Excerpt from The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Woman They Could Not Silence

One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear

by Kate Moore

The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore X
The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2021, 560 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 22, 2022, 560 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Nichole Brazelton
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Chapter 1

JUNE 18, 1860
MANTENO, ILLINOIS


IT WAS THE LAST DAY, BUT SHE DIDN'T KNOW IT.

In truth, we never do.

Not until it is too late.

She woke in a handsome maple bed, body covered by a snow-white counterpane. As her senses resurfaced after a restless night's sleep, Elizabeth Packard's brown eyes blearily mapped the landmarks of her room: embroidered ottoman, mahogany bureau, and smart green shutters that—for some reason—were failing to let in any light.

Ordinarily, her husband of twenty-one years—Theophilus, a preacher—would have been snoring next to her, his gravity-defying, curly red hair an impromptu pillow beneath his head. But a few long weeks before, he'd abandoned their marital bed.

He thought it best, or so he'd said, to sleep alone these days.

Instead, her senses were filled by the precious proximity of her slumbering six-year-old son. Unconsciously, Elizabeth reached out for ten-year-old Libby and baby Arthur too—the other two of her six children who'd taken to sleeping beside her—before remembering. Only George was there. The others were both away from home, in what she hoped was coincidence.

Elizabeth drank in the sight of her sleeping child. She could not help but smile at her "mother-boy"; George was at that adorable age where he had "an all-absorbing love for his mother." He was a restless child, for whom the hardest work in the world was sitting still, so it made a change to see him so at peace. His dark hair lay wild against his pillow, pink lips pursing with a child's innocent dreams.

He and her five other children—Arthur, Libby, Samuel, Isaac, and Theophilus III, who ranged in age from eighteen months to eighteen years—were truly "the sun, moon and stars" to Elizabeth: priceless "jewels," her "train of stars." She spent her days making their world as wondrous as she could, whether enjoying bath times in the bake-pan or gathering her children about her to tell them tales of her Massachusetts childhood. To see their "happy faces and laughing eyes" offered such blessed light. It was particularly welcome in a world that was becoming, by the day, increasingly black.

Such melancholy thoughts were uncharacteristic for Elizabeth. In normal times, the forty-three-year-old was "always rejoicing. "But the splits that were even now threatening her country—with some forecasting an all-out civil war—were mirrored in her small domestic sphere, within her neat two-story home. Over the past four months, she and her husband had retreated behind those enemy lines, prompting much "anxious foreboding" from Elizabeth.

Last night, that ominous sense of foreboding had plagued her until she could not sleep. Around midnight, she'd given up and crept out of bed. She wanted to know what Theophilus was planning.

She decided to find out.

Quietly, she moved about the house, a ghostly figure in her nightdress, footsteps as muffled as a woman's gagged voice. To her surprise, her husband was not in his bed. Instead, she spied him "noiselessly searching through all my trunks."

Elizabeth's heart quickened, wondering what he was up to. He'd long been in the habit of trying to control her. "When I was a young lady, I didn't mind it so much," Elizabeth confided, "for then I supposed my husband...knew more than I did, and his will was a better guide for me than my own." She'd grown up in an era when the superiority of men was almost unquestioned, so at first, she'd swallowed that sentiment, believing "woman's chief office is to bear children" and that it was "natural for the moon [woman] to shine with light reflected from the sun."

But over the years, as Theophilus had at various times confiscated her mail, refused her access to her own money, and even removed her from what he deemed the bad influence of her friends, doubts had surfaced. The net he cast about her felt more like a cage than the protection marriage had promised. Once, he'd even threatened to sue a male acquaintance for writing to her without his permission, demanding $3,000 (about $94,000 today) for the affront.

Excerpted from The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore. Copyright © 2021 by Kate Moore. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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