Rachel E. Bennett
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Uniformity, discipline, strict organisation. These were the principles underpinning the creation of the modern prison system in the mid-nineteenth century to achieve the aim of true reform before release back into society. However, in the century that followed, prison administrators up and down the prison hierarchy faced challenges of overcrowding, ill health among prisoners and scrutiny of the ability of the system to achieve its fundamental aims. Among the thousands of people who populated these penal institutions, hundreds of women entered prisons pregnant, and many of them gave birth to their babies behind bars. Countless others left children on the outside. They posed distinct challenges to physical environments and regimes neither designed nor equipped for their custody and care.

Serving a sentence of fifteen years in prison in the late nineteenth century, Florence Maybrick lamented that to be sick in prison was a terrible experience. She recalled the desolation and indifference in treatment and vividly described ‘lying in silence without the touch of a friendly hand, the sound of a friendly voice or a single expression of sympathy or interest’. 1 Between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth century many women fell ill in prison, their incarceration often causing or exacerbating their sickness. Meanwhile, hundreds of women entered prisons pregnant, and many of them gave birth to their babies behind bars. Countless others left children on the outside. Some of these women had been in prison several times and were perceived to be hardened to its toils, while others were stepping through the prison gates for the first time. Susan Willis Fletcher, reflecting upon the commencement of her year in Westminster Prison in the late nineteenth century, spoke of something that united them all. When the key turned in their cell door, women said a silent ‘farewell to everybody and everything’ they knew. 2

The aim of imposing uniformity underpinned the creation of the modern prison system and shaped its administration thereafter. Despite this, carrying out research into the history of prisons and the experiences of the women who lived and worked within them reveals a skein of diverse narratives. There were those who completed their sentence without incident and others who constantly broke the prison rules and populated the tables of punishment, women who served only one sentence and others who entered into a cycle of recidivism. Some women bore the discipline of the prison with little evidence of it impacting on their health, while others were permanently damaged in body or mind by their time behind bars. Many of the women who walked through the prison gates between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth century were mothers. It is their experiences that are explored in this book.

In 1919 an enquiry was carried out into medical provisions in Holloway Prison, England's largest women's prison at the time. Its report, which is addressed in greater depth in a later chapter, made a statement worthy of note here, speaking as it does to a question that permeates this study. When illuminating what they believed to be ‘serious defects in the prison's administration’ in terms of the availability of nursing staff and the conditions in which pregnant women were incarcerated, the enquiry committee explicitly expressed their belief that mothers, ‘whatever their delinquencies’, and their babies, who were innocent in the eyes of the law, were entitled to proper care while in the charge of the state. 3 However, the boundaries dictating this ‘proper care’ were subject to repeated drawing and redrawing by prison administrators, staff and reformers alike throughout this period.

Mary Size, reflecting upon her four decades serving as a prison officer, schoolmistress and deputy governor in the women's prison estate in the first half of the twentieth century, described each woman as ‘a problem carrying a badge of shame, heartbreak, unhappiness and frustration’. 4 Female prisons confined women from all walks of life, both the ‘pampered ladies and the verminous old drunks’. 5 However, incarcerating the first-time offender with the recidivist, the healthy prisoner alongside the sick, the refractory women with the mentally ill, created perennial difficulties for the prison system. Joanna Kelley, Governor of Holloway Prison between 1959 and 1966, elaborated on a specific issue facing female prisons when she stated, ‘our problems were quite often different: problems of mothers and babies, problems of family visits impinged more on us, and we didn't have the problems of escapes and very violent prisoners’. 6 Since the inception of the modern prison system, pregnant women and mothers with babies have posed specific questions that it continues to grapple with. Is prison an appropriate place for their confinement? And how do we ensure their safe custody?

This book provides the first extensive historical examination of the incarceration of mothers in England. It begins in 1853, with the opening of England's first female-only establishment in Brixton, and explores the period up to the late 1950s, when prison policy changed to remove women to hospitals outside the prison estate to give birth. Each chapter takes the reader behind the prison walls to examine how motherhood, including pregnancy and childbirth, was managed in physical spaces and as part of penal regimes that were designed and administered without proper consideration of the specific health needs of mothers. Drawing on this evidence, it addresses and refines scholarship in the medical humanities and prison history that explores the inherent challenges and contradictions of providing for prisoners’ health while also enforcing discipline. 7 The book tracks the oscillating debates about the purpose and role of prisons and explores the blurring of the line between the punitive, reformatory and medical treatment of their female inmates, shaped by regimes determined to exercise uniformity and deterrence but also mindful of the fact that prisoners’ health was meant to be maintained and anxious to avoid public accusations of injuring prisoners in body and mind.

Tracing official debates and shifts in penal policy, the book examines what we can glean about the aims of those conceiving and designing prisons and their regimes, while also providing a fresh insight into how they worked in practice. By uncovering the previously neglected voices of those who lived and worked in prisons, the chapters explore how obdurate prison regimes were negotiated in practice by prison staff and the women themselves. Advancing our understanding of prisons as medical as well as disciplinary institutions allows the book's scope to transcend the confines of penal history. By exploring the intersecting debates about criminality, motherhood and institutional health, it offers new ways of understanding ideas, beliefs and practices surrounding maternity care, motherhood and femininity in the modern period.

History, health and medical provision in English prisons

Prior to the late eighteenth century, people were largely incarcerated for short periods of time if they were debtors or while they either awaited their trial or the imposition of another punishment, including the death penalty or transportation overseas. They would be held in bridewells, lock-up houses and gaols that were run by gaolers, and conditions were often squalid, unsanitary and disordered. A variety of criticisms were levelled at these places of confinement. It was lamented that drinking, gambling, vice and corruption were rife and there were no reformatory ambitions underpinning the imprisonment of Britain's criminals. Provisions for health and sanitation were almost non-existent. In the late eighteenth century criticisms of this disorganised system became louder.

John Howard is one of the main figures associated with prison reform and an early protagonist in the story of prison health. Howard was appointed as the Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1773 and part of his role in office was to inspect the county gaol. He did so in 1773 and 1774 and was shocked and appalled by what he found. He later wrote what became a well-known indictment of these institutions, The State of the Prisons in England and Wales (1777), which lamented the health ramifications of poor prison conditions and the moral dangers resulting from of all classes of prisoners being confined together: men and women, debtors and felons, and habitual criminals with young offenders. He encapsulated an issue that would rage on throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when he stated that ‘a gaol is not designed for the final punishment [death] … but for the safe custody of the accused to the time of trial; and of convicts till a legal sentence be executed upon them’. 8

In response to the growing criticisms levelled at prison conditions, the Health of Prisoners Act was passed in 1774. It empowered the Justices of the Peace in a given area to intervene in prison administration to ensure the maintenance of health standards. For example, they could order the white-washing of walls, make provision for sick-rooms, regular washing and cleaning facilities, and appoint a surgeon to report back to them on prisoner health. Higgins’ study of health care in prisons commences with John Howard and the debates about prison reform in the late eighteenth century, before charting the growing calls for the more systematic provision of prison doctors by the magistrates and officials administering England's places of confinement in the decades that followed. He examined the role of the prison doctor in attempting to combat and treat specific diseases, including periodic outbreaks of typhus and cholera in several prisons in the early nineteenth century. 9 The Act of 1774 and subsequent efforts to improve health and sanitation were important in that they made the health of prisoners a more publicly visible issue and made the institutions themselves responsible for it on a very basic level. However, many of the recommendations made by Howard and other early penal reformers were not adequately addressed and thus they are perhaps best viewed as an early chapter in a much longer story of deciding upon a prisoner's entitlement to health. With its focus upon mothers and their children, this book provides a previously underexplored chapter in this long and complex story. Demonstrating that, while prison health has not featured as a major area of study within medical humanities until recently, and women's health remains a notable chasm, the experiences of mothers challenged how prisons reconciled their roles of containment and medical care. 10

Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon prison design of the late eighteenth century was based upon the principle that the structure itself would allow inmates to be subject to close surveillance at all times from the prison's central point, thus facilitating a system of control reinforced by the fact that inmates never knew when they were being watched. British prisons were never fully Benthamite in their construction or administration. Yet the health experiences of those incarcerated were shaped by key principles espoused by Bentham, including severity, strict management and economy, which placed responsibility on the state to preserve prisoners’ health while emphasising the need to make prison conditions of a standard lower than those facing its poorest free citizens. Within his research into the history of health in prisons, Wiener placed the prison medical officer at the centre of this conundrum as they had ‘an essentially Benthamite task’ of balancing these aims that were ‘neither completely separable nor reconcilable’. This dilemma meant that a ‘permanent process of struggle and negotiation ensued’. 11

By virtue of their office, prison medical officers were constables as well as doctors. They determined a prisoner's fitness for work and subjugation to the prison regime, including certifying them as fit or unfit for labour, dietary punishment and restraint. Wiener labelled this decision-making process as a form of moral categorisation that involved the interpretation of behaviour as well as the identification of ill health. 12 In their respective significant studies of the Victorian prison system, Sim and Priestley critiqued what they concluded was the prison doctor's fundamentally disciplinary task, which placed them more on the side of the state than of the sick. 13 Broader prison policy played a part in dictating not only attitudes among prison doctors but also the rules, resources and context in which they had to identify and treat ill health in prison. For example, the 1860s and 1870s witnessed a commitment to a more penal approach on the part of the Prison Directorate, in response to intensified debates about recidivism, to ensure that prisons were characterised by deterrence and economy. However, the 1890s post-Gladstone era witnessed a recommitment to the reformist aims of the modern prison system when it was first established in the 1840s and 1850s. This was driven by evidence gathered during enquiries into the administration of the prison system, which were more concerned with the potential causes of crime, the circumstances from which criminals had come and potential methods of reform.

The treatment of mental ill health has been richly explored to illuminate the complexity of the disciplinary task of the prison medical officer. As part of his study of the history of identifying and treating mental illness following the inception of the modern prison system, Watson argued that negotiating their statutory duty meant prison doctors produced knowledge and debates about categories of mental behaviour that were unique to the prison setting. 14 Davie's research added that it was both practical and crucial for prison doctors to establish objective criteria to reflect upon the distinct nature and extent of physical and mental disabilities among prison inmates so as to not only decide upon their fitness to undergo the full rigours of the regime but also pre-empt any challenges to their diagnoses from other quarters of the prison hierarchy. 15 One aspect of prison history that has been the subject of extensive research is the system of separate confinement. Based on the model set out in Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, this was first introduced to Britain in Pentonville Prison, for male convicts, in 1842. Although the system had notable detractors from the outset, it was implemented, though often in a modified form, in the majority of prisons in the mid-nineteenth century and retained until the early twentieth century.

As part of a significant portfolio of recent historical research into the identification and treatment of mental ill health in English and Irish prisons, Cox and Marland explored the links drawn by prison officials, external reformers and prisoners themselves between the rigours of the separate system and cases of mental breakdown. They demonstrated how the identification of mental ill health in prison was subject to intense scrutiny to refute these criticisms and, crucially, to detect efforts on the part of prisoners to receive some relaxation of the prison regime. 16 This was a particular issue in the 1860s and 1870s with the pursuit of greater uniformity, severity and economy. In addition, Shepherd's study argued that feigning insanity was used by prisoners when other attempts at resisting the system failed. 17 Elsewhere, my work has identified how notable ameliorations were made to the system, prompted by concerns that female prisoners could not safely withstand its full rigours. 18 The first two chapters of the book deepen this scholarship by demonstrating the impact of separation and isolation upon the health of pregnant women and new mothers and illuminating the particular criticisms levelled at its use for these women by prisoners, staff and prison reformers.

Exploring women's health and maternity care in English prisons

The central theme explored throughout the book is that containing and caring for mothers posed distinct, but underexplored, challenges for prison doctors and staff. The prison system and policy makers did not provide consistent criteria to govern their treatment. Instead, the care of mothers was dependent upon a range of factors including the circumstances within individual prisons, the ability and inclinations of prison staff to provide adequate care and, in some cases, the women themselves.

Oakley's pioneering sociological study of medical care during childbirth in the late twentieth century argued that mothers were not only treated as ‘passive patients’ but also as being ‘manipulable’. 19 Cahill's historical examination of the long-term medicalisation of childbirth subsequently provided a deeper exploration of the consequences of this assumed female inferiority, concluding that maternity care is an area in which the ability of women to exercise real choice and make informed decisions about the conditions of their care is limited. 20 While it is vital to acknowledge that concepts such as choice and informed decision making in maternity care are constructs of the later twentieth century and cannot be directly applied to nineteenth-century experiences, this book argues that the longer historical narrative of the prison setting adds a unique dimension to this question of the agency of mothers in prison. When exploring the question of separation from family for women in prisons, Baunach argued that incarceration has historically been regarded as a manifestation of mothers’ abandonment of their responsibilities. 21 This study delves further to argue that physical carceral spaces and the regimented regimes within them impacted on how women cared for their children. In addition, perceptions of the maternal failings of female prisoners were held up as indicators of the need for the prison regime to intervene to address loss of femininity, and shaped debates about whether mothers in prison should retain or relinquish their ability to make choices in the care of their children.

In his 1907 work The Female Prisoner, Captain Vernon Harris, an inspector of prisons, voiced a long and widely held belief that ‘a bad woman is the worst of all creations’. 22 Women have historically accounted for a much smaller proportion of the people arrested, convicted and punished by the criminal justice system than men. However, ‘in them one sees the most hideous picture of all human weakness and depravity’, a picture of the ‘coarsest and rudest moral features’ made more striking because it has occurred among those supposed to be the gentle sex. 23 Illuminative of fears about the dangers of female criminality, these nineteenth- and early twentieth-century views also play a part in shaping how the story of the women who populated England's prisons has been told since. Tales of ‘bad girls’ and ‘wayward women’ have long captured the public's interest and continue to interest scholars and writers. 24

Bosworth's criminological research into female imprisonment reveals the importance of unacknowledged gender bias within accounts of the development of the prison system throughout the twentieth century. She argues that this is because exploring the system's development as a transformation in ideologies about the purpose of punishment is more applicable for male prisoners. By contrast, Bosworth notes key continuities in attitudes towards women who commit crime, notably the questions of morality and the offending of certain gender norms and how these things are used to legitimise the imprisonment of women, including mothers. 25 While Bosworth's argument was mainly concerned with the field of criminology, it is also applicable to historical accounts of prisons. Within the history of crime and punishment, prison history is a sub-genre, with seminal works dedicated to examining the development and administration of the prison system since the mid-nineteenth century. 26 However, within these larger works, the provisions for and experiences of women are primarily confined to a single, stand-alone chapter or ignored entirely.

Despite their absence or limited place in broader studies of prison history, women have been the subject of more specific research by historians of crime whose work explores how responses to female criminals intersected with, and were shaped by, questions of gender and femininity, including Zedner, Dobash, Dobash and Gutteridge, Forsythe and Davie. They have provided detailed discussions of beliefs and fears surrounding female criminality and their impact on the running of women's prisons in nineteenth-century England. 27 These studies offer in-depth considerations of the supervision of behaviour and provide valuable insight into daily prison life, but they say relatively little about the management of health, including that of the hundreds of women who entered prisons pregnant and gave birth behind bars. Within scholarship dedicated to the organisation of the prison system in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, gender has increasingly become a central tenet of understanding the conditions of imprisonment in Britain. 28 Research on the impact of imprisonment upon mothers, and the health-care provisions in place within the women's prison estate, has become increasingly rich in the twenty-first century. 29 The recent and ongoing research of Lucy Baldwin, among others, delves deeply into the encounters of mothers with the criminal justice system, including the courts and the prison estate, and weaves together the first-hand accounts of mothers and of practitioners who have cared for and worked with them to provide a series of reflections and recommendations. 30 However, when reading these works, it becomes clear that the questions raised, the contentions between containment and care, and the experiences of the mothers behind the cell doors have a much longer history.

Zedner's work explores nineteenth-century views about mothers who committed crime, and debates within legal and social commentaries about the effects of female criminality and maternal alcoholism upon the home and upon children. 31 However, it provides only a limited discussion of how these debates impacted upon provisions for the containment of mothers and their babies. More recent research has begun to illuminate the experiences of mothers in prison. Johnston drew upon several case studies to explore how women used their limited agency in prison to reassert their identities as mothers and how they attempted to maintain contact with, and control the fate of, their children on the outside. 32 Farrell's study of Irish convict prisons between 1853 and 1900 argued that the reception of infants into prisons with their mothers and the care of those born to women in prisons became increasingly regulated in the second half of the nineteenth century, due to debates about the effect of their presence upon the prison regime. 33

The current study is primarily focused upon England and draws largely upon material and scholarship focused on the country's penal history. Although limited, there are brief discussions of the experiences of mothers that can be used to offer parallels with other countries. For example, Wingfield and Bucur briefly used the example of women and children imprisoned in Eastern Europe during wartime in the twentieth century to further demonstrate how the lack of provision for them, including in some prisons the lack of separation from male prisoners and being under the sole custody of male officers, resulted in the exacerbation of women's feelings of shame and humiliation. 34 Tucker's study of women in Egyptian prisons in the nineteenth century explored how some reforms were introduced by the colonial government to reflect changes in Britain. However, Tucker demonstrates how several of the inadequacies in Britain, including the lack of proper consideration of women who brought children into prison with them, were also transferred and meant that their incarceration placed greater pressure on an already insufficient system. Tucker does briefly suggest that women in the ninth month of pregnancy and those very recently delivered were not sent to prison in Egypt. 35 However, this marks a notable difference from practices in Britain, as the current study has uncovered cases of women giving birth within days of their committal. Farrell's work on Ireland and O’Brien's study of France both explored how women were more likely than their male counterparts to be forced to leave behind children when they went to prison and how ruminations over female criminality and its impact upon families, including that of unwed mothers, shaped discussions about the appropriate treatment of women in convict prisons in the nineteenth century. 36

Similar to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British history, the development of American prisons in this period has also been the subject of significant study. Studies have demonstrated that, similar to Britain, consideration of the distinct needs of women and children did not feature heavily within official policy shaping the prison system. However, the importance of place and environment was more greatly identifiable in shaping the experiences of American women in prison, including mothers and their children. The works of Derbes and Coulson both explore the distinct experiences of women based on race and gender prior to the Civil War and in the Reconstruction era in the South, which was more committed to punitive restitution compared to the notion in the North that prison labour should be reformative. 37 This led to poor health outcomes for pregnant women and their infants who, like in Britain, were born and remained with their mothers in prison. Coulson highlighted a high death rate among babies born in Virginia Penitentiary, due to the poor conditions and lack of care. 38 With a focus on the American West after the 1860s, Butler explored the mirroring of the development of the penitentiary with the social, economic and political struggles that accompanied western change. Butler made clear that while male convicts certainly did not escape the harsh reality of penitentiary life, for women prisoners incarcerated in male institutions, their womanhood exposed them to an additional ‘penal burden’ that encompassed both physical and mental violence. 39 As in Britain, these studies show how it was not just the physical structure of the prison that impacted upon the health experiences of women, but also the people who were placed in charge of their custody.

Until the mid-twentieth century, the positions of governor and medical officer were mainly occupied by men across the prison estate. However, the daily running of female prisons and female wings was placed in the hands of lady superintendents, matrons and female prison officers throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Elizabeth Fry, now regarded as one of Britain's most eminent penal reformers, provided the first major recommendations on the governance of female offenders. She argued that not only would the superintendence of women over female inmates be a check on the abuses she highlighted, including overcrowding, women and children being kept in squalid sanitary conditions and being at the mercy of male gaolers, but they would also exert a moral influence over their fallen sisters. 40 Chapter 1 will extend the analysis of the appointment, position and gendered role of female prison officials initiated by Forsythe and Johnston. 41 It will introduce the reader to Fry's less familiar successors who continued to advocate for one of the core principles at the heart of her early reformatory efforts, namely that female offenders required the more personalised attentions, including the moral, educational and, eventually, medical guidance, of members of their own sex.

Emma Martin, the Lady Superintendent of Brixton, England's first female convict prison, lived in the prison with her children in the 1850s and 1860s. She continually petitioned the Prison Directorate regarding the specific health and disciplinary needs of the women in her charge. Cicely McCall, a psychiatric social worker who served as a prison officer in Holloway and Aylesbury in the 1930s, Mary Size, who instituted important reforms during almost five decades in the prison service between 1906 and 1952, and Dr Mary Gordon, appointed the first female Inspector of Prisons and Inebriate Reformatories in 1908, offer some examples included in this study of female officials who advocated for women's prisons to be sites of reform and health intervention instead of purely penal institutions in the early twentieth century. Mothers, including those who gave birth in prison, brought their babies in with them, and those who left behind children on the outside were at the forefront of these efforts.

The overwhelming majority of people who populated penal institutions came from the most impoverished sections of society, with male and female prisons being confronted with inmates who were in poor physical and mental health when they entered the system. They were variously described as aged, debilitated, alcoholics or weak minded and in need of immediate medical treatment. Medical officers treated cases of ulcers, abscesses, diseases of the joints and bones, digestive complaints, kidney, lung, heart and brain disease, epilepsy and respiratory issues as well as venereal disease, menorrhagia (abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding), prolapses uteri and pregnancy. Many of these ailments were treated in a prisoner's cell. However, in some cases they required admission into the prison hospital and some amelioration of the strict penal regime, whether this was an improvement in diet, the relaxation of labour requirements or being placed in greater association. However, a group of prisoners who posed distinct challenges to the prison authorities in terms of their containment and, crucially, their care were mothers.

Before delving into how each of the book's chapters explore different facets of motherhood in prison, it is beneficial to first provide a brief discussion of how the book uses terms such as pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. Pregnancy and childbirth are generally accepted to describe biological states or entities, namely the period in which a foetus develops in the womb following conception, for around forty weeks or nine months, and the process of giving birth at the end of this period. However, the term motherhood needs to be further deconstructed. Historically, the chain of events from sexual intercourse to pregnancy to motherhood has largely been considered to be so natural that they are inevitable and unquestionable. However, in her sociological study of White, British motherhood in the second half of the twentieth century, Smart argues that, rather than simply being an unfolding of nature, there are a range of more complex channels, choices and events taking place that have historically and culturally impacted on this journey to motherhood, especially expectations of ‘proper’ motherhood. 42 Similarly, work which frames motherhood as a social construct challenges the assumption that the traits and practices of mothers are inevitable, and instead makes visible the means by which dominant meanings of motherhood have emerged, changed and been socially reproduced over time. 43 Within this, the virtues presupposed to be provided by motherhood and the appropriate cultural conditioning of mothers are not universally agreed, no more today than in the past. 44 Motherhood has a long history of being labelled, sometimes simultaneously, as ‘a handicap but also a strength; a trial and an error; an achievement and a prize’. 45 The prison setting offers a unique microcosm to explore the marking out and patrolling of the boundaries of ‘proper’ or ‘good’ motherhood and the impact of its physical spaces and regimes upon the management and experience of pregnancy, childbirth and mothering.

The period between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth century not only witnessed profound changes in England's penal system, but was also a time of seminal development in maternity care. The chapters of this book seek to situate debates and shifting practices in prison births and the care of mothers within this wider narrative. Towler and Bramall's work provides an examination of the evolution of midwifery in particular over the four centuries leading to the nineteenth century to illuminate the profound institutional, legislative and social shifts in the role of the midwife which continued into the twentieth century. 46 The Midwives Act 1902 meant that midwifery became legally recognised and led to the creation of the Central Midwives Board and the formalising of the registration and education of midwives in England. This regulation occurred against a backdrop of concerns about the health of the nation more broadly, and in its wake increased debate about its links with maternal mortality, the place of birth and the care and education of mothers. 47

Most women in the early twentieth century were unlikely to receive antenatal care until their delivery, when a midwife would be called for, and the safest place to give birth was at home, due to the dangers of infection and fever posed by lying-in hospitals. 48 Loudon identifies the period between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-1930s as one of high maternal mortality and argues that the main determinant of this was the overall standard of care provided by birth attendants, with poverty and associated malnutrition playing a key role. 49 The health of women when they entered prison, including those who entered pregnant, was repeatedly ruminated on by prison doctors and played a part in debates about the role of the prison in providing care for these women. Interviews carried out with a sample of women who gave birth between the 1940s and 1990s as part of an oral history study by Davis revealed that for most women the quality of their relationship with medical professionals was what they recalled to be the most important aspect of their care. 50 Within the prison environment, it was often the case that the prison staff, as well as the physical environment itself, could be pivotal in shaping women's experiences of birth in prison.

After the mid-1930s there was a sharp reduction in maternal mortality rates, with reasons including the development of sulphonamides, the use of blood transfusions and an accompanying improvement in the use of anaesthesia, the latter also being linked to the increased expectations placed upon medical intervention during delivery on the part of both birth attendants and women themselves. 51 Before the Second World War, the majority of births occurred at home. However, the mid-twentieth century witnessed a major increase in hospital births, rising from around two-thirds between the late 1940s and mid-1960s to around 95 per cent by 1975. 52 At the same time as this post-war uptick in hospital births, debates about whether babies should be born within the confines of a prison intensified, encompassing debates about not only the standard of care but also the social ramifications of the place of birth. They led to the reduction of prison births and the establishment of the practice of sending women to outside hospitals for their delivery. It is worth noting that it remains the case today that women should be sent to outside hospitals to have their babies, but continue to give birth in prison if they are not transferred to hospital in time, due to the onset of premature labour and complications with their care posed by medical and institutional complexities and inconsistencies.

Researching experiences ‘on the inside’

There is no one set of comprehensive records that can fully illuminate the complex past of the establishment, administration and the experiences of the people confined in England's prison system. Therefore, the book adopts a broad chronological and thematic approach to exploring the many ways mothers experienced the criminal justice system. Using records relating to convict prisons, intended to contain women sentenced to longer terms of penal servitude, and local prisons, for those serving shorter sentences, it pieces together a wide composite of archival material, personal testimonies and publications to breach the often-impenetrable prison walls. Piecing together these records allows the study to open up the regimes within to examination, to track how penal policy was translated into everyday practice and to identify shifts and continuities in the punitive, reformatory and medical treatment of women, especially mothers, between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth century.

The Directorate of Convict Prisons was established in 1850 under the chairmanship of Sir Joshua Jebb. Its annual reports collated information received from each convict prison, including reports delivered by governors, chaplains and doctors. Following the Prison Act 1877 and the creation of the Board of Prison Commissioners, annual reports summed up the operation of local prisons. In the late 1890s the Prison Commission decided to issue one annual report dealing with all prisons. These records offer voluminous information on the organisation of prisons and their regimes and the viewpoints of those administering them on a daily basis. They provide valuable information on the numbers of prisoners committed and released each year, details of medical provisions and records related to subjects including discipline, punishments, diet and accommodation. 53 Home Office records housed in The National Archives offer an additional extensive collection of records relating to individual prisons and prisoners. 54 In addition, this book is able to illuminate key debates in penal policy through a close analysis of parliamentary select committees, Royal Commissions and enquiries into the operation of the prison system that were carried out throughout this period and that included evidence from prison staff, senior members of the prison hierarchy and, in some cases, ex-prisoners. It is important to acknowledge that, within these official records and parliamentary documents, the prisoner's voice was often either absent or mediated by those recording the information. Furthermore, it was very often not the aim of such records to illuminate the viewpoint of prisoners or to offer a means for them to share their experiences of, or indeed their opinions about, their imprisonment. However, a reading of the content of reports and records compiled within individual prisons enables an assessment of the ways in which prison officials identified, categorised and rationalised health and disciplinary needs and, crucially, how these assessments impacted upon the punitive and medical treatment of mothers in prison.

Previously underexplored records related to several prisons across England, held in local archives and libraries, offer further valuable insights into the operation of women's prisons. 55 These records reveal debates between the prison staff, including the doctor, about containing women, and information on medical and sanitary provisions, and describe the spaces and regimes in which pregnant women were imprisoned and gave birth. They are of great value in exploring variations in provision and practices of maternity care in convict prisons including Brixton, Millbank, Parkhurst, Woking and Aylesbury, and in some of England's largest local prisons, including Liverpool, Westminster, Birmingham, Manchester and Holloway, England's only local prison designated exclusively for women. To provide the fullest possible picture of prisons across England, the comparatively limited, but nonetheless valuable, material related to the smaller female populations in prisons such as Hull, Durham and Exeter has also been drawn upon.

Prisons and prisoners were the subject of extensive legal, social and medical commentary, with the causes of crime and their remedy at the centre of debates. The book draws upon this extensive discourse to illuminate pervasive themes discussed in relation to female criminality. These included the difficulties women faced reclaiming respectability once tainted by incarceration, the problem of recidivism and, crucially, the moral and social effect of maternal imprisonment. In addition, the book incorporates the work of journalists and social reformers who described their visits into prisons, and newspaper articles reporting upon prison conditions, as they yield valuable insight into how the outside looked in. They reveal shifting public perceptions about prisons and those who populated them and can be used to uncover contemporary criticisms of the prison system, including provisions for health care and sanitation. These were also subjects regularly written about in the medical press, with doctors working inside and outside of the prison estate contributing articles to the Lancet and the British Medical Journal on subjects ranging from the treatment of mental disorders, prison diet and labour to provisions for childbirth and the physical state of women who entered the prison system pregnant.

Since the inception of the modern prison system in the mid-nineteenth century there have been calls for its reformation and for greater provisions to support prisoners during and after their sentence. To explore these themes further in relation to mothers in particular, the book delves into rich material held at the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University. This includes the records of the Howard League for Penal Reform, an organisation which has campaigned widely and vigorously for reform on issues including education, work and health for over 150 years. 56 The Holloway Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society (HDPAS) was established in March 1904 and was the only branch of the organisation to focus exclusively upon women. Certified by the Prison Commission and subsidised by the Treasury along with charitable donations, agents from the Society visited women in Holloway to help make arrangements to aid them on release. When women walked back through the prison gates into society they often faced it penniless, friendless and without character. A detailed reading of the Society's annual reports reveals that they offered women vital support to find employment, to improve their home conditions, to care for their children and to manage debts. They also provided material support in the form of cash grants, clothes, food and furniture. The reports documented the ‘typical cases’ the Society encountered time and again, of women entering prison due to poverty and poor home conditions, to reinforce their calls for women, especially mothers, to receive greater education and support during their imprisonment to better prepare them for release. 57

Prison reports and parliamentary committees enable interrogation of the conception and intentions behind the imposition of penal power and how this impacted on the daily running of prisons. A reading of the recollections of their time in prison written by ex-prisoners and staff offers a contrasting and valuable insight into the lived experience of these institutions. Between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century, women chronicled their feelings of isolation, sensory deprivation, despair and anger. They wrote about the realities of prison life and their interactions with the other prisoners and staff around them and described their experiences of seeking and receiving medical treatment. They spoke about the deleterious effects of prison regimes to contest their legitimacy and to highlight their potential to harm prisoners in body and in mind. In the late nineteenth century, ex-prisoners such as Florence Maybrick, who served fifteen years in prison for the alleged murder of her husband, and Susan Willis Fletcher, who served twelve months in prison for fraud, provided detailed observations of the effects of rigorous prison regimes upon themselves and other prisoners. 58 Similarly, Joan Henry, imprisoned in Holloway and Askham Grange prisons in the mid-twentieth century, spoke about the impressions she had formed of the women around her. 59 Political prisoners in the first half of the twentieth century, notably suffragettes and conscientious objectors, employed their prison accounts to promote their respective causes, but also to highlight the plight of the ordinary female prisoners they encountered behind bars. 60

There are some caveats we must acknowledge when using prisoner memoirs. They tended to be written by literate, middle- or upper-class inmates, particularly in the case of women, and there was the potential for publishers to push these authors to emphasise certain themes, such as immorality and ‘fallen women’, for commercial purposes. 61 However, Anderson and Pratt and, more recently, Marland argue that what lends these accounts authenticity is the recurrence of themes and descriptions such as the horror of the separate cell or the monotony of prison life. In addition, they demonstrate that, in advocating for reform, these accounts offer a look behind the often impenetrable prison gates and expose the regimes within to outside scrutiny. 62 They are drawn on to gain insight into how regimes, intended to be strict and unwavering in principle, were adapted and negotiated in practice in response to the distinct health needs of mothers and their children.

Published accounts written by prison officers, governors and doctors provide a vital means of understanding the role of prison staff in shaping the experiences of women and children in prison. They include detailed observations, defences and criticisms of the institutions and regimes their writers worked within. In addition, the authors provide vivid descriptions of the women under their charge and talk not only about their behaviour, demeanour and responses to incarceration but also about the circumstances that had led them to the prison gates and their lives outside prison. These accounts enable an exploration of the importance of the gender and class of the observers who wrote them and how this shaped their recollections and opinions of those they observed. Some, such as George Laval Chesterton, Governor of Coldbath Fields in the mid-nineteenth century, Mary Carpenter, a penal and educational reformer, and Arthur Griffiths, Deputy Governor of Millbank and later a prison administrator, spoke about the women they encountered in the harshest of terms and roundly condemned their lack of femininity. 63 However, by the 1920s and 1930s those working in the female estate, including Dr Mary Gordon, Cicely McCall and Mary Size, talked more about the social and environmental causes of female criminality, such as poverty and the negative influence of husbands, and placed greater emphasis upon the reformative and remedial role of the prison. 64 When exploring the significance of the accounts left by prisoners for our understanding of life behind bars, Brown and Clare found that, in contrast to official discourse, prisoner accounts capture the manner in which prison regimes imprisoned staff as well as inmates. 65 This is a paradox further explored here using the accounts of those who worked in prisons to illuminate how people in positions of power and on the front line in enacting penal policy felt bound by it but also sought to negotiate and reform often obdurate regimes from within. In some cases this was believed to be a necessity to preserve the health of prisoners, and their children, due to the immediate circumstances. Yet, in others, criticisms of the prison system itself can be clearly gleaned.

The book is thematically organised to first examine the physical spaces and regimes in which mothers and babies were confined before exploring shifting provisions for their education and training in mothercraft while in prison and debates about the practice of having babies within the prison environment at all. The disciplinary regimes established with the inception of the new prison system in the mid-nineteenth century were designed by male authorities, with the containment of male prisoners in mind with little consideration at policy level of the specific requirements of containing women. Chapter 1 reveals that female prisoners’ access to care in practice was subject to a chain of decision-making processes, including prisoners themselves, governors, officers and doctors as well as officials beyond the gates. These decisions could and did have life-threatening ramifications for mothers and their babies. A question that endured was whether prisoners, regardless of their crimes, were entitled to a certain standard of medical care and to an assurance that their health would not be injured by the prison regime.

Throughout this period, births were regular events in women's prisons, sometimes numbering between twenty and thirty deliveries a year in one institution alone. When they walked through the prison gates, hundreds of women knew they would give birth behind bars, but their experiences have remained largely absent from studies of the history of female prisons and do not feature in the expansive scholarship exploring the developments in maternity care in nineteenth- and twentieth-century England. Chapter 2 reveals the conditions in which pregnant women and mothers with children were imprisoned, including the impact of separation and prolonged cellular confinement on their health. It demonstrates how the often perfunctory nature of medical examinations upon entry into prison, combined with the difficulties of identifying pregnancy due to poor nutrition and irregular menstruation, meant that some pregnancies went undetected for months. Others were deliberately concealed by the women and became known only when they gave birth in their cells. Pregnant women were placed in separate confinement, due to the pervasive principle of limiting and closely regulating association and communication between prisoners. In cases of emergency, including when women went into labour, calls for help were not always answered in time and women gave birth alone within the confines of their cells. The isolation and feeling of helplessness prompted mental distress and anxiety, especially as women approached the time of birth. The trauma caused to pregnant women and those in the cells around them who heard their cries pierce the silence but were unable to help was frequently commented upon in the memoirs of ex-prisoners.

A close reading of individual prison records and the accounts of ex-prisoners and staff enables the chapter to uncover adaptations to the regime by the doctor and female prison officers if the health of mothers or their babies was in danger. These adaptations included designating specific observation cells for women at an advanced stage of pregnancy and accommodating them two or three to a cell so they could alert the officer on duty in case of an emergency. In addition to the day-to-day efforts of small numbers of prison staff to adapt the regime, efforts were also driven by reformers outside. In the early twentieth century, cases of women suffering miscarriages and giving birth in their cells were increasingly held up as indictments of the inadequacies of medical provision in prisons, in petitions sent to the Home Office and in newspaper reports. They were reported at a time of intense debate about the physical and mental condition of the population more broadly, especially mothers and children, and when motherhood was held up as a national as well as a moral duty, one that required greater education and regulation.

These debates have been the subject of detailed examination by historians of maternity and motherhood, with the respective studies of Lewis, Davin and McIntosh in particular illuminating the impact of these debates and the policies implemented thereafter upon mothers. 66 However, their resonance within the prison system is one that has been largely ignored within medical humanities and the social history of motherhood. This study demonstrates that prisons were increasingly viewed as potential sites for the reconstruction of respectable motherhood by reformers and some of those working within the system. In turn, the historical works of Marks and Bryder explore how circumstances or opportunities for public debate at a given time, including wartime, or in response to specific circumstances, including shifting attitudes towards the administration of the Poor Law, had the potential to drive changes in policy towards mothers and children. However, these studies do not extend to exploring the impact on provisions for, and rules dictating, the care of mothers and children in prisons at these key moments. 67

One such event that has been widely regarded as a significant prompt for an intensification of debates about motherhood was the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and its far-reaching consequences. Dwork's study illuminated how the wartime circumstances provoked concern about physical degeneracy and provided an impetus to improve the health of children through closer scrutiny of their mothers. 68 However, this study reveals that calls to address the health of the nation more broadly penetrated the prison walls and prompted shifts in attempts to educate women in mothercraft. While mothers in prison are largely absent within the rich historical field dedicated to motherhood, especially in the first half of the twentieth century, reading widely in this field makes clear how the prison environment offers a unique site, and notable chasm, to explore how these broader social, class and political debates, which have been the subject of in-depth examination for mothers outside of the prison gates, impacted on the direction of penal policy towards maternity care in prisons. This includes developments in the staffing of prisons.

Midwifery in women's prisons has not featured within broader scholarship charting the history of the profession, its legal regulation and the quality of care offered by midwives in the early twentieth century. 69 In some of the larger prisons in the early twentieth century there was a trained midwife on the staff, although she would not always be on call. In other prisons, arrangements were made to call in a midwife when a prisoner went into labour. This practice varied considerably from case to case and across different prisons. More consistent access to midwives was an intensely debated issue in women's prisons, as it was outside of them, particularly following the end of the First World War. Debates were nuanced and practices were shaped by the distinct context and disciplinary requirements of the prison setting, but were informed by broader efforts to tackle infant welfare, to reduce maternal mortality and to regulate maternity care in Britain. A significant section of Chapter 2 will explore the outcomes of a landmark enquiry into health and maternity care provisions in Holloway Prison in 1919, chaired by notable penal reformer Adeline Marie Russell, Duchess of Bedford. The committee's recommendations included improving the conditions in which mothers and babies were accommodated and the gradual appointment of full-time midwives in all women's prisons and the introduction of financial incentives to encourage other female members of staff to undergo the necessary training to acquire the Certificate of the Board of Midwives. By the mid-twentieth century, prison authorities argued that accessibility to maternity care was equal to, if not better than, that available to women in their communities, especially those from the poorest social backgrounds, prior to the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948.

While the first half of the book explores how pregnancy and childbirth were incorporated and managed in prison, Chapter 3 examines the opportunities women had to be mothers during their sentence. This includes attempts made to mould them into what would be deemed a ‘good’ mother. To do this we must first return to the question of how we define motherhood and the extent to which women could be mothers in prison. One of the most significant questions explored by Baunach in her study of mothers in prison in the late twentieth century is that of loss. Whether their relationship with their children was considered to be positive and caring or strained and unhealthy, the imprisonment of mothers has long engendered feelings of loss and failure. This loss and the resulting separation from their children was and is unique for women in prison, and made potentially more traumatic as it was perceived to be a consequence of their own behaviour and a manifestation of their inability to be, or abandonment of their role as, mothers. 70 The chapter assesses the role of the prison regime itself in addressing the behaviour and characteristics of the ‘bad’ mothers who entered the prison and the attempts made to mould these women into ‘good’ ones before they walked back out.

Rich scholarship in gender history has identified the Victorian period as one in which motherhood emerged as a dominant social construct and concern. It has demonstrated how institutions, from the church to the government, used the family as a metaphor and a justification for the imposition of their authority, 71 or, indeed, the role of motherhood as a ‘moral force’. 72 When examining the difficulties of reconciling women's identity as mothers and their status as prisoners, the chapter uncovers the efforts made to educate mothers in prison in domesticity and mothercraft. It charts how this education developed between the 1850s and 1950s and argues that, alongside the long-standing issue of the moral instruction of mothers, the potential to use prison sentences to achieve more medically focused intervention and practical advice to help with the implementing of this education in the home was slowly acknowledged.

Bad mothers were held up as an indictment on the nation in the early twentieth century which required redress. Although overtly eugenic or social Darwinist ideals were not fully translated into policy, the interaction between these and questions of public health has been examined in relation to attempts to develop state control over motherhood. 73 The 1904 Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration accused mothers of having no knowledge of treating their children's ailments and of lacking the skills to provide a healthy home environment for their families. 74 Chapter 3 demonstrates that around the time of the report's publication there were already calls from within and outside the prison system to offer greater provision for the education of female inmates in domesticity and mothercraft, and which continued in the interwar period and became more pronounced in the decade following the end of the Second World War.

The post-1945 period was an age in which motherhood was idealised in order to lure women back from the workplace to the home, but it was also a time of intense scrutiny of mothers. 75 They were believed to be culpable in creating the social evil that was the ‘problem family’, which lived in cramped and unsanitary conditions and produced unhealthy and poorly educated children, and to be in need of education to combat these issues. 76 Chapter 3 demonstrates how women's prisons present key, but previously underexplored, spaces in which these efforts were concentrated. Courses in mothercraft were established in each prison holding women in the early 1950s and were delivered on a more consistent basis than ever before. Although they differed slightly in each prison, their composition and teaching was the result of a sharing of ideas, experiences and best practice between prison officials, charities and organisations such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Women's Voluntary Services and, crucially, with the Ministry of Health and local health authorities, including health visitors and the newly expanded maternity and child welfare services. Analysing the content of courses enables the chapter to demonstrate how policy makers and medical practitioners attempted to abstract the problem of maternal ignorance from issues of poverty and environmental circumstances when attempting to educate women to be ‘good’ mothers and to demonstrate how this marked a change from previous prison policy.

A key theme running throughout the book and a quandary that perennially troubled prison authorities and reformers alike was the question of whether prison was, or indeed could ever be, a suitable environment for mothers and babies. To address the complexity of this question, Chapter 4 delves into the shifting medical, social and legal debates about whether babies should be born in prison and the impact of their presence upon their mothers, the other women around them and the institution itself. In 1903 Arthur Griffiths, who had worked in several prisons in the late nineteenth century and became Inspector of Prisons in 1878, lamented that to be born in prison was an ‘inalienable heritage of woe’. However, he captured the long-standing inconsistency surrounding views about the presence of children in prison when he added that, despite the stigma, in many cases ‘the prison born are better off than the free born – more cared for, more delicately nurtured’ than those dragged up in the ‘dark dens of the town’. 77 The chapter provides a reading of debates which acknowledged that for some women prisons were places of refuge from the harsher conditions they faced outside, but persistently warned of the danger of moral contagion for children born in prison.

Prisoners, their families and reform organisations petitioned the government to prevent the social stigma of a prison birth. A reading of these petitions allows the chapter to expose the legal, social and medical arguments that were levied to support them, as well as to identify the increasing emphasis that was placed upon the rights and needs of the unborn babies of women in prison. In doing so it adds a new voice to the historical field that has identified the twentieth century as one in which the rights of children and their specific health needs were more carefully defined and provided for and more rigorously protected. 78 Section 60 of the 1948 Criminal Justice Act empowered the Secretary of State to authorise the temporary release, to a hospital outside the prison estate or a maternity home, of any pregnant women who wished for their confinement to take place outside the prison. While the legislation led to a notable decline in the number of babies born in prison, it did not initially end the practice completely, as some women stated their preference to remain in the prison hospital due to a familiarity with the surroundings and the staff. This raised complex questions about the mother's right to choose the circumstances in which she gave birth and led to calls for this choice to be removed for the good of the child. However, it would be another decade before the official sanctioning of prison births ended.

Before delving into the chapters that follow, it is important to note that this book uncovers the personal experiences of some of the mothers who walked through the prison gates during this period, including those who were pregnant, gave birth and attempted to be mothers in prison. However, it cannot tell every mother's story. The experiences of many women remain hidden, or they form part of the broader discussions in each chapter. In addition, the nature of the subject area of mothers and babies in prison has historically been a complex and emotive one which has evoked medical, legal, social and ideological debates that in many ways rage on in our criminal justice system today. Although the book provides the first extensive history of these debates, it seeks neither to be an indictment nor a defence of women's prisons or those who worked or were confined within them between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth century. Instead, each chapter aims to disentangle the exigencies of providing for the health of mothers in prison due both to the constraints of the environment itself and also to the difficulties of caring for this group of prisoners who, like many of the other women around them, were in poor physical or mental health when they entered the prison system and faced financial difficulties and poor home conditions when they left it.


1 Florence Elizabeth Chandler Maybrick, Mrs Maybrick's own story: My fifteen lost years (London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1905), p. 126.
2 Susan Willis Fletcher, Twelve months in an English prison (New York: Charles T. Dillingham, 1884), p. 343.
3 The National Archives, Kew (hereafter TNA) PCOM 7/40, Report of committee presided over by Adeline, Duchess of Bedford to inquire into various matters concerning Holloway Prison, May 1919, p. 44.
4 Mary Size, Prisons I have known (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1957), p. 95.
5 Cicely McCall, They always come back (London: Methuen & Co., 1938), p. 35.
6 Quoted in Paul Rock, Reconstructing a women's prison: The Holloway Redevelopment Project, 1968–88 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 87.
7 For select key works see Joe Sim, Medical power in prisons: The Prison Medical Service in England 1774–1989 (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1990); Michael Clark and Catherine Crawford (eds), Legal medicine in history (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). For more recent scholarship see Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland, ‘“He must die or go mad in this place”: Prisoners, insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison experiment, 1842–1852’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 92:1 (2018), 78–109, https://doi.org/10.1353/bhm.2018.0004; Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland, ‘Broken minds and beaten bodies: Cultures of harm and the management of mental illness in mid- to late nineteenth-century English and Irish prisons’, Social History of Medicine, 31:4 (2018), 688–710, https://doi.org/10.1093/shmhky038.
8 John Howard, The state of the prisons in England and Wales (Warrington: William Eyres, 1777), p. 38.
9 Peter McRorie Higgins, Punish or treat? Medical care in English prisons 1770–1850 (Victoria: Trafford Publishing, 2007).
10 For a recent study of health in prisons see Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland, Disorder contained: Mental breakdown and the modern prison in England and Ireland, 1840–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022).
11 Martin J. Wiener, ‘The health of prisoners and the two faces of Benthamism’, in Richard Creese, W.F. Bynum and J. Bearn (eds.), The health of prisoners (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995), pp. 44–58, pp. 47–49.
12 Martin J. Wiener, Reconstructing the criminal: Culture, law, and policy in England, 1830–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 122, 126.
13 Sim, Medical power in prisons; Philip Priestley, Victorian prison lives: English prison biography, 1830–1914 (London: Pimlico, 1985), p. 190.
14 Stephen Watson, ‘Malingerers, the “weak-minded” criminal and the “moral imbecile”: How the English prison medical officer became an expert in mental deficiency, 1880–1930’, in Michael Clark and Catherine Crawford (eds), Legal medicine in History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 223–241, p. 224.
15 Neil Davie, Tracing the criminal: The rise of scientific criminology in Britain, 1860–1918 (Oxford: The Bardwell Press, 2005), p. 71.
16 Cox and Marland, ‘“He must die or go mad in this place”’, p. 81; Cox and Marland, ‘Broken minds and beaten bodies’.
17 Jade Shepherd, ‘Feigning insanity in late-Victorian Britain’, Prison Service Journal, 232 (2017), pp. 17–23, p. 19.
18 Rachel Bennett, ‘Bad for the health of the body, worse for the health of the mind: Female responses to imprisonment in England, 1853–1869’, Social History of Medicine, 34:2 (2021), 532–552, https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkz066.
19 Ann Oakley, Women confined: Towards a sociology of childbirth (New York: Schocken Books, 1980), p. 34.
20 Heather A. Cahill, ‘Male appropriation and medicalisation of childbirth: An historical analysis’, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 33:3 (2001), 334–342, https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.2001.01669.x.
21 Phyllis Jo Baunach, Mothers in prison (New York: Transaction Publishers, first edition 1983, this edition 2020), p. 2.
22 Vernon Harris, ‘The female prisoner’, The Nineteenth Century and After, 363 (1907), p. 783.
23 Henry Mayhew and John Binny, The criminal prisons of London and scenes of prison life (London: Griffin, Bohn and Company, 1862), p. 464.
24 For a recent history of Holloway Prison see Caitlin Davies, Bad girls: A history of rebels and renegades (London: John Murray, 2018). For a recent collection of life histories of select women who experienced the prison system between the mid-nineteenth and the early twentieth century see Lucy Williams and Barry Godfrey, Criminal women 1850–1920: Researching the lives of Britain's female offenders (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2018); Lucy Williams, Wayward women: Female offending in Victorian England (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2016).
25 Mary Bosworth, ‘Confining femininity: A history of gender, power and imprisonment’, Theoretical Criminology, 4:3 (2000), 265–284, 265–267, https://doi.org/10.1177/1362480600004003002.
26 For select and widely cited key studies dedicated to the rationale underpinning the design of the modern prison system and its administration see Seán McConville, A history of English prison administration, Vol. I 1750–1877 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981); Norval Morris and David J. Rothman (eds), The Oxford history of the prison: The practice of punishment in Western society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); Priestley, Victorian Prison Lives.
27 Lucia Zedner, Women, crime and custody in Victorian England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991); Russell P. Dobash, R. Emerson Dobash and Sue Gutteridge, The imprisonment of women (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986); Bill Forsythe, ‘Women prisoners and women's penal officials 1840–1921’, British Journal of Criminology, 33:4 (1993), 525–540, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjc.a048357; Neil Davie, ‘Business as usual? Britain's first women's prison, Brixton 1853–1869’, Crimes and Misdemeanours, 4:1 (2010), 37–52.
28 For select works see Bosworth, ‘Confining Femininity’; Pat Carlen, Sledgehammer: Women's imprisonment at the millennium (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998), in particular pp. 46–99. For a study of the interaction between beliefs about masculinity and prison management see Eamonn Carrabine and Brian Longhurst, ‘Gender and prison organisation: Some comments on masculinities and prison management’, The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 37:2 (1998), 161–176, https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2311.00088.
29 Baunach, Mothers in prison; Laura Abbott and Kelly Lockwood, ‘Negotiating pregnancy, new motherhood and imprisonment’, in Kelly Lockwood (ed.), Mothering from the inside: Research on motherhood and imprisonment (Bingley: Emerald Publishing, 2020), pp. 49–66.
30 Lucy Baldwin (ed.), Mothering justice: Working with mothers in criminal and social justice settings (Hampshire: Waterside Press, 2015).
31 Zedner, Women, crime and custody, pp. 13–14, 47–48, 222–226.
32 Helen Johnston, ‘Imprisoned mothers in Victorian England, 1853–1900: Motherhood, identity and the convict prison’, Criminology & Criminal Justice, 19:2 (2019), 215–231, https://doi.org/10.1177/1748895818757833.
33 Elaine Farrell, ‘Poor prison flowers: Convict mothers and their children in Ireland, 1853–1900’, Social History, 41:2 (2016), 171–191, https://doi.org/10.1080/03071022.2016.1144312.
34 Nancy M. Wingfield and Maria Bucur (eds), Gender and war in twentieth-century Europe (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006).
35 Judith E. Tucker, Women in nineteenth-century Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).
36 Elaine Farrell, Women, crime and punishment in Ireland: Life in the nineteenth-century convict prison (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020); Patricia O’Brien, The promise of punishment: Prisons in nineteenth-century France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982).
37 Brett Josef Derbes, ‘“Secret horrors”: Enslaved women and children in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, 1833–1862’, in Erica Rhodes Hayden and Theresa R. Jach (eds), Incarcerated women: A history of struggles, oppression, and resistance in American prisons (London: Lexington Books, 2017), pp. 3–16; Hilary L. Coulson, ‘“In the care of the supposed powerful state”: Women and children in the Virginia Penitentiary, 1800–1883’, in Erica Rhodes Hayden and Theresa R. Jach (eds), Incarcerated women: A history of struggles, oppression, and resistance in American prisons (London: Lexington Books, 2017), pp. 17–36.
38 Coulson, ‘“In the care of the supposed powerful state”’, p. 25.
39 Anne M. Butler, Gendered justice in the American West: Women prisoners in men's penitentiaries (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997), quote taken from p. 6.
40 Elizabeth Fry, Observations on the visiting, superintendence and government of female prisoners (Norwich: S. Wilkin, 1827), p. 3.
41 Forsythe, ‘Women prisoners and women's penal officials’; Helen Johnston, ‘Gendered prison work: Female prison officers in the local prison system, 1877–1939’, Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 53:2 (2014), 193–212, https://doi.org/10.1111/hojo.12043.
42 Carol Smart, ‘Deconstructing motherhood’, in Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva (ed.), Good enough mothering? Feminist perspectives on lone motherhood (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 37–57, p. 39.
43 Karin Sardadvar, ‘Social construction of motherhood’, in Andrea O’Reilly (ed.), Encyclopaedia of motherhood (London: SAGE, 2010), pp. 1134–1135.
44 Elisabeth Badinter, The conflict: Woman and mother (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2010); Elisabeth Badinter, Mother love: Myth and reality: Motherhood in modern History (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1981).
45 Ann Oakley, Becoming a mother (London: Penguin Books, 1979), p. 308.
46 Jean Towler and Joan Bramall, Midwives in history and society (London: Croom Helm, 1986).
47 For a detailed overview of this period see Tania McIntosh, A social history of maternity and childbirth: Key themes in maternity care (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012).
48 McIntosh, A social history of maternity and childbirth, p. 38.
49 Irvine Loudon, ‘Maternal mortality in the past and its relevance to developing countries today’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72:1 (2000), 2415–2465.
50 Angela Davis, ‘Choice, policy and practice in maternity care since 1948’, History & Policy (May 2013).
51 Hilary Marland, ‘Childbirth and maternity’, in Roger Cooter and John Pickstone (eds), Medicine in the twentieth century (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 559–574; Irvine Loudon, ‘On maternal and infant mortality 1900–1960’, Social History of Medicine, 4:1 (1991), 29–73; Irvine Loudon, Death in childbirth: An international study of maternal care and maternal mortality 1800–1950 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).
52 Davis, ‘Choice, policy and practice’.
53 The annual reports of the Directors of Convict Prisons, the annual Report of the Commissioners of Prisons and the combined annual Report of the Commissioners of Prisons and the Directors of Convict Prisons can be found among the Parliamentary Papers collection.
54 For an extensive collection of Prison Commission records see TNA PCOM 2.
55 For a comprehensive digital guide to many of the other penal institutions operational in nineteenth-century England see prisonhistory.org.
56 The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest prison reform charity in Britain. Founded as the Howard Association in 1866, taking its name from influential late eighteenth-century penal reformer John Howard, it became the Howard League for Penal Reform in 1921 when it was merged with the Prison Reform League. The collection of Howard League records at the MRC includes annual reports, committee meeting minutes, specific subject files, research materials and photographs.
57 The HDPAS annual reports between 1918 and 1964 can be found among the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) records at the MRC, catalogue reference MSS.67/4/24.
58 Maybrick, Mrs Maybrick's own story; Fletcher, Twelve months in an English prison.
59 Joan Henry, Women in prison (London: White Lion Publishers, 1952).
60 Constance Lytton and Jane Warton, Prisons and prisoners: Some personal experiences (London: William Heinemann, 1914); Lonsdale et al., Some account of life in Holloway Prison.
61 Anne Schwan, Convict voices: Women, class, and writing about prison in nineteenth-century England (New Hampshire: University of New Hampshire Press, 2014), p. 94.
62 Sarah Anderson and John Pratt, ‘Prisoner memoirs and their role in prison history’, in Helen Johnston (ed.), Punishment and control in historical perspective (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 179–198, pp. 179–181; Hilary Marland, ‘“Close confinement tells very much upon a man”: Prison memoirs, insanity and the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century prison’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 74:3 (2019), 267–291, https://doi.org/10.1093/jhmas/jrz027, pp. 288–291.
63 George Laval Chesterton, Revelations of prison life with an enquiry into prison discipline and secondary punishments (London: Hurst and Blackett Publishers, 1856); Mary Carpenter, Our convicts, Vol. II (London: Longman, 1864); Arthur Griffiths, Memorials of Millbank and chapters in prison history (London: Chapman and Hall, 1884).
64 Mary Gordon, Penal discipline (New York: George Routledge & Sons, 1922); Size, Prisons I have known.
65 Alyson Brown and Emma Clare, ‘A history of experience: Exploring prisoners’ accounts of incarceration’, in Clive Emsley (ed.), The persistent prison: Problems, images and alternatives (London: Francis Boutle, 2005), pp. 49–73, p. 67.
66 For select key works see Jane Lewis, The politics of motherhood: Child and maternal welfare in England, 1900–1939 (London: Croom Helm, 1980); Anna Davin, ‘Imperialism and motherhood’, History Workshop, 5:1 (1978), 9–65, https://doi.org/10.1093/hwj/5.1.9; Ellen Ross, Love and toil: Motherhood in outcast London, 1870–1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); Tania McIntosh, A social history of maternity and childbirth: Key themes in maternity care (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012).
67 Lara Marks, ‘Medical care for pauper mothers and their infants: Poor Law provision and local demand in East London. 1870–1929’, Economic History Review, 46:3 (1993), 518–542, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0289.1993.tb01347.x; Linda Bryder, ‘Mobilising mothers: The 1917 National Baby Week’, Medical History, 63:1 (2019), 2–23, https://doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2018.60.
68 Deborah Dwork, War is good for babies and other young children: A history of the infant and child welfare movement in England 1898–1918 (London: Tavistock Publications, 1987).
69 McIntosh, A social history of maternity and childbirth; Lucinda Beier, ‘Expertise and control: Childbearing in three twentieth-century working-class Lancashire communities’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 78:2 (2004), 379–409, https://doi.org/10.1353/bhm.2004.0056; Alice Reid, ‘Birth attendants and midwifery practice in early twentieth-century Derbyshire’, Social History of Medicine, 25:2 (2012), 380–399, https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkr138.
70 Baunach, Mothers in prison, pp. 1–2.
71 Claudia Nelson and Daniel Nelson, Family ties in Victorian England (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2007), p. 7.
72 Ann Sumner Holmes and Claudia Nelson, ‘Introduction’, in Claudia Nelson and Ann Sumner Holmes (eds), Maternal instincts: Visions of motherhood and sexuality in Britain, 1875–1925 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2007), pp. 1–12, p. 1.
73 Carol Dyhouse, ‘Good wives and little mothers: Social anxieties and the schoolgirl's curriculum, 1890–1920’, History and Education, 3:1 (1977), 21–35, https://doi.org/10.1080/0305498770030102; Davin, ‘Imperialism and motherhood’; McIntosh, A social history of maternity and childbirth, for a discussion of the Edwardian period see pp. 24–44.
74 Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration (London: 1904).
75 Ann Dally, Inventing motherhood: The consequences of an ideal (London: Burnett Books, 1982); Angela Davis, Modern motherhood: Women and family in England, c. 1945–2000 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012).
76 Pat Starkey, ‘The feckless mother: Women, poverty and social workers in wartime and post-war England’, Women's History Review, 9:3 (2000), 539–557, https://doi.org/10.1080/09612020000200259; John Welshman, Underclass: A history of the excluded 1880–2000 (London: Hambledon, 2006); Becky Taylor and Ben Rogaly, ‘“Mrs Fairly is a dirty, lazy type”: Unsatisfactory households and the problem of problem families in Norwich 1942–1963’, Twentieth Century British History, 18:4 (2007), 429–452, https://doi.org/10.1093/tcbh/hwm019.
77 Major Arthur Griffiths, ‘In Wormwood Scrubs Prison’, in George Sims (ed.), Living London: Its work and its play, its humour and its pathos, its sights and its scenes, Vol. III (London: Cassell, 1903), pp. 126–131, p. 127.
78 Roger Cooter, In the name of the child: Health and welfare 1880–1940 (London: Routledge, 1992); Harry Hendrick, Child welfare: England 1872–1989 (London: Routledge, 1994); Harry Hendrick, Children, childhood and English society 1880–1990 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra and Hilary Marland (eds), Cultures of child health in Britain and the Netherlands in the twentieth century (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003).
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Motherhood confined

Maternal health in English prisons, 1853–1955


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