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Upcoming Events:


"...She was hopelessly insane."
Concepts of Women's Mental Health in 19th century Illinois

Thursday, February 23, 2023 7PM

Join us for an interactive panel on February 23. Samuel Wheeler, of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Division, Holly Kent, an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, and Erika Holst, Curator of History at the Illinois State Museum will join curator Sarah Adams (moderator) for a panel discussing two case studies from Illinois history, that of Elizabeth Packard Parsons Ware and Mary Lincoln. 

Elizabeth Packard was a women's rights advocate, stemming from her time being wrongfully committed and confined at the Jacksonville Insane Asylum for three years by her husband. She was finally discharged when her doctors ruled that "...she was hopelessly insane." Packard was later confined by her husband at home until being granted a trial, at last, under habeas corpus. The trial itself was a huge turning point, as it showed clearly that it was necessary for women to be able to speak for themselves and be represented in a court of law. Packard didn't stop there - she campaigned ceaselessly for the rights of women and was able to get bills passed in four states protecting the personal liberties of people accused of insanity.

The trial of Mary Lincoln is much better known, because of her having been America's First Lady during the Lincoln administration. When Robert Lincoln petitioned to have his mother, Mary Lincoln, institutionalized for insanity, she was granted a trial - directly due to the efforts of Packard and others in the state of Illinois. However, that didn't mean that the trial was fair for Mary Lincoln - the jury consisted of twelve men, the evidence included her shopping habits, and she was unaware of the trial itself until that day. Still, there had clearly been a change since the days where women could be put away at the word of a bitter husband.

Our panelists will be discussing these two cases, expanding to a wider context of these women's lives and the expectations and treatment of women during the 19th century.  We hope you'll join us for an exciting and interactive discussion on this important historical subject.

We have books for available for purchase on both Packard and Lincoln, available at the SAA during business hours. You may also purchase them at the event. Further, we've provided a book list below, if you'd like more background information before the panel in February.

The Woman They Could Not Silence: The Shocking Story of a Woman Who Dared to Fight Back by Kate Moore, 2021


Elizabeth Packard: A Noble Fight by Linda V. Carlisle, 2010


Modern Persecution, Or, Insane Asylums Unveiled As Demonstrated by the Report of the Investigating Committee of the Legislature of Illinois, Volume 1 by Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, 1873


Mary Lincoln’s Insanity Case: A Documentary History, edited by Jason Emerson, 2012

Mrs. Lincoln: A Life by Catherine Clinton, 2009


The Madness of Mary Lincoln by Jason Emerson, 2007

Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters by Justin Turner, et. al, 1972


Women's Roles in Nineteenth-century America by Tiffany K. Wayne, 2007

Seasons of History Fashion Show

Saturday, March 25, 1PM

$15/$10 for SAA Members

Experience a classic fashion show like the earliest fashion parades that took place in Paris salons in the 19th century! Our fashion show will take guests on a journey spanning about 500 years. Guests will not only get to see fashions of all kinds from those periods, but also how those fashions changed during the seasons. Models will parade through the parlors of Edwards Place wearing summer gowns, winter coats, and more,  showing off a wide variety of clothing.


These historical clothing items are both from original and reproduction garments. Guests will learn about each piece as the model comes through the procession, with excellent, close-up vantage points to view detail work on each piece. 

This fashion parade is made possible because of community volunteers offering their time and clothing items.


This event benefits Edwards Place and the Springfield Art Association. Thank you for your support!

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