, but to keep them in line―conveniently labeled "crazy" so their voices are ignored.

No one is willing to fight for their freedom and, disenfranchised both by gender and the stigma of their supposed madness, they cannot possibly fight for themselves. But Elizabeth is about to discover that the merit of losing everything is that you then have nothing to lose...

Bestselling author Kate Moore brings her sparkling narrative voice to The Woman They Could Not Silence, an unputdownable story of the forgotten woman who courageously fought for her own freedom―and in so doing freed millions more. Elizabeth's refusal to be silenced and her ceaseless quest for justice not only challenged the medical science of the day, and led to a giant leap forward in human rights, it also showcased the most salutary lesson: sometimes, the greatest heroes we have are those inside ourselves.

Praise for The Woman They Could Not Silence:
"Like Radium Girls, this volume is a page-turner."―Library Journal, STARRED review
"A veritable tour de force about how far women's rights have come and how far we still have to go...Put this book in the hands of every young feminist."―Booklist, STARRED review
"In Moore's expert hands, this beautifully-written tale unspools with drama and power, and puts Elizabeth Packard on the map at the most relevant moment imaginable. You will be riveted―and inspired. Bravo!"―Liza Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Code Girls

Editorial Reviews

"[A]n inspiring portrait of someone who fought the system and won." - Petra Mayer, NPR Books

"Another fast-paced work of narrative nonfiction... A must-read for anybody interested in women's history or the history of reform in the United States. Like Radium Girls, this volume is a page-turner." - Library Journal, STARRED review

"What an incredible narrative about a singular historical woman. In The Woman They Could Not Silence, Kate Moore once again utilizes her astonishing talent in discovering the important, forgotten women of history. In bringing to life the account of Elizabeth Packard, wife and mother of six, Moore shares the stories of many sane women committed to insane asylums simply because they did not abide by the societal expectations about women and the one woman who successfully challenged these practices. Through these pages, Moore enthralls as she ensures that such women will be silent no more." - Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author

"Told with the urgency and passion of a novel, Kate Moore's deeply researched and thrilling study of Elizabeth Packard's fight against the power of psychiatric patriarchy in 19th century America will keep you up at night and illuminate women's ongoing battles for authority and respect." - Elaine Showalter, literary critic, Professor Emerita, Princeton University, and author of The Female Malady

"A riveting chronicle...Moore packs in plenty of drama without sacrificing historical fidelity, and paints Elizabeth's fierce intelligence and unflagging ambition with vibrant brushstrokes. Readers will be thrilled to discover this undersung early feminist hero." - Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

"The author of The Radium Girls returns with an inspiring story of the tireless 19th-century woman who fought against gender-based injustices...a vivid look at the life and times of a little-known pioneer of women's rights." - Kirkus Reviews

""I have waited fifty years for this full-length biography of Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, and Kate Moore's The Woman They Could Not Silence is simply magnificent. It reads like a suspense novel: one is on the edge of her seat at all times; one cannot believe what happens next―and then after that. History comes alive as does the tragedy of women who were falsely judged "mad" and then incarcerated and tortured in 19th century American Insane Asylums. Moore's research is impeccable. She tells us the whole terrifying and thrilling story: the cost of battle, the triumph of cruel and corrupt misogynists, the nature of feminist victory. It i...

Readers Top Reviews

Jo ClaysonTorfinoula
This book seems more like a novel than a bibliography of a portion of Elizabeth Packard's life and work. Fascinating reading....difficult to put down. I read it all in a few days. I had not heard of her before, though i was somewhat familiar with the insane asylums, domestic abuse, psychiatric care of the past 150 years or so. The book is both enlightening and inspiring. Speaking out, taking action certainly can make tremendous changes to make situations and institutions better.
Kristina Pecora
While I didn’t enjoy the blog-type style of writing and thought the work could benefit from a healthy edit, I LOVED the subject matter and couldn’t put the book down. As a mental health professional, mental health advocate and a woman, I found it all so compelling and so very important - no, essential. I had not heard of Mrs Packard before, and I’m appalled at this oversight in my education. I’m so glad to know her through these pages. I will certainly carry her spirit with me in my own work now.
I absolutely loved the first book by the author, The Radium girls (five stars, BTW) and I am a huge history fan. This is a thoroughly researched book and is about a woman trailblazer, Mrs. Elizabeth Packard. She singlehandedly fought for mental health rights and the rights of married women (there were none), specifically regarding COVERTURE. Every woman can thank Mrs. Packard today. Hang on for the read, it is long and sometimes arduous to stick with it.
Carol Pfeil
What did I like about this book? Everything. Did I learn anything about women’s rights back in 1860? Yes. Learning that women lost their status as a U.S. citizen the moment they married made me hopping angry. Only the husband could own personal property such as furniture, money and items the wife brought into the marriage, and even his children. The woman had no rights. The laws only recognized the man. And he could easily commit his wife to an insane asylum if he didn’t like her behavior. This is what happened to Elizabeth Packard in 1860. Her preacher husband had two of his doctor friends pronounce she was insane, and bam, she was gone. It was common knowledge that it was obvious proof she was insane because she disrespected her husband and questioned his religious views. Her brain was off track. It was for her own health that he put her in the hospital. This book is the well-researched story of her battle to get a trial to prove her sanity. It took her 3 years to get her trial and another 7 to finally be reunited with her children. She was a very tough woman who knew she was right and kept fighting. As a woman I would like to thank her for her efforts on behalf of women, married women, and the mentally ill. She was responsible for changing many laws and fought for our right until the end of her life. Thank you, Elizabeth. This is a must-read book. (Kate Moore’s book, RADIUM GIRLS, is equally as good as this one. Read it, too!)
Emilio Corsetti III
Every story has a protagonist and an antagonist. Elizabeth Packard, the protagonist of this story, had a slew of antagonists, including her husband, her doctor, politicians, church members, and an extended cast of male figures who believed themselves superior to women. If ever there was a story that demonstrated the difference one determined individual can make, it is this one. Elizabeth Packard was involuntarily committed to an insane asylum solely because her beliefs differed from her husband's. Her battle to right this wrong not only benefited her but countless other women in similar straits. The whole idea of women's rights and equality starts with her. Others followed, but Elizabeth laid the foundation. The Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal." It didn't say anything about women. Women at that time were only slightly ahead of slaves thanks to egregious laws and regulations that stripped women of equal rights. When Elizabeth's quest for change hit a brick wall due to some ridiculous law stripping women of a fundamental right, she campaigned to have that and similar laws banned or rewritten. She accomplished this through her writings and public speaking. When no publisher would agree to publish her story, she published her work herself, using what the author described as an early example of crowdfunding. She did this despite having to fight off opponents who questioned her sanity. If you're someone who doesn't read nonfiction because you think it's boring or tedious, I strongly urge you to reconsider. You won't find a novel with a more compelling story, a richness of characters, and an eloquence of the written word than Elizabeth's writings and that of author Kate Moore, who weaved together this amazing tale. I also recommend the author's other book Radium Girls.