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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.
The "patient" is now in Newark, apparently as sane as any one.
Mrs. Bischoffsberger and Stentz, as above stated, have been arrested and committed to the City Prison, in default of bail, to await trial. There is a sensation ahead for Newark."
Brattleboro Asylum Horrors.
This terrible Asylum, so long notorious for its cruelties to the inmates, is now undergoing a thorough ventilation, and when the forty witnesses who are now summoned to meet at Montpelier, come forward before the public with their testimony, it will doubtless more than confirm the present reputation it has acquired of being one of the most cruel of all these American bastiles.
It will doubtlessly show that the remark of a victim who suffered one years' torture there to be no exaggeration of the truth. Said he:
"If ever my friends decide to return me again, as a patient, into that institution, there is one request I have to make, which I beg of them with all sincerity to comply with, which is, that before they put me there, to begin at my toes and with pinchers pick off all the flesh from my entire body, and it will be a mercy to me to have them thus do, before they send me to Brattleboro asylum again!"
Another case is that of a lady, whom the Doctor decided to subdue by the starvation "treatment," which process was so long continued that the smell of food even drove her almost frantic, so that she would risk almost any exposure to get it. To prevent this they jacketed her, so that with her arms thus pinioned they could better restrain her efforts to help herself when in the dining-room.
One day as she entered the dining-hall in this straight-jacket, the sight and smell of food so stimulated her appetite in her now emaciated and nearly deathly condition from so long a deprivation of food sufficient for nature's demands, that in her agony she bent her head towards the table and was just in the act of clutching a mouthful of food between her teeth, when her attendant saw her and seized her to drag her away, when she, instead of securing the food she aimed at, caught the table-cloth between her teeth in its place, and by the violent and sudden act of her attendant in dragging her off, she dragged off with her patient the table-cloth, and with it the dishes upon it, so that a general break-up was the result.
Now the starved patient was taken off to receive her condign punishment for breaking the asylum crockery, which she was as certain of getting as she had been of getting the counterpart of her "treatment" -- starvation -- from the decree of the same despot.
She was stripped, pinioned, and whipped until the blood flowed from her body so profusely as to stand in puddles about her feet!
And this is the "treatment" our Christian Government has legalized as the cure for insanity!
Knowing, as I do, that this is true, and liable to occur in every asylum in our country, whether public or private shall I be innocent in God's sight if I fail to lift up my voice cry aloud and spare not, until every inmate within the pale of these despotic institutions has access to the strong arm of law to protect them from such violence and injustice?
Nay, if I were silent under these circumstances, well might I expect, under the government of a just God, to receive myself sooner or later, these same punishments inflicted upon myself which I had not tried to ward off from my unfortunate brothers and sisters in God's great family.
Indeed, I verily believe, that if the truth were known, there would be found in every asylum on this continent cases of just as false imprisonment in each of them, as mine was in Jacksonville.
It is therefore my settled and determined purpose to rest not from my labors until they are all thoroughly ventilated.
The response I received to the congratulation I gave Doctor McFarland, one day, on his return from his Chicago trip, pained me a little. His wife standing by, I said:
"We welcome your return; still, we congratulate you on being able to leave the superintendence of the house in so good hands as your wife's, in your absence. We feel that kindness rules her actions towards the patients."
"Your words are always so sweet and honied!"
"No more so than my feelings. They are correct reporters of my heart."
"Would that some of these sweet and honied words could be bestowed upon the husband you promised to love and honor!"
"He has had them in more abundance than any other man, but he shall never have another, until he repents.
"Oh, how determined you men are to break down the conscience of woman, and thus annihilate her identity. Only let her be your echo or parasite and she is all right!
"Doctor, there should be no individual sovereignty in opposition to God's government. Therefore, no husband should require the subjection of his wife's conscience to his will, when it opposes what she regards as God's will. God grant, that the time may never wear away in me this spirit of resistance to such oppression."