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Open Access (free)
Rachel E. Bennett

The Conclusion weaves together the strands examined throughout the book, tracing how prison administrators, doctors, officers, reformers and prisoners themselves have attempted to untangle the exigencies of pregnancy and birth in prison over the past two centuries. By illuminating the continued prescience of this often-overlooked aspect of England’s penal history, the Conclusion illuminates how the evidence presented in the book can offer a longer narrative to current debates which seek to confine ‘outdated’ penal practices to the past, especially for mothers and their children, but continue to struggle to find concrete answers to perennial questions that have been posed to the prison system since its inception in the mid-nineteenth century.

in Motherhood confined
Rachel E. Bennett

When they walked through the prison gates women brought with them a skein of stories and experiences. Some entered prisons to serve sentences of a few days. Others faced several years behind bars. Prisons for women accommodated the young and the old, the healthy alongside the sick, the first-time offender entering prison with trepidation along with the recidivist, perceived to be hardened to the toils of incarceration. The threads of this chapter are woven together to demonstrate that their experiences of health and discipline were impacted upon by their physical surroundings and the women around them and, crucially, were heavily regulated yet often contested by those tasked with their custody and care.

in Motherhood confined
Open Access (free)
Rachel E. Bennett

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.

in Motherhood confined
Open Access (free)
Rachel E. Bennett

Women giving birth or caring for very young infants featured as frequent parts of life in women’s prisons. They often appear in the backgrounds of the testimonies of ex-prisoners and staff alike, yet their specific needs are a notable chasm in official prison policy. Pregnancies and births varied in frequency from prison to prison and across the period between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth century, and provisions for them were inconsistent across the prison estate. For some, prison was posited as a refuge from even harsher conditions outside. For others, it was a place of heartbreak and isolation which severely impacted upon their health. At the outset of the modern penal system, prison buildings were modified to incorporate infirmaries, nurseries and, later, crèches for the reception of mothers and babies. Prisoners and staff each played roles in adapting the rules regulating the running of prisons so as to address the daily realities of life in prison for mothers and children.

in Motherhood confined
Open Access (free)
Maternal health in English prisons, 1853–1955

Should pregnant women be sent to prison? Is prison a place for the birth and care of babies? Can it ever be? This book is the first extensive historical examination of how the modern prison system sought to answer these perennial questions. The book takes the reader through the prison gates to demonstrate that, although a common feature of everyday life in women’s prisons, pregnancy, birth and motherhood were rarely fully considered at policy level. Instead, the experiences of mothers and children were shaped by a myriad of factors including debates about reconciling the management of institutional discipline with the maintenance of health and issues of gender and class. Lamented as an inalienable heritage of woe but also as an opportunity for the closer supervision of mothers, prison births evoked intense debate and required the negotiation of obdurate regimes. The book reveals how oscillating debates about the purpose of prisons shaped the punitive, reformatory and medical treatment of confined mothers. It also challenges scholarly debates about institutional discipline by delving further into the role of prisoners and prison staff in shaping the terms of their incarceration.

Rachel E. Bennett

Nineteenth-century periodicals and commentaries on crime were saturated with tales of fallen women and of children as collateral damage to their mother’s criminality. Official and public discourse castigated the ‘bad’ mothers who populated prisons and warned of the dangers they were believed to pose to hearth, home and child but this rarely translated into concrete efforts to provide opportunities for women to become ‘good’ ones. This chapter examines the first half of the twentieth century as a period in which the education of women in prison evolved to incorporate greater training in mothercraft. These developmens were initially driven by the individual efforts of female prison officials and external reformers but became more comprehensively debated and provided for by the prison system following the conclusion of the Second World War. Their content was reflective of the increasing contemporary acknowledgement, particularly among those who worked in the women’s prison estate on a daily basis, that imprisoning a ‘bad’ mother did not necessarily make her into a good one upon release, and they sought to address the difficulties women faced in the home, whether through impoverished conditions, stress or lack of educative opportunities, to learn how to be a mother.

in Motherhood confined
Open Access (free)
Histories, historians, and the politics of masculinity
Lucy Delap
and
John Tosh

This expansive and open conversation between John Tosh, Lucy Delap, and the book’s editors brings together a pioneering historian of masculinity, whose work grew out of his involvement in men’s groups in the 1980s, and a leading feminist historian (and historian of feminism) who has worked on that moment. What unfurls is a striking and provocative reflection on what histories of masculinity have been and where they might go next. Tosh and Delap do not always agree, but their shared vision emphasises the importance of rediscovering the progressive orientation points that defined the emergence of the field. From this vantage point, the distance between the optimism of the first generation of histories of masculinity and where we are today underscores the vital importance of politically engaged histories that seize on the proliferation of ‘crisis talk’ around masculinity to understand its genealogies and imagine alternative ways of living as men.

in Men and masculinities in modern Britain
Reading Blackness and the disabled soldier body in the First World War
Hilary Buxton

Hilary Buxton focuses on the experience of Black disabled soldiers from the British West Indies Regiment to show how ideas of military service were refracted through pervasive associations between whiteness and Britishness after the Great War. The soldier hero was an exclusive category, and Black men were often unable to mobilise the idea that their disabilities were markers of heroic sacrifice and national service. Buxton’s version of embodiment shows how medical treatment and rehabilitation sought to remake injured men’s bodies around the ideal of the breadwinner, just as disability pensions sought to restore a proper manly independence. Despite their claims to imperial citizenship, West Indian servicemen’s difficulties in securing these entitlements had far-reaching material stakes. Economic and physical independence were frustrated through unequal access to necessary prostheses and wheelchairs. These exclusions were shaped through both the colonial state and the interactions between men and racialised masculinities. Buxton’s analysis of tensions within a Liverpool auxiliary hospital shows how ‘Black embodiment’ was refracted through interactions with white servicemen, patients, and hospital staff.

in Men and masculinities in modern Britain
Men and pornography in the 1970s
Ben Mechen

Ben Mechen analyses the extraordinary letters written by self-defined ‘ordinary’ men to the Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship – the Williams Committee – in 1977–1978. This material allows him to move from exploring pornographic texts, markets, and regulation to more challenging questions around the relationship between the consumption of porn and men’s lives and identities. Both defensive and assertive, men’s letters challenged pejorative notions that pornography was damaging, exploitative, or manifested patriarchal sexual violence against women. Instead, they drew on emerging ideas of well-being and sexual fulfilment to articulate a ‘liberal sexual subject’. For Mechen, this figure embodied ‘a new idea of normative masculinity’ in which the sexual self was ‘individualist, free of so-called “hang-ups”, and something to be … realised as part of a “sex life” and a “sexual career”’. Embedded in this position, however, was a ‘new narrative of male victimhood’, mobilised against an increasingly assertive feminist politics, which anticipated the more strident ideas associated with the worst excesses of contemporary men’s rights activism.

in Men and masculinities in modern Britain
Richard Hall

Richard Hall addresses questions of subjectivity and emotion in men’s lives. Exploring how individual men understood the world and their place in it, Hall uses interviews with fathers and sons to consider the intergenerational articulation of selfhood and masculinity within families. Fathers and sons made sense of their lives as men at the same time as they navigated an intimate relationship and fast-changing world. That masculinity was a relational category was a foundational assumption of gender history. What Hall does differently is show how relationality was also inter-subjective. This move sustains a radical transformation of histories of masculinity and selfhood. Narrating one’s life to an interviewer becomes a proxy for the process of self-making men undertook throughout their lives. For younger generations, Hall argues, that process was increasingly directed at securing a distinctive individuality rather than the ordinariness emphasised by fathers. Sons’ testimony ‘was more inclined towards narratives of self-fulfilment, reflecting the greater educational, economic, work and socio-cultural opportunities … available to them’. When masculinity was reworked as interiority, being ordinary was more of a problem.

in Men and masculinities in modern Britain