In Prodigal Daughters: Imprisoned Women, Reform, and the Feminine Ideal in the British Isles, 1800-1877, I examine the image(s) of imprisoned women, attempts to reform them, movements for prison reform, and the relationship between England and Ireland. After the 1853 Penal Servitude Acts, convict systems emerged in England and Ireland that built upon changes dating from the mid-1770s. As Foucault detailed in Discipline and Punish, the modern prison punishes the mind and not the body of the prisoner. In the case of nineteenth-century English and Irish prisons, this manifested as an obsessive need to reform the prisoner. The English government's attempt to bring Ireland under control justified the testing of new penal theories on Irish prisoners. Also, Irish prisoners of both genders, as well English women prisoners, were assumed to be harder to reform because they were viewed as irrational and hyper-emotional beings. The Irish system struck a balance between punishment and reformation of the prisoner whereas the English system remained primarily punitive. Consequently reformers wanted the Irish system to be implemented in England. Chapter one tells the story of how Elizabeth Fry influenced the opening of Grangegorman Female Penitentiary outside Dublin in 1836. Chapter Two contrasts the development of the English and Irish prison systems in the first half of the nineteenth century. Prison reformers stressed individualization and intermediate prisons as the greatest contrasts between the two systems but the greatest difference between them was the handling of religious minorities. Chapter three shows how women were perceived to be disruptive to prison order while chapter four shows how that perception shaped the prison system for women. The dissertation concludes with the refuges. These refuges for convicts helped women secure work but also helped reassure the public that their reformation had been tested prior to release from prison. Prodigal Daughters juxtaposes the neglected topic of Irish women convicts with English women convicts, because the English and Irish systems were inextricably linked. Irish women prisoners deserve more attention because as I have found they were more likely to be imprisoned than were Englishwomen.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2013. Major: History. Advisor:Anna Clark. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 313 pages.
Prodigal daughters: Imprisoned women, reform, and the femine ideal in the British Isles, 1800-1877.
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