THE PRIVATE WAR OF MRS. PACKARD by Barbara Sapinsley

THE PRIVATE WAR OF MRS. PACKARD

KIRKUS REVIEW

 All the makings of a TV docudrama in an unlikely source: the story of feisty Elizabeth Packard, little-known 19th-century advocate of the rights of mental patients, by journalist (Newsweek, The New York Times, etc.) and TV-writer Sapinsley. Packard's troubles began when her vocal deviation from the Calvinist thinking of her aptly named preacher-husband Theophilus became a decided embarrassment to him. Announcing that since she ``persistently refused my will or wishes...it must be that she is insane,'' he took advantage of the law that allowed a husband to have a wife committed to a lunatic asylum simply on his say-so- -plus the ever-ready consent of the admitting doctor. Released three years later through the efforts of her eldest son and subsequently declared sane in a sensational jury trial, Packard spent the rest of her life working to change the laws so that no other wives could be subjected to the same treatment. Gifted with a keen intelligence, determination, and great physical stamina, she managed to support herself through her writings, regain custody of her children, and persuade numerous state legislatures to rewrite the laws regarding commitment and treatment of mental patients. Sapinsley's experience in writing TV documentaries (The Twentieth Century, etc.) is evident in her selection of scenes that dramatize the story. Hampered by the destruction of court and legislative records, she has nevertheless created a vital portrait of a remarkable woman, ingeniously piecing it together from family records, contemporary newspaper clippings, and Packard's own writings. An eye-opener. (Photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 1-55778-330-6
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1991