62 pages 2 hours read

Kate Moore

The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 2021

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Part 1, Chapters 1-15Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “Brave New World”

Part 1, Chapters 1-4 Summary

On June 18, 1860, Elizabeth Packard was dealt a crushing blow in the war her husband, the Reverend Theophilus Packard, was waging against her. Their conflict began four months before Theophilus directed their congregation to abandon its formerly abolitionist religious doctrine. A fierce abolitionist, Elizabeth rejected this unexplained change. She did not know that Theophilus was in debt, and his decision was motivated by funds promised by a pro-slavery church investor. Well-read in theology, Elizabeth began voicing her opinions in their home and at their church’s Bible study. Elizabeth was adamant that she had the right to hold opinions different from her husband’s. Intelligent, personable, and eloquent, Elizabeth was persuasive. Concerned about the influence she might wield, Theophilus began spreading rumors that her outspokenness was evidence of a mental health condition. As he mounted support against her, enlisting his congregation to sign a petition that declared her “insane,” Elizabeth refused to back down, leaving her husband’s Presbyterian church to become Methodist. Theophilus began to threaten to commit her to a psychiatric hospital, tensions escalating when he began locking her in their children’s nursery. On June 16, he held a mock hearing in their home to establish his wife’s “irrationality.

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