Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard

“Kidnapping Mrs. Packard” (image). “1873: Modern Persecution.” Disability History Museum. Straight Ahead Pictures. Accessed October 20, 2021. https://www.disabilitymuseum.org/dhm/lib/detail.html?id=1666
Unknown Author. “Elizabeth Packard” (image). 1897. Wikipedia. Accessed October 20, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Packard#/media/File:Epwpackard.jpg


Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, also referred to as Elizabeth Packard, was an 18th century asylum patient who was wrongly committed to the Illinois State Asylum by her Quaker husband, Theophilus Packard. She was committed on the grounds of differing religious opinion. She later used that wrongful commitment to advocate for patient and women’s rights.


Elizabeth Packard’s experience of being wrongfully institutionalized showcases the lack of women’s and patients’ rights during the 18th century. This is seen through the control Theophilus Packard held as well as the harsh treatments and abuse of Elizabeth and other patients at the hand of Dr. McFarland, the superintendent of the Illinois State Asylum.

Thus in my first struggle after my independence, I lost my personal liberty.”

Elizabeth Packard, The Prisoner’s Hidden Life, or Insane Asylums Unveiled: As Demonstrated by the Report of the Investigating Committee of the Legislature of Illinois. Chicago: Packard, 1868, 64.