“Stunning... In Moore’s expert hands, this beautifully written tale unspools with drama and power... You will be riveted”
Liza Mundy, NYT bestselling author of Code Girls
An Indie Next pick
Named a Hottest New Book of the Summer by Goodreads
An NPR Summer Reading Recommendation
One of "5 Books Not to Miss" according to USA Today
A Junior Library Guild selection
Audiobook read by the author
THE WOMAN THEY COULD
From the New York Times, USA 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...
Bestselling author Kate Moore brings her sparkling narrative voice to The Woman They Could Not Silence, an unputdownable story of the forgotten woman who courageously fought for her own freedom – and in so doing freed millions more.
Elizabeth’s refusal to be silenced and her ceaseless quest for justice not only challenged the medical science of the day, and led to a giant leap forward in human rights, it also showcased the most salutary lesson: sometimes, the greatest heroes we have are those inside ourselves.
“What a story—and what a telling! Kate Moore has hit another one out of the park. In the best tradition of The Radium Girls, Moore recounts the stunning true account of a woman who fought back against a tyrannical husband, a complicit doctor, and nineteenth-century laws that gave men shocking power to silence and confine their wives. By challenging these norms, Elizabeth Packard became a heroine on the scale of the suffragists. In Moore’s expert hands, this beautifully written tale unspools with drama and power and puts Elizabeth Packard on the map at the most relevant moment imaginable. You will be riveted—and inspired. Bravo!”
- Liza Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Code Girls
“This book will fill you with rage, despair, and determination. Moore has written a masterpiece of nonfiction… With elegant prose, and an epilogue that will leave you reeling, The Woman They Could Not Silence will linger long after the last page is read.”
- Nathalia Holt, New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls
“The Woman They Could Not Silence tells the captivating story of Elizabeth Packard, a forgotten heroine whose harrowing ordeal in an insane asylum seems straight from the mind of Stephen King—except every word is true. Blending impeccable research with novelistic flair, Kate Moore brings the indomitable Packard to brilliant life and proves she belongs among our most celebrated women leaders.”
- Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of The Ghosts of Eden Park
“I have waited fifty years for this full-length biography of Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, and Kate Moore’s The Woman They Could Not Silence is simply magnificent. It reads like a suspense novel: one is on the edge of her seat at all times; one cannot believe what happens next—and then after that. History comes alive, as does the tragedy of women who were falsely judged ‘mad’ and then incarcerated and tortured in nineteenth-century American insane asylums. Moore’s research is impeccable. She tells us the whole terrifying and thrilling story: the cost of battle, the triumph of cruel and corrupt misogynists, the nature of feminist victory. It is a complicated story and one brilliantly told… This book reads like a movie and it should be made into one.”
- Phyllis Chesler, feminist leader and bestselling author of Women and Madness
“Moore’s expert research and impassioned storytelling combine to create an absolutely unputdownable account of Packard’s harrowing experience. Readers will be shocked, horrified, and inspired. A veritable tour de force about how far women’s rights have come and how far we still have to go. Put this book in the hands of every young feminist.”
- Booklist, STARRED review
“Another fast-paced work of narrative nonfiction... A must-read for anybody interested in women’s history or the history of reform in the United States. Like The Radium Girls, this volume is a page-turner.”
- Library Journal, STARRED review
“Bestseller Moore (The Radium Girls) delivers a riveting chronicle of Elizabeth Packard’s (1816–1897) forced commitment to an Illinois insane asylum... Skillfully drawing on Packard’s voluminous writings...Moore packs in plenty of drama without sacrificing historical fidelity, and paints Elizabeth’s fierce intelligence and unflagging ambition with vibrant brushstrokes. Readers will be thrilled to discover this undersung early feminist hero.”
- Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
“The author of The Radium Girls returns with an inspiring story of the tireless 19th-century woman who fought against gender-based injustices... Drawing on sources like letters, memoirs, and trial transcripts, Moore’s well-researched book paints a clear picture of the obstacles Elizabeth faced both during and after her confinement and the cruel resoluteness of both her husband and doctor, who tried to control her at all costs. A vivid look at the life and times of a little-known pioneer of women’s rights.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“What an incredible narrative about a singular historical woman. In The Woman They Could Not Silence, Kate Moore once again utilizes her astonishing talent in discovering the important, forgotten women of history… Moore enthralls as she ensures that such women will be silent no more.”
- Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
“Long overdue and completely worth the wait... This unnerving and inspirational saga from the 19th century still resonates with palpable urgency in the 21st. All credit to Kate Moore’s keen research eye and narrative gifts for bringing this ever-relevant story to piercing light, one perfectly suited to this moment in our history.”
- Denise Kiernan, New York Times bestselling author of The Girls of Atomic City and We Gather Together
“Heartbreaking and devastatingly important—Kate Moore has a rare gift for combining impeccable research and brilliantly mesmerizing storytelling…You will cry, and then you will cheer, and then your life will be changed forever.”
- Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today bestselling author of The First to Lie and Her Perfect Life
“The Woman They Could Not Silence is a remarkable story of perseverance in an unjust and hostile world. This book is rich with detail, powerful, and expertly researched… This book may take place 160 years ago, but it has so much to teach us about gender, misogyny, and medicine today… Powerful.”
- Susannah Cahalan, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire and The Great Pretender
“Told with the urgency and passion of a novel, Kate Moore’s deeply researched and thrilling study of Elizabeth Packard’s fight against the power of psychiatric patriarchy in nineteenth-century America will keep you up at night and illuminate women’s ongoing battles for authority and respect.”
- Elaine Showalter, literary critic, Professor Emerita, Princeton University, and author of The Female Malady
“The Woman They Could Not Silence is compelling not only because of the way it creates an alliance between the reader and the courageous Packard, but also because of how it forces the reader to examine once more the language and attitudes around women’s mental health. In Packard we see a foremother of the female leaders of today: intelligent, tenacious and impossible to cow.”
“An inspiring portrait of someone who fought the system and won.”
“With path-breaking research and electric prose, Kate Moore reveals just how crazy marriage laws once were—and one unbeaten heroine helped make them sane.”
- Elizabeth Cobbs, New York Times bestselling author of The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers