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Imprisoned mothers in Victorian England, 1853–1900: Motherhood, identity and the convict prison

Johnston, Helen

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Abstract

This article explores the experiences of imprisoned mothers in the Victorian convict prison system. It argues that motherhood, of central importance to the ideals of Victorian femininity, was disrupted and fractured by women's long-term imprisonment. Using 'whole life' history methodology, the paper draws on research into 288 women imprisoned and then released from the prison system, of whom half were mothers. It illuminates how the long term prison system dealt with pregnancy, childbirth and family contact for female prisoners. It argues that whilst institutional or state care was often an inevitable consequence for children of single or widowed mothers, women used their limited resources and agency to assert their identity as mothers and direct outcomes for their children. But for others, prolific offending and multiple long sentences would render any chance of motherhood impossible.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Apr 1, 2019
Journal Criminology & criminal justice
Print ISSN 1748-8958
Electronic ISSN 1748-8966
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 215-231
Institution Citation Johnston, H. (2019). Imprisoned mothers in Victorian England, 1853–1900: Motherhood, identity and the convict prison. Criminology & criminal Justice, 19(2), 215-231. https://doi.org/10.1177/1748895818757833
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/1748895818757833
Keywords Mothers; Imprisonment; Victorian convict prison; Family contact
Publisher URL https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1748895818757833
Copyright Statement ©2018 University of Hull

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