This Week's Story

Elizabeth Packard is abandoned by her husband and declares "I have used my reason, not lost it!"

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

I shall put you into the asylum! part four

Day Two. The wake-up bell awakened Elizabeth at 4:05 a.m. “I do not know what to expect here at Jacksonsonville Insane Asylum. I’m not a defeated woman. I must convince the asylum’s superintendent to free me. I have used my reason, not lost it!”

Breakfast in the Seventh Ward, in which she was assigned, was a surprise to her. The table was covered with an oilcloth set with glass and china. The women at the table were similar to her, educated, married, middle class and middle-aged. All were white.

Patients were segregated. Those who were considered crude or destructive, were put together to not offend other patients. Few women of color were ever admitted. Doctors believed insanity was more common among white people.

After breakfast the superintendent, Dr. Andrew McFarland, came to her. “Elizabeth, come with me for an interview. Your husband will join us.”

Dr. McFarland appeared professional, intelligent, and kind. Her husband, Theophilus, was silent. He’d already given his views about Elizabeth to the doctor. Theophilus had declared,

“Elizabeth had teenage insanity. I wish I had realized the risk of marrying someone who once was insane. She was committed by her father when she was nineteen. At the time she was the principal of Randolph College in Massachusetts. The diagnosis was “mental labor.” Her intellectual studies were too difficult for her nervous system as a woman.

“She needs to stay in her rightful role as caretaker of home and children. We have been married twenty-one years. Recently she has been disagreeing with me at home, church, and public about religious and political issues.”

Elizabeth reported later, “I believe my previous commitment was because I had brain fever and was treated incorrectly. I recovered from my fever and was released in six weeks.”

Now as Elizabeth spoke with Dr. McFarland, she was delighted to be free to discuss religion, politics, and progressive ideas.

Dr. McFarland later wrote, “I admired her good looks and especially her extraordinary powers of mind.”

That night Elizabeth fell asleep assured that soon she would be going home to her children. The next afternoon Theophilus told her, “I will be leaving for home in about one hour.”

Elizabeth noticed his use of the word I. “Then you are going to leave me in an insane asylum. O, husband! How can you do so?” She pleaded with him. He ignored her and departed.

Elizabeth did not know that Dr. McFarland had formally entered her name the day before into the asylum’s register. of patients. Elizabeth Packard---June 19, 1860.

The final supporting paperwork for commitment was Elizabeth’s husband’s application for her admission and two medical certificates from two medical doctors. The doctor’s conclusions were, “She talks too much.” “She has a strong will and unusual zealousness.”

Elizabeth stated that her husband had her committed for THINKING.

Todd Warren and I, Barbara Steiner, invite you to visit thisweeksstory.com. We will continue sharing Elizabeth’s courageous struggle.

<< previous story]


We invite your comments!  [click here to comment]

Let's Talk


Facebook Join the conversation.

This Week's Story is a non-profit supported by listeners. [click here to make a donation]