Elizabeth Ware Packard was born in western Massachusetts in 1816, the child of a Calvinist minister. At the age of nineteen she spent a few weeks in the Worcester State Asylum. In 1839, she married Theophilus Packard, thirteen years her senior, like her father a Presbyterian minister, and her father's close friend. For the better part of two decades Theophilus and Elizabeth lived together in apparent harmony in western Massachusetts. In the mid 1850s, they moved with their children first to Ohio, then to Iowa, before settling in 1858 in the town of Manteno in Kankakee County, Illinois.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Packard found herself more and more attracted to "enlightened" and "modern" religious movements, including perfectionism and spiritualism. These enthusiasms in no way distinguished her from many of her contemporaries, who regarded these optimistic and empirical religious faiths as emblematic of the discovery of modern religious truth. But to the more conservative members of Reverend Packard's church, who held firm to the Calvinist bedrock of human depravity and ignorance, her beliefs were literal evidence of insanity. When, in the fall of 1859, Mrs. Packard began to explain those beliefs in presentations before an adult Sunday School class in the church, parishioners began to pressure her husband to have her committed into the state insane asylum.
"Mrs. Packard on Dependency,"
Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities: Vol. 1
, Article 6.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlh/vol1/iss1/6