Library Collections: Document: Full Text
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.
It was about fifty feet from screen-room to bath-tub, and the attendants would take the patient by the heels and drag him over the floor.
One day, as they were about to bathe this patient, witness says, they had drawn the tub full of hot water and had him up in their arms ready to plunge him in the tub, when another patient, by the name of Cooper, jumped in and saved him.
Witness says this patient was kept in the screen-room the most of the winter of 1863-4; that the room had nothing in it, except sometimes a little straw, a strawtick or blanket, which he would tear up and wrap around him for warmth. This patient died the summer or fall after this confinement.
Mr. Haitt, of Chicago, was also kept in a screen-room almost constantly, and beat and bruised until his limbs were swollen. He was jerked and jammed until his legs were almost a perfect jelly. He went home and came back. Witness heard him speak very kindly of Mrs. McFarland for doctoring his limbs after they were bruised.
The two attendants in the ward who abused this patient were Germans. Patient complained that these attendants would not give him anything; and if he asked for anything they would beat and kick him; and witness has given him water, put through the window.
When the patient left the institution the second time, he said, if he ever came across the attendant who abused him so, he would kill him, if they hung him for it. The witness gave the names of the German attendants who abused the patients, as Pepenbring and Smultz, and said they both resided in Jacksonville. This witness said that he did not believe Dr. McFarland approved of these abuses, and that the reason he did not report them was that he was afraid if he did he would lose his place.
When he talked with the Doctor about business, he got a very short answer, or a nod of the head; and he came to the conclusion there was not much satisfaction. He left the institution because he got tired of it -- requested to be relieved several months before he left, but the Doctor requested him to stay.
Testimony of George Merrick, Attendant.
George Merrick, aged forty-five years, and residing in Jacksonville, was an attendant in hospital from February to June, 1866.
He testifies to the abuse of Jacob Myers, a young patient, by the supervisor, Mr. Doane, who, without provocation, caught him by the ankles when he was undressing and threw him on the floor and injured him severely.
Also David Ayres, a very docile man, and consumptive and sick and feeble, who, the witness states, was neglected by Dr. Dutton and refused medical treatment, and soon after died.
Also, David Smith, about twenty-six years of age, a patient who was very bad and crazy. One day witness heard a loud noise in the ward where Smith was, and looking into the ward he saw the attendant, William Roy, jamming his head against the ceiling. Smith made no resistance, but his nose bled and his eye was black.
Also a patient by the name of Creighton, who was a small Irishman about twenty-five years old. Witness one day saw him on a bench, and he was wholly speechless -- could not move his head; was swollen and was badly bruised. Akers, the attendant, told witness that the patient was a bad man, and they had a hell of a time with him. That night witness helped the patient to bed on the floor, and the next night he died.
Witness says that he did not know of any medical attendance or medicines furnished him, and he should have probably known it if they had.
Witness assisted in laying out the patient, whose head and face were very much swollen; was black under the eyes and on the cheek bones; there were bruises about his arms and shoulders and other parts of his body, and had a wound on the face.
The patients informed witness that a few days before this, James Akers, Thomas Kearney, John Doan, supervisor, John Roy and William Roy, employees of the institution, had beat the patient.
Another case was a wild young patient by the name of Veach, who escaped. Was retaken, and on arriving at the hospital, knocked Mr. Supervisor Doan down with a brick in again making his escape. On being taken he was handcuffed; his feet shackled; put in a crib and put up in one of the bed-rooms of the third ward, where he was kept about three months.
The crib was made of strips of plank about three and a half inches wide and two and a half inches apart, and was about two feet high, five and a half feet long, and two and a half feet wide.
The witness says the patient could not be in any other position in the crib but on his back; and there was some bedding, in the crib, and he thinks, a pillow under his head.
This witness says he had difficulty with Akers and Doan about their abusing the patients cruelly, and he supposes he was discharged on that account.
When inquired of by Dr. McFarland if he had not been taking liquor the evening of the difficulty with Doan and Akers, he said he had not; that he was not in the habit of drinking liquor, and resented any such imputation; that he was sometimes, by permission, absent Saturday evenings at the choir meetings, and on Sunday and Wednesday evenings at the prayer meetings; and that his character was established and well known in the community.