The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore
Publication Date: 22nd June 2021
Source: Publisher, via NetGalley
1860: As the clash between the states rolls slowly to a boil, Elizabeth Packard, housewife and mother of six, is facing her own battle. The enemy sits across the table and sleeps in the next room. Her husband of twenty-one years is plotting against her because he feels increasingly threatened – by Elizabeth’s intellect, independence, and unwillingness to stifle her own thoughts. So Theophilus makes a plan to put his wife back in her place. One summer morning, he has her committed to an insane asylum.
The horrific conditions inside the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, are overseen by Dr. Andrew McFarland, a man who will prove to be even more dangerous to Elizabeth than her traitorous husband. But most disturbing is that Elizabeth is not the only sane woman confined to the institution. There are many rational women on her ward who tell the same story: they’ve been committed not because they need medical treatment, but to keep them in line – conveniently labeled “crazy” so their voices are ignored.
No one is willing to fight for their freedom and, disenfranchised both by gender and the stigma of their supposed madness, they cannot possibly fight for themselves. But Elizabeth is about to discover that the merit of losing everything is that you then have nothing to lose…
The story of Elizabeth Packard is inspiring and frustrating, and, honestly, so was this book. I really admire the time that Kate Moore has put into researching Packard in order to fully tell her story. It is truly quite a feat. However, this book went on and on for absolutely ever, and I felt myself growing tired of it towards the end.
I think The Woman They Could Not Silence could – and should – have been condensed. At almost 600 pages, the book spends a lot of time going into detail of what happened to Elizabeth Packard when she was in the asylum, but not much time going into her background or the events after her release. Of course, the amount of time Packard spent in the asylum was significant, but I would have liked more focus on what came after if the book had to be this long.
I’m a little disappointed because I read The Radium Girls by this author a few years ago and adored it. I’ve been recommending it every time someone asks for a non-fiction rec. This one, however, while detailed and admirable, was far too long and dragged out for my liking.