Audioburst Search

Packard v. Packard, Pt. 1


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When we talk about nineteenth century mental health reformers here in the US, one of the first names that probably comes to mind as Dorothea Dix Dix was the superintendent of army nurses for the union during the civil war. And she spent decades advocating for state funded hospitals or people with mental illnesses and for better treatment of people in those hospitals as well as in prisons, another reformer, who was living at the same time was Elizabeth Parsons, where Packard who actually met Dick's at one point. Dixies advocacy work started, after she saw the conditions at the east Cambridge house of corrections and Massachusetts, where she'd been asked to teach Sunday, school class Packard's started, after she was involuntarily committed to an asylum based on her husband's determination that she was in the language of the time insane Packard met Dick's, while hospitalized. We going. To talk about Packard's story over the next two episodes, and today, the focus is freely on Packard and her husband and how their marriage progress from one that was apparently happy to win that was just crumbling. And ultimately abusive, we don't talk as much about the mental health treatment and mental health reform in today's episode as we will next time. But some of the language that comes up is that language we would like we wouldn't typically just describe person as insane today without other context. But like that is the word that was commonly used in her writing and his writing. And in the conversation at the time, Elizabeth Packard was born, Elizabeth Parsons wear on December twenty eighth. Eighteen sixteen in ware, Massachusetts. She was the oldest surviving child of the Reverend Samuel wear who was a congregational as pastor. She also had two younger. Brothers, though, wears a middle class family, and Elizabeth was given a classical education, along with her. Others the family, moved to Amherst in eighteen twenty six and Elizabeth went on to attend the Amherst female seminary, female seminary were schools, meant to provide women with the same higher education. That was available to men so they were focused on academics rather than being focused on becoming good homemakers and wives, part of Elizabeth's religious experience, was the Calvinism idea of conversion conversion is not, of course, unique to Calvinism but Elizabeth's family and church community were Calvin est even if a person had been baptized and attended church regularly. They weren't considered truly a member until after experiencing a religious conversion and publicly professing, their face Elizabeth's conversion happened at a revival in eighteen thirty one, but she really had some doubts about it conversion was rooted in a sense of public repentance and salvation from sin, but Elizabeth just didn't think of herself as all that simple. In her words, she quote. Always had been doing as well as I knew how to do she felt as though she had repented for her sins as they happened rather than waiting for a conversion experience. The do it. She feared that her conversion was just something that was expected of her and not something that she genuinely felt this process of thinking through her own religious experience in ways that contradicted her religious community was something that she would do for the rest of her life, Elizabeth became principal of Randolph academy in west Randolph, Massachusetts after she finished her studies at Amherst female seminary, but just after her nineteenth birthday her career was interrupted by what was described as brain fever. This was kind of a catch, all term for illnesses with symptoms, like a high fever sensitivity to light and sound headache in an excited or agitated mind it might be applied to real conditions like encephalitis meningitis and migraines. But it was also a diagnosis, given to supposedly overexcited, or overexerted women. Elizabeth's family called in a doctor, but she didn't improve right away. So on January twenty seventh eighteen thirty six her father had her admitted at the Worcester hospital for the insane. According to her patient records, her father suspected that the problem was that her course it's released too tightly, and that her work as a teacher was causing quote, too much mental effort. Her doctor doctor Samuel b Woodward described Elizabeth as being calm at sometimes, and mentally excited at other times, he also said that she had sores and Amena RIA, or missed menstrual periods, he prescribed, a range of treatments including Epsom salts and tincture of opium for her pain. He also gave her the griffis mixture which included Moore and was used to treat Claro roses aka green sickness which we talked about, in our episode on the green children of wool pits. That was one of those diseases that for some reason, only women got within a few weeks, though, Elizabeth seemed to be well, her doctor describe. Her as quote at all times now very pleasant, and he discharged her as cured on March. Eighteenth of eighteen thirty six Elizabeth's own opinion on all this was that her condition had been caused by the initial treatment that she was given for brain fever, and that she simply improved with time, the whole experience, didn't leave her with a very good, opinion of conventional medicine or of asylums. She was also profoundly embarrassed by it, and angry at her father for taking her to an asylum in the nineteenth century, it was very easy for women to be labeled as hysterical or insane. And once people thought of you that way that impression tended to stick, not exactly a tendency that has vanished. If people decide your shriller hysterical, you've still are no matter how you behave later on may twenty first eighteen thirty nine Elizabeth, Mary, the awfulness Packer junior of Shelburne, Massachusetts. The office was born on February first eighteen to he was educated through tutors and schools and through his father's religious instruction. The awful senior was a congregational minister, the younger Theophilus spent some time as a teacher at the age of fifteen but he found that he did not really have the patience for it. The awfulest started college when he was fifteen as well although he was chronically ill. So his studies were often interrupted by health issues, although his father was the pastor at a well established church. The awfulness was one of eight children. So money could be tight and at times, the office had to take a break from school, so that the family could afford tuition for his younger brother like his future wife, the office had some ambivalence about his own conversion. He went to. Series of revival meetings, starting in eighteen nineteen, but he never really felt the sense of conviction that he needed to. He finally converted in eighteen twenty three and started studying to become a minister like his father. Unlike the elder at the office, he never finished a divinity degree, but he did join his father as co pastor of Shelbourne congregational church in eighteen twenty eight when the awfulest married Elizabeth, he was thirty seven and she was twenty two despite their age difference. They both had similar backgrounds. Both their fathers were congregational, est ministers. They were both educated and well read they both opposed slavery, and they both wanted to start a family. There wasn't really a love match though. Their temperaments were very different. Elizabeth was lively and a little unconventional and Theophilus was very sober, and reserved in their journals, and their writings about their early married life, Elizabeth proudly. And sometimes a few simply talked about their home and their children and the clothes that she made. The for them and she did it in a very personal way. The awful is on the other hand, was very practical and analytical, and he detailed things like the fact that he got married and their household expenses. And all these other mundane matters without a lot of emotion involved, Elizabeth had lots of suitors, who were closer to her age, and she seems to have married, the off Lewis mostly to please. Her father, the two men were longtime associates, and Theophilus had known her since she was ten years old. The awful is for his part, seems to have married her because he was an established pastor, and it was simply time for him to have a wife and spite of all these differences, though, for the next fifteen years. Their relationship seems to have been fine. They were financially comfortable with a nice house on six acres of land with an orchard, Elizabeth filled the role of a minister's wife, well, helping out in the community and teaching Sunday school in generally being an upstanding example. She was a good housekeeper and a good host when other ministers visited them. They. Had a child every two or three years. Another Theophilus born in eighteen forty two Isaac known as IRA in eighteen forty four Samuel in eighteen forty seven Elizabeth known as Libyan eighteen fifty and George eighteen fifty three. These are both devoted parents with Elizabeth, raising the children and Theophilus seeing to their religious instruction and their life suddenly changed in December of eighteen fifty three and we'll get into that after we I pause for a sponsor break. Hey, I'm Andy, if you don't know me, it's probably because I'm not famous, but I did start a men's grooming company called Harry's. The idea for Harry's came out of a frustrating experience. I had buying razor blades. Most brands were overpriced over designed and out of touch at Harry's. Our approach is simple. Here's our secret, we make sharp durable blades and sell them at honest prices for as low as two dollars each. We care about quality so much that we do some crazy, things like by a world class German blade factory obsessing over every detail means we're confident and offering one hundred percent quality guarantee. Millions of guys have already made the switch to Harry's. So thank you. If you're one of them, and if you're not, we hope you give us a try with this special offer, get a Harry starter set with a five blade razor waited handle shave gel, and a travel cover all for just three bucks. Plus free shipping. Just go to harrys dot com and enter four four four four at checkout. That's harrys dot com code four four four. Or four. Enjoy. In December of eighteen fifty three the awful Fakher junior abruptly resigned as co pastor of his congregational church and Shelbourne Massachusetts, the congregation tried to get him to stay since his father was in his eighties by this point, it was clear that the church was going to need entirely new leadership. If the younger Theophilus left, he refused to stay though. And the family packed up to move west. Neither see off nor Elizabeth really documented their reasons for his resignation or their move. But there were several probable contributing factors. The awfulness may have thought of move would be good for his health. He continued to have chronic illnesses throughout his life. He had also always had some interest in doing missionary work, which he might pursue out, west, and Elizabeth was excited about the idea of new adventure and a change of scenery, apart from that, though, the religious environment of New England was changing the Presbyterian church, which had a lot of connections to the congregation. List was in the middle of schism between the old school and the new school. The old school preferred very strict traditional Calvinism, while the new school wanted to revise various parts of the doctrine. And was influenced by the revivalism of the second great awakening, the awfulness firmly belonged to the old school, while a lot of New England's Presbyterians were beginning to favor, the new school Calvinism in general was also starting to fall out of favor with unitarian Methodist and Baptist churches becoming more popular. The awfulness seems to thought that if he went west away from all these new influences, he might be able to establish a church that was more in line with his traditional Calvinism views. It also meant that he could get his wife away from what he regarded as the corrupting influence of all these new denominations in unconventional doctrines. She was becoming interested in transcendental ISM. And had started learning about unitarian, ISM, something that the awful is really wanted to discourage not just for her. Her. But also for how she raised their children after they went west, they spent a few years living in parts of Ohio and Isla moving every year or two. The office was immediately dissatisfied, though, he learned really quickly that a lot of people had moved west to get away from religious conservatism. And so he did not suddenly, find himself, with a thriving congregation of people to lead who really wanted to be in, like a really old school, conservative Calvinism church. People were also suspicious of him, especially because he was a northerner and a lot of people who had migrated to the areas where they were living hailed from the south, plus Elizabeth discovered that she loved being away from New England's very strict social expectations. She could be more relaxed in her clothes in her demeanor. And she relished all the new ideas and experiences that she was discovering. She wrote, quote, our New England habits have been broken up are mold in which we were cast has been broken up. We have had room. For expansive growth, we were too, conservative thinkers there. She was obviously very happy about this. The awful is's assessment of all of this was that his wife was quote, unfavourably affected by the tone of society, and zealously espoused, almost all new notions and wild vagaries that came along. So the awful is had moved west with the hope of establishing a conservative church in distancing, his wife from all these new moods of religious and spiritual. Thaad. And instead, the opposite was happening. She made friends with for knowledge ists, and she invited unitarian ministers to stay with them. And she started adopting spiritualist beliefs soon. Their marriage was really starting to show some strain, Elizabeth wanted in her words, a manly man, who would love her and support her. She increasingly followed the idea known as new womanhood, that a woman should be pious pure domestic and submissive with the household and the child rearing matters falling under her. I fear of influence, the awful is on the other hand thought his authority was the foundation of their marriage, and that Elizabeth should submit to it in all things he was fine with her making decisions about the home and the children, as long as they were the same as what he wanted her to do. Elizabeth was also aware of the growing movement for women's rights, and she found other like minded people wherever she lived they encouraged her to stand up for herself and make her opinions known to her husband, she did more and more missionary work out in the community. Even though her husband thought she was neglecting. Their home to do it. The awfullest was frustrated and dismayed by this sudden to his mind, lack of obedience and femininity in his wife on top of all that the family started having financial trouble, thanks to their series of relocations and remodeling, the houses that they moved into. And the fact that their congregations were just a lot smaller and less affluent than they had been back east. Eventually the Packers moved to man. Tino, Illinois, where Theophilus his sister lived with her husband Abidjan dole. The office became pastor at Mantilla's first Presbyterian, church, very shortly after the move before they were really even settled in Elizabeth went to New York with their two youngest children to visit family at this point, Elizabeth seems to have really genuinely needed a break after all this moving around and financial troubles and her increasingly contentious marriage. So he was trying to maintain a home and take care of five children, without a lot of help. She was increasingly frustrated by her husband's lack of support for her and her opinions, and he had started to imply to her, that he didn't think she was in her right mind. And the fact that he was saying this to her really frightened in upset her. Elizabeth described herself as being at her breaking point. She wrote that she was quote seeking, what my soul needed, but could not find it home, the love and sympathy of friends. But when she got to New York, she learned that her husband had written to her family. Head of her trip and told them that he thought she was in the language of the day, insane in New York, Elizabeth spent a lot of time with women's rights activists and spiritualists. She went to several seances and at one of them, a medium gave her. A message from her late mother Lucy strong Parsons wear. You told her to prepare for persecution. In addition to her belief in seances and spirit communication, all of which were totally common among spiritualists, but bizarre to Calvin ists, Elizabeth came to think of the Holy Ghost as female and to believe that at some point, there would be a human incarnation of God, who was a woman while she was in New York, Elizabeth also became connected to a man named Abner Baker. He was a Swedenborg gin and they connected over matters of religion and spirituality, they had an emotional affair carried out through letters Elizabeth justified this to herself by calling it a quote, harmonious marriage and something that was totally distinct from her marriage. To her husband. She described it this way. Quote can the thirsty famish ING soul helped loving the pure cold water? Neither can I help loving a pure man. We'll get to what happened after Elizabeth got back to Illinois after a sponsor break. This episode is brought to you by the Home Depot. You already trust the Home Depot for studs sheet rock electrical everything to build your house. Now you can make that house, your home by shopping. Thousands of decor, pieces that suit your taste from sofas to area roads to that photo floral, you've been admiring, the Home Depot has all the pieces, you need to create your dreams face from start to finish and the best part free, and flexible delivery, and no hassle returns on everyday essentials and more find exactly what you're looking for, at Home Depot dot com slash decor. Your perfect home. It's waiting for you and it's just a click away. Plus for a limited time, you can save even more on the styles. You love when you use code history te- HD at checkout. Now there's more kinds of doing at the Home Depot. Valid on select items. Only free delivery on select items forty five dollars or more. Visit homedepot dot com. For more information. Elizabeth returned from New York to Eleanor in the early March of eighteen fifty eight and on December eighteenth of that year she gave birth to her last child. Arthur, it doesn't appear that anybody questioned Arthur's paternity, and it's also not totally clear, whether Elizabeth's relationship with Abner was physical. She did keep writing to him after she got home, though, something that the awful is eventually discovered after finding their letters, not long after Arthur's birth. The awful is also went back east for about a month. And he again, convinced her family that she was mentally ill something? They did not think was the case after her visit with them. The awful is church in Montana was struggling it was small and it had only been in existence for four years. When he became the pastor there at the beginning of his time, there, it didn't have a permanent meeting place. So the congregation assembled at various schools, as well as at the men Tino Methodist church. Meanwhile. Has has been was struggling with his pretty small and not really established congregation Elizabeth was talking publicly about her views on religion, something that her husband found embarrassing, and unacceptable because what she was saying so often contradicted what he was saying from the pulpit and many of these things that she was talking about to Calvinism were heretical and dangerous. The awfulness brother-in-law Abidjan dole was also a deacon at this church. And he eventually asked Elizabeth is, she would talk about her ideas in his bible class, his motivation, seems to have been that if he let her do this people would see that what she was saying was heretical nonsense and just conclude that she was not in her right mind. The class had six members when she started her discussions, but before long it had picked up to about forty new members soon the office and a budget thought Elizabeth bible class discussions were really dangerous. They were having the opposite of, of what they thought might happen. When they let her do it like we said earlier in the minds of a lot of Calvinism, a lot of what she was talking about was Harris, even though in other circles, they were all totally normal ideas. Even if it wasn't strictly heretical it was really more connected to her own experiences, and her intuition, than it was, too. Formal church doctrine that the awful thought they should really be focusing on. So after a while, the awfulness demanded that she stopped doing these bible class discussions, I love these dudes are like forever trying to come up with ways to manage and control her. Every time it backfires. It's like no. Yeah, not so much. Elizabeth really wanted her husband's support in this, and she told him that he should go into the church and say, quote, my wife has just as good a right to her opinions as you have to yours, and I shall protect her in that, right? And when he refused to Becker up, she asked the church to release her from her membership, so that she could join the meth. Fittest church instead and her husband's church refused. Having been raised Methodist. I'm like, why would you go to the Methodists though? Like they would not really have been into olive your spirituality, and, and for now maybe phonology, but, like not so much you're going to a medium and having say right and talking to your late mother. It may have just seemed like the more permissive option to Calvin us at the time. Right. Yeah. It's like not not perfect, but better than what I've currently got going on. Yeah, I don't I don't know if any of the even more liberal, denominations, haddish search there at that point. I maybe so at this point, the awful is had been implying or outright, saying that he thought his wife was insane for quite some time including convincing her family that she wasn't. Well, Elizabeth really started to fear that her husband was going to try to institutionalize her. So she arranged with one of her oldest son's that he would protect her personal papers if something happened to her. Meanwhile, the awfulest started gathering. All kinds of statements from church members and doctors attesting to their opinion that Elizabeth was not well and needed to be committed on may twenty fourth. Eighteen sixty he also got fifteen members of their church to sign a letter condemning her, opinions and behaviour in urging her to repent. Yeah. So he was basically building a case that his wife was not saying, but he didn't actually need to do all this to have her committed in eighteen fifty one Illinois had amended earlier law, which had established mental hospitals and this amendment. At least in theory was to protect married women before the amendment was passed if a person was going to be committed a jury had define that there was caused to do so. But with this new amendment, a married woman, quote, who in the judgment of the medical superintendent are evidently insane, or distracted maybe received in detained in the hospital on the request of the husband without the evidence of insanity or. Distraction required. In other cases. In other words, if husband asked and the medical superintendent of a hospital, judge that his wife was insane, or distracted. She could be committed with no further investigation or evaluation into her mental state and without taking her feelings or wishes into account at all. So the men who crafted this law did so with the idea that it would protect married women from the indignity, and shame of a public trial about their sanity in reality, though, it made it possible for husbands to have their wives committed with very little effort or process, and very little to protect married women from being committed without 'cause all the awfulness needed to do was get letters from two doctors who agreed with him about his wife's mental state. There were plenty of people in town who genuinely did believe that Elizabeth's religious opinions and behaviour were evidence of a mental illness. So this was not difficult to do. There were certainly also plenty of people who. Wanted her to shut up, ultimately, she was forcibly committed, and here's how she described it. Quote early on the morning of the eighteenth of June eighteen sixty as I arose from my bed preparing to take my morning bath. I saw my husband approaching my door with our two physicians both members of his church and of our bible class, and a stranger gentleman sheriff Burgess fearing exposure, I hastily locked my door and proceeded with the greatest dispatched to dress myself before I had hardly commenced my husband forced an entrance into my room through the window with an axe and I for shelter and protection against exposure in a state of almost entire nudity sprang into bed just in time to receive my unexpected guests, the trio approached my bed and each doctor felt my pulse and without asking a single question both pronounced me insane. According to her husband, the doctors were not there to assist her mental state. Those assessments had already been done in the. Had been made. Instead, he said they were there to determine whether she could safely travel all the way to the hospital, which was in Jacksonville, Illinois, two hundred miles or about three hundred twenty kilometers away was account continues. Quote, I was soon in the hands of the sheriff, who forced me from my home by ordering two men's who carry me to the wagon which took me to the depot Esquire liberty our nearest neighbor who witnessed this scene said he was willing to testify before any court under oath that MRs Packard was literally kidnapped I was carried to the cars from the depot and the arms of two strong men who my husband appointed for this purpose amid the silent and almost speechless gaze of a large crowd of citizens who had collected for the purpose of rescuing me from the hands of my persecutors. Elizabeth was admitted to the Illinois state asylum and hospital for the insane. Her children at this point were between the ages of two eighteen, and it would be three years before she saw most of them again. So next. Time we will talk about Elizabeth time in the hospital and her advocacy work that went on after she was discharged. I have this moment when we're talking about, particularly this last part of the story with the husband, you know, coming in through a window with an axe, and I'm like. Who who is the person who has some problems going on here? Right. Right. Well, we're going to talk about this more next time. But, but one of the things that, that I read a biography of her, and like an account of this whole situation called Elizabeth Packard, a noble fight by Linda Carlisle as I was researching this and one of the points that she makes was that. Okay. Obviously, this, this involuntary commitment like this is a whole problem. She had no due process. She had no protection. It was just like her her husband, and the doctor deciding this and forcibly removing her. But if you look at both of their writing as their marriage was falling apart. They both needed a break, and like some treatment like they were obviously, both falling apart. And they were living in a society that did not even think of things like therapy like that wasn't even rarely an idea yet, but it was like a part from the, the idea of like a mental illness, that would require inpatient treatment to be successfully managed or, or treat it in some way, like there's just the fact that like they needed some care, both of them that they were not getting so. After that, infuriating last interlude of this story. I have some, I think. Less infuriating not infuriating, it all listener mail. I'm like, how much less. So this is from Steve, it is about our, our Chester a Arthur birthplace episode. And this is one of several emails and tweets and Facebook comments that we got on the subject. So I just picked one of them this is from Steve. Steve says, hi there. Always enjoy the show and just had a question on your latest podcast. You mentioned that Chester a Arthur had romantic relationships with two men. While he was a teacher. I tried to find more information about that. But couldn't find anything, I'd like to read more about it. If you have a reference for that information, thanks for your time, and no worries if it's too much trouble to find Steve. Thank you, Steve. That is not too much trouble at all. So what we had said in that episode was that Arthur had romantic friendships with two other young men while he was like in his early teaching career. And I think we've talked about romantic friendships on the show before these were friendships generally between people of the same gender. That tended to be like more emotive and passionate than we often think of in terms of platonic friendships today and it was not. It was something that was regarded as just a normal part of life, and not really something that needed additional commentary or not really viewed as socially questionable in any way. It's clear if you look at historical accounts, that some people who were outwardly fitting into this idea of a romantic friendship were really a couple, but a lot of it was more like people who wrote each other really, really passionate affectionate letters or spoon while they were sleeping. Or maybe we're physically affectionate with each other. In a way that today might more signify that they were a couple, but at the time signified that they were friends, not really having, like a romantic or sexual partnership, there is in the presidential podcast from the Washington. Post a quote from one of the letters that he wrote to his friend Campbell Allen, which is just very affectionate and the other source that was like a more substantive discussion of it was one of the sources from the episode that was Scott Green burgers, the unexpected president the life and times of Chester a Arthur, but a lot of the papers that disgusts, Chester a Arthur in general, or this whole thing about his birthplace may sort of a passing reference to these very romantic letters that he wrote to a couple of other men when he was a young man. And, and so it's one of those things that like comes up a lot, the letters themselves are in the library of congress, so that is that explanation regarding romantic friendships like we said, like if you look at the whole arc of LGBTQ history, there are clearly folks in that same. Period, who were like in love with each other and were a romantic couple and were maybe able to fly under the radar with it by the fact that these friendships were regarded as totally normal. But if folks had known that it went beyond that, there would have been a lot, more stigma. That's that if you would like to write us about this, or any other podcast history podcast, and how stuff works dot com, and then we're all over social media missing history. That's where you'll find our Facebook, Twitter Pinterest, and Instagram if you come to our website, which is missing history dot com, you can find show notes for all the episodes, Holly, Knight have ever worked on Andy searchable archive of every episode ever. And in the main menu where it says live shows, you can see our upcoming live shows that we're going to do you can also subscribe to our show on apple podcasts, I heart radio app and wherever else to get your podcast. Stuffy missed in history classes, a production of I heart radio. How stuff works for more podcasts for my heart radio. Visit the iheartradio app, apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. Hi there. This is Josh Clark, and I am taking my show, the end of the world. With Josh Clark on the road. Live to Minneapolis in DC this June on June nineteenth, I'll be at the Parkway theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota and on the following night, June twenty I'll be at the miracle theatre in Washington DC. If you've heard the end of the world ten times already, or if you've never heard a second of it, it matters, not because this show, explores themes, covered in the end of the world in also chases, down, new avenues, like, how good could things be if we manage to survive the next century or two so come see me this June nineteenth and twentieth Minneapolis in DC.

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