The Woman They Could Not Silence – Kate Moore

“Can [a woman] not even think her own thoughts, and speak her own words, unless her thoughts and expressions harmonize with those of her husband?”

Taking inspiration from the #MeToo movement, Kate Moore delved into the history of women who, more often than not, have been labelled ‘crazy’ and silenced for speaking the truth. Kate wondered if there was a woman whose perseverance, despite everything that was done to discredit her, prevailed.

She found Elizabeth Packard who, in 1860, was taken against her will to Jacksonville Insane Asylum, two hundred miles from her home, because of her “excessive application of body & mind.” The person who was responsible for this injustice was her husband of 21 years and the father of her six children.

The evidence of her so called insanity?

“I, though a woman, have just as good a right to my opinion, as my husband has to his.”

Elizabeth, after being a dutiful wife, mother and homemaker for almost all of her adult life, heard about the women’s rights movement and gave herself permission to think for herself. She also disagreed with her preacher husband about matters of religion and, with her great intellect and her persuasive arguments, he was afraid of the consequences of her speaking her mind.

This was a time when most states “had no limits on relatives’ “right of disposal” to commit their loved ones”, where an insanity trial had to take place before you were admitted to a state hospital (but not if you were a married woman) and where “married women had no legal identities of their own.”

The thought of me living in 1860 terrifies me. I’m certain I too would have been institutionalised and I don’t know I would have been able to sustain the fortitude that Elizabeth displayed. Don’t think that you wouldn’t have also been at risk of such a fate, as

one common cause of committal to an asylum in Elizabeth’s time was “novel reading.”

In the asylum, Elizabeth met other patients, including other sane women who had been trapped there for years, similarly pathologised for their personality. The asylum served as a “storage unit for unsatisfactory wives”. She also witnessed patients being abused by the staff.

Elizabeth was determined to prove that she was sane and secure her release from the asylum. She also wanted to enact change that would see her new friends also released and to protect the mentally ill from abuse. But what Elizabeth wanted more than anything was to be able to parent her children again.

This is a thoroughly researched and well written account of the life of a woman I’m sad to say I had never heard of before but will certainly not forget.

description

So in the end, this is a book about power. Who wields it. Who owns it. And the methods they use.

And above all, it’s about fighting back.

Content warnings include derogatory terms used to describe mental illness and mention of death by suicide, domestic violence, eating disorders, medical abuse, mental illness, racism, slavery, suicidal ideation and suicide attempt .

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From the New York TimesUSA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Radium Girls comes another dark and dramatic but ultimately uplifting tale of a forgotten woman whose inspirational journey sparked lasting change for women’s rights and exposed injustices that still resonate today.

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 Folcroft Ghosts – Darcy Coates

“We want to talk about the ghosts.”

When their mother is hospitalised after an accident, fifteen year old Tara and her eleven year old brother, Kyle, go to stay with their grandparents. Their mother doesn’t talk about her parents and the siblings have never even met Peter and May.

The house is isolated and it isn’t long before the siblings notice some strange things. They begin to wonder what secrets their grandparents are hiding from them.

I’ve been eyeing off Darcy Coates’ books for quite a while now and know at least one has made it into my Kindle’s Black Hole of Good Intentions, but this was the first I’ve read. I expected some serious creepiness but I comfortably read this in the middle of the night while everyone was sleeping and the rain was keeping me company. I wasn’t even tempted to quickly turn on a light to make sure nothing was watching over me as I read.

“Did you hear the footsteps?”

If I’d read this book when I was younger I expect it would have unsettled me enough that I would have been suspicious of every noise I heard at night. However, it felt like I was reading a more atmospheric R.L. Stine book than one intended for adults.

Having said that, I enjoyed the story. It was a quick, light read, I was almost immediately sucked in and I liked the characters. While I never felt like I really got to know Peter as well as I would have liked, Tara and Kyle’s bond made me wish I had a sibling.

“There is nothing more important to us than family.”

May was the standout character for me. Regardless of everything else going on in the background I wanted to hang out with her in the kitchen. Never mind the ghosts; I’m going to the Folcroft’s for May’s cooking.

My main niggle was a strange one; the maths didn’t work for me. We learn that Tara and Kyle’s mother was 17 when she wrote in her journal in 1985. Then later it’s said she was almost 2 in 1975.

At the end of the book there are three short stories. My favourite was Clockwork.

Clockwork

This had a Roald Dahl short story feel and it was a delight.

“Some run fast. Others run slow. They must all keep the same time. Down to the second.”

Sub Basement

Sometimes I enjoy ambiguity when reading something potentially spooky; this time I wanted to see for myself what was there.

Dozens of people had made the run without seeing anything out of the ordinary. And even when … well, Joan had suffered from a heart condition, anyway.

Crypt

In this sleepy town’s graveyard there’s a new section and then there’s the one that was there before the town was settled. There are stories about that old section.

“They don’t believe me,” he said before I could even open my mouth. “They think I’m making it up.”

“Making what up?” I asked.

“The vampire.”

Content warnings include death by suicide.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks, for the opportunity to read this book. I want to read more books by this author.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When their mother is hospitalised, Tara and Kyle are sent to stay with their only remaining relatives, their grandparents.

It’s their first time meeting May and Peter Folcroft. The elderly couple seem friendly at first, and the house, hidden in the base of the mountains, is full of nooks to explore.

But strange things keep happening. The swing moves on its own. Peter paces around the house late at night and seems obsessed with the lake where his sister drowned. Doors slam and curtains shift when no one is inside. And one room is kept permanently locked.

When a storm cuts the phone line – their only contact with the outside world – Tara and Kyle must find a way to protect themselves from their increasingly erratic grandparents … and from the ghosts that inhabit the Folcroft’s house.