What was the significance of the court case Packard v Packard?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main significance of this case was that it allowed Mrs. Elizabeth Packard to escape being confined by her husband on the grounds of mental illness.  The case did not change the law.  Instead, it simply found that Packard was not insane and that her husband could not confine her.  However, Packard then went on to advocate for the rights of women and those accused of being insane.  Therefore, we can say that the case is significant because it inspired her to become an activist.

This case was tried in 1864.  At the time, state law in Illinois and many other states allowed a husband to forcibly institutionalize his wife if he felt she was insane.  She had no recourse if her husband institutionalized her for no good reason.  This is what happened to Elizabeth Packard.

Eventually, Elizabeth Packard was able to get a writ of habeas corpus.  This led to her case being tried.  When it was, the jury found that Packard was not insane and had to be released.  This did not, however, change the law.  It only inspired Packard to work for the repeal of laws such as the one that allowed her to be institutionalized for no good reason.

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