Incarcerated Women

A History of Struggles, Oppression, and Resistance in American Prisons

Contributions by Telisha Dionne Bailey, Ilse Denisse Catalan, Hilary L. Coulson, Brett Josef Derbes, L. Mara Dodge, Erica Rhodes Hayden, Theresa R. Jach, Breea C. Willingham Edited by Erica Rhodes Hayden, Theresa R. Jach

Publication date:

06 February 2017

Length of book:

202 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9781498542111

The story of the rise of prisons and development of prison systems in the United States has been studied extensively in scholarship, but the experiences of female inmates in these institutions have not received the same attention. Historically, women incarcerated in prison, jails, and reformatories accounted for a small number of inmates across the United States. Early on, they were often held in prisons alongside men and faced neglect, exploitation, and poor living conditions. Various attempts to reform them, ranging from moral instruction and education to domestic training, faced opposition at times from state officials, prison employees, and even male prison reformers. Due to the consistent small populations and relative neglect the women often faced, their experiences in prison have been understudied. This collection of essays seeks to recapture the perspective on women’s prison experience from a range of viewpoints.

This edited collection will explore the challenges women faced as inmates, their efforts to exert agency or control over their lives and bodies, how issues of race and social class influenced experiences, and how their experiences differed from that of male inmates. Contributions extend from the early nineteenth century into the twenty-first century to provide an opportunity to examine change over time with regards to female imprisonment. Furthermore, the chapters examine numerous geographic regions, allowing for readers to analyze how place and environment shapes the inmate experience.
This anthology examines the experiences of women in prisons in the US since the early 19th century. The first part of the book, which focuses on the early to mid-19th century, examines several themes, including how incarceration shaped motherhood, the experiences of slaves and formers slaves in the prison system, and efforts to resist the anonymizing effects of prison life in the post-Civil War period. The second part shifts its focus to the Progressive Era, chronicling both prison abuses and acts of resistance. The last part of the book highlights women’s prison experiences in the 20th and 21st centuries, paying particular attention to the regulation of female prisoners’ behavior, sexuality, and mothering choices as well as the politics of imprisoned women’s writing. The collection demonstrates not only the importance of gender but also race, class, geography, and other factors in shaping women’s prison experiences, providing much insight into how women’s experiences differed from men’s and how they differed from each other. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduate collections and above.