After the Asylum

“Illinois State Senate” (image). “1873: Modern Persecution.” Disability History Museum. Straight Ahead Pictures. Accessed October 20, 2021. https://www.disabilitymuseum.org/dhm/lib/catcard.html?id=1675

After three years of being in the Illinois State Asylum, Elizabeth was permitted to leave due to her eldest son, also named Theophilus, came of age. He took full responsibility of his mother, allowing him to remove her from the asylum despite his father’s wishes to keep her there.1

One condition to her release was that she was not permitted to enter her home or see her children — continuing the notion that her husband had full control over familial relations.2 Packard believes that these grounds are why her husband and the trustees agreed to release her — because despite her no longer being locked in the asylum, she was still under the control of her son and ultimately still being controlled by her husband.

After being confined to the asylum, she was able to testify in front of a doctor to declare why she was not in fact insane and how McFarland and her husband had acted together to imprison her. While defending herself, she was able to have the attention of the room for longer than her allotted time — showing that they were highly interested in what she had to say. She was successful in her testimony to prove she was not insane, however, she still knew her place as Theophilus’s wife. She understood that there were no laws that could protect her from her husband or his desire to keep her in the asylum.3 When she returned home, she was treated once again as insane and was cut off from her children and locked in her room.4 Theophilus was also determined to admit her again to the asylum, an act that eventually went to court where Elizabeth would have to prove her sanity once again.5

The Trial of Elizabeth Packard is outlined in her source Married Power Exemplified where both Theophilus and her were able to bring in their own testimonies to declare her either insane or sane. This is an important even in general because it represents a wife going against her husband in the court of law. By the end of the testimonies, the court declared Elizabeth not insane, meaning her husband was unable to place her back in an asylum.6

  1. Elizabeth, Packard, Marital Power Exemplified in Mrs. Packard’s Trial and Self-Defense from the Charge of Insanity, Chicago: Clarke & Co Publishers, 1870, 6. []
  2. Ibid, 5. []
  3. Ibid, 7. []
  4. Ibid, 8. []
  5. Ibid, 9-10. []
  6. Ibid, 38. []
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