Cover for BUTLER: Gendered Justice in the American West: Women Prisoners in Men's Penitentiaries

Gendered Justice in the American West

Women Prisoners in Men's Penitentiaries

This is the first book to deal in depth with the ugly realities that made life in prison even more difficult for women in the American West, revealing neglected and forgotten lives and for the first time adding their voices and experiences to the saga of the American West.

In this shocking study, Anne M. Butler shows that the distinct gender disadvantages already faced by women within western society erupted into intense physical and mental violence when they became prisoners in male penitentiaries.

Drawing on prison records and the words of the women themselves, Gendered Justice in the American West places the injustices women prisoners endured in the context of the structures of male authority and female powerlessness that pervaded all of American society. Butler's poignant cross-cultural account explores how nineteenth-century criminologists constructed the "criminal woman"; how the women's age, race, class, and gender influenced their court proceedings; and what kinds of violence women inmates encountered. She also examines the prisoners' diet, illnesses, and experiences with pregnancy and child-bearing, as well as their survival strategies.


"A disturbing yet engrossing book. . . . Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of violence, punishment, prisons, and women in the American West. Photographs of women inmates, many of whom bore the earmarks of physical punishment, complement the text and continue to haunt this reader." -- Myra C. Glenn, Journal of American History

"Butler makes visible people hitherto ignored in the historical record. This powerful, well-documented study . . . challenges and recasts interpretations on the nature of violence in the history of the American West by linking gender, power, and the violent male world of the penitentiary. . . . Indispensable." -- Choice

"A richly detailed, wonderfully accessible book that captures both that captures both the humanity of women prisoners and the inhumanity of male-built, male-run and male-focused prison systems. . . . An extremely important contribution to our understanding of the history of women in the criminal justice system." -- The Journal of San Diego History

"A fascinating socio-historical account of the experience of women in the criminal justice system of the western and north central United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. . . . Strongly recommended to anyone interested in a socio-historical analysis of women in the criminal justice system. Butler writes well and with sociological insight." -- Cynthia L. Phillips, The Great Plains Sociologist

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