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Modern Persecution, or Married Woman's Liabilities
During the post-Civil Wars years, Elizabeth Packard was one of the key champions of rights for women and people labeled as insane. At this time, men could declare their wives insane and have them institutionalized without a public hearing—a fate that befell Elizabeth Packard in 1860. She spent three years in the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, for disagreeing with her husband’s conservative religious philosophy, views on slavery, and how to raise their children.
In 1863, the asylum doctors declared her incurable and released her to her husband. He deprived her of clothing and boarded her up inside a room, actions that were illegal. She smuggled a letter to a friend, who convinced a judge to grant a writ of habeus corpus. At the trial of Packard v. Packard, the jury decided in her favor in only seven minutes.
After gained her freedom, Packard became an activist for women’s rights and personal liberty. Her writings inspired Illinois and several other states to pass laws that prevented husbands declaring their wives insane and that required jury trials before people could be committed.
No perfect or proper asylum or hospital for the treatment of special diseases, and particularly of insanity, can exist without strict adherence to a well considered system of classification.
The report which we publish to day is conclusive proof that there is no such system pursued at Bloomingdale.
The proof is not in the assertions of the writer; it lies in the fact that he, feigning nothing, appearing a quiet person without even eccentricities, daily visited by an "expert" physician, and constantly watched by "professional" keepers, was kept four days in the excited wards, surrounded by dangerous maniacs, without suggestion of removal. And during all this time the ward was never once visited by the Chief Physician or Superintendent, Dr. Brown.
The Bloomingdale Asylum is a private institution, owned and conducted by personal enterprise. It is evident, also, that it is a speculative institution, and is maintained at a profit at the expense and abuse of the unfortunate boarders. The lowest rate per week charged is twenty dollars.
Now it is evident from the plain, brief, and careful statements of the reporter, that the accommodations are not better than can be had in any second-class boarding-house in this city for seven dollars a week, room and meals included.
As for the other conditions, the food is not particularly nutritious, the supply of the costlier materials is small and grudgingly given, the food is not clean, nor is it well cooked, and the attendance at table is simply beastly.
The conversation of the keepers while serving at tablets not fairly reported, but it is because their disgusting language cannot be expressed in print, and it is impossible to describe it. Uttered in a public bar-room, some of the words reported to us by the reporter as repeatedly spoken by the attendants while serving at table in the asylum, would have subjected the speaker to summary and violent ejection at the hands of the most besotted of proprietors.
The constant punishment of an imbecile youth by forcing him to perform the duties of a menial -- the violent hurling of a harmless idiot half across a room for the offense of not knowing which way to turn -- the brutal beating of an old and blind idiot for protesting against rude treatment -- the toasting of a poor boy naked in the sun while confined in what is nothing other than an iron cage -- these are among the instances of cruelty which the reporter cites as having been witnessed by himself.
Others are also named, but none are of such a painful nature as those enumerated above. We have vainly endeavored to imagine a plausible excuse for these acts of violence which we have not the heart to recite in detail. They appear to have been wanton acts done in moments of passion by the keepers, and were not necessary apparently to the maintenance of any system of discipline, for discipline and classification alike seem to have no part in the Bloomingdale management."
Death and Burial of Louis C. Samuels, Victim of Ward's Island Asylum, New York.
In the New York Sun, of November 4th, 1872, appeared the following:
"On Saturday Coroner Herrman held an inquest over the remains of Louis O. Samuels, the lunatic alleged to have died at the city Insane Asylum at Ward's Island last Monday night, from the effects of mal-treatment at the hands of the keeper, James McDonald. The first witness examined was Dr. Joseph Cushman, who testified that the result of a post-mortem examination, made by him, was to show that Samuels was laboring under no acute complaint likely to have caused death, which, he thought, was brought about by exhaustion, the body being very much emaciated.
Dr. Gonzales Echeverria, resident physician of the asylum, testified that Samuels was admitted into the asylum last August. He was a person of some mental ability as far as he could judge. In September he was suffering from acute mania, but wholly inoffensive. He was also troubled with diarrhoea, from which he did not fully recover until about two weeks ago, when his mental condition also improved.
He frequently complained of being starved and mal-treated by the attendants in the ward, and especially by McDonald, who, he said, was greatly addicted to drinking. Witness was not at first disposed to place much credence in his statements, but a careful investigation satisfied him that the charge of inebriety at least was true.
On the morning of October 26th he found another patient, named Patrick Cassidy, in the ward with Samuels, with his face and shirt stained with blood, and on inquiry ascertained that McDonald had broken his nose. As this fact was admitted by the keeper, witness, considering him an unsafe man to have charge of insane patients, reported the fact to the Commissioners of Charities and Correction, and the following morning, on visiting the asylum, he was again appealed to by Samuels, who was evidently suffering severely, and who complained that McDonald had forced him to take a cold bath as a punishment.