Packard, Elizabeth - Civil Rights Advocate - ELIZABETH PACKARD and MENTAL HOSPITALS

This illustration—appearing opposite page 230 in Elizabeth Packard’s book, Modern Persecution, Vol 2—depicts Dr. Andrew McFarland supervising punishment of a Jacksonville-State patient. Its caption, in the book, is: “Dr. McFarland punishing One-Armed Wyant.” Illustration from Modern Persecution, Volume II, by Elizabeth Packard—published in 1873—online courtesy Archive.org.


Elizabeth Packard was well-educated.  As a teenager, she had completed higher-education studies at Amherst Female Academy, in 1835.  Thereafter she became a teacher.

When she was nineteen, she was admitted to Worcester Hospital for the Insane—in Massachusetts—on the 27th of January, 1836.  Her father had brought her there and had entrusted his daughter to the care of Dr. Samuel B. Woodward.

Dr. Woodward's first entry, regarding his unmarried patient—then known as Elizabeth Parsons Ware—reflects that she was sent to him by a court:

Came by Judge of Probate - insane for 5 weeks.  At times considerably excited, her mood is variable.  She is at times calm, at others has a considerable excitement.  She is very pleasant at present.

Elizabeth later explained the cause of her issues, in 1836, as "brain fever."  Her father apparently told her doctor that she had been working hard at the Randolph Academy (in West Randolph, Massachusetts). The records state:

Her father supposes that she laced too tight and that as a teacher she has had too much mental effort.

Weeks after her admission, Dr. Woodward made an observation about Elizabeth on the 16th of February:

Her mind is rational on some topics and greatly insane on others.

The following month—on the 18th of March, 1836—Woodward released Elizabeth from his care.  She was much better, as reflected in the hospital's discharge summary:

...in a very favorable state [with] her mind free from insanity, her health restored and all the operations of the system going on favorable.

Woodward also noted that Elizabeth was "an interesting and intelligent girl."  (Medical notations, by Dr. Woodard, quoted by Linda V. Carlisle in Elizabeth Packard:  A Noble Fight at pages 17-18.)

Elizabeth spent a short time in the Worcester hospital before she went back to her normal life.  That situation would not be repeated, years later, at the Jacksonville State Hospital in Illinois.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 01, 2000

Updated Last Revision: Jun 24, 2019

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"ELIZABETH PACKARD and MENTAL HOSPITALS" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2000. Jun 05, 2020.
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