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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.
For home is woman's proper sphere or orbit, where, in my opinion, God designed she should be the sovereign and supreme; and also designed that man should see that this sphere of woman's sovereignty should be unmolested and shielded from any invasions, either foreign or internal. In other words, the husband is the God-appointed agent to guard and protect woman in her God-appointed orbit. Just as the moon is sovereign and supreme in her minor orbit, being guarded and protected there by the sovereign power of the sun, revolving in his mighty orbit.
The appropriate sphere of woman being the home sphere, she should have a legal right here, secured to her by statute laws, so that in case the man who swore to protect his wife's rights here, perjures himself by an usurpation of her inalienable rights, she can have redress, and thus secure that protection in the law which is denied her by her husband.
In short, woman needs legal protection as a married woman. She has a right to be a married woman, therefore she has a right to be protected as a married woman. If she cannot have protection as a married woman, it is not safe for her to marry for my case demonstrates the fact, that the good conduct of the wife is no guarantee of protection to her; neither are the most promising developments of manhood, proof against depravity of nature, approximating very near to the point of "total depravity," and then woe to that wife and mother who has no protection except that of a totally depraved man!
But, some may argue, that woman is already recognized in several of the states as an individual property owner, and as one who can do business on a capital of her own, independent of her husband.
Yes, we do most gratefully acknowledge this as the day-star of hope to us, that the tide has even now set in the right direction. But allow me to say, tills does not reach the main point we are aiming to establish, which is, that the woman should be a legal partner in the family firm, not a mere appendage to it. We want an equality of rights, so far as co-partners are concerned.
Then, and only till then, is she his companion on an equality, in legal standing, with her husband, and sharing with him the protection of that Government which she has done so much to sustain; which Government is based on the great fundamental principle of God's Government, namely, an equality of rights to all accountable moral agents. Our Government can never echo this heavenly principle, until it defends "equal rights," independent of sex or color.
My Plea for Married Woman's Emancipation made before Connecticut Legislature in New Haven State House, June, 1866.
Gentlemen of the Judiciary Committee:
In compliance with the kind invitation your gallantry has prompted you to extend to me, to meet yon here in session, to consider the merits of the "Petition for the Protection of the Rights of Married Women," which the General Assembly has respectfully referred for your consideration, I have come to plead in its defense.
And here, gentlemen of the Judiciary Committee, allow me first to extend to yon my thanks, for allowing me the high honor and privilege of defending so noble a cause as woman -- and to defend it, too, in the presence of intelligent, manly gentlemen, whose God-like natures predispose and capacitate you to view this subject from tills most favorable stand-point.
Indeed, gentlemen, just consider for one moment the noble position you now occupy. Here are the names of two hundred and fifty men, citizens of the first character and standing in this city, who have sent up a petition in behalf of the rights of married women and ask you, the law-makers of this Republic, to consider, and, if possible, to so ameliorate married woman's legal position, as to remove some of her many legal disabilities.
Really is not this fact of itself, a speaking proof of the principle, that man is woman's protector? And does he not ever esteem it his highest honor thus to identify himself with this most God-like principle.? And have not we, women, everything to hope for, from this instinctive uprising of the manly element in our defense?
We do not desire, nor ask, for the privilege of defending ourselves.
No, neither do our petitioners give us any occasion for go doing; for they have anticipated us, in thus proposing to ameliorate our legal position, without even waiting for us to ask them to do so.
Again, men are not only our petitioners, but they have asked the men, not us, to devise how this can be done. They do not ask us to frame their laws for our protection, but have even volunteered to do it for us.
All that they have thus left us to do, is, to fulfill woman's appointed mission -- to bless and sanctify home, by her refined influence, and leave it wholly to the men to protect us, in this our hallowed sphere.
Is it not an honor, much to be coveted, in us natural women, to live in Connecticut, where the manliness of our protectors not only allows us the high privilege of fulfilling the duties of our heaven-appointed sphere, but also proposes to protect us in this sphere, so long as our good conduct deserves such protection?