HISTORY

The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried To Make Her Disappear

Sourcebooks. Jun. 2021. 560p. ISBN 9781492696728. $27.99. HIST
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Best-selling author Moore (Radium Girls) writes in this latest work that 19th-century asylums were places of horrific abuse and mistreatment of women patients. Husbands and other male family members often had the authority to commit their wives and daughters without their consent; within the institutions, superintendents wielded supreme authority. Crafting another fast-paced work of narrative nonfiction, Moore tells how Elizabeth Packard’s husband, a minister, committed her to an Illinois asylum when her religious beliefs diverged from his own. During her three years in the asylum, Packard wrote thousands of pages about her experiences, the filthy conditions, and the abuse suffered by patients at the hands of staff. After being released, Packard embarked on a crusade to expose abuses at asylums, reform commitment laws and procedures, and introduce governmental oversight. Her efforts resulted in a number of laws protecting asylum patients around the country. Using Packard’s extensive writings, trial testimonies, and governmental reports, Moore’s latest work brings to life the activist’s tireless efforts and the advocacy work she accomplished in the mid-20th century.
VERDICT 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.
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