Cover for THUMA: All Our Trials: Prisons, Policing, and the Feminist Fight to End Violence. Click for larger image

All Our Trials

Prisons, Policing, and the Feminist Fight to End Violence

A grassroots history of resistance to gender violence and the carceral state

During the 1970s, grassroots women activists in and outside of prisons forged a radical politics against gender violence and incarceration. Emily L. Thuma traces the making of this anticarceral feminism at the intersections of struggles for racial and economic justice, prisoners’ and psychiatric patients’ rights, and gender and sexual liberation.

All Our Trials explores the organizing, ideas, and influence of those who placed criminalized and marginalized women at the heart of their antiviolence mobilizations. This activism confronted a "tough on crime" political agenda and clashed with the mainstream women’s movement’s strategy of resorting to the criminal legal system as a solution to sexual and domestic violence. Drawing on extensive archival research and first-person narratives, Thuma weaves together the stories of mass defense campaigns, prisoner uprisings, broad-based local coalitions, national gatherings, and radical print cultures that cut through prison walls. In the process, she illuminates a crucial chapter in an unfinished struggle––one that continues in today’s movements against mass incarceration and in support of transformative justice.

"All Our Trials offers us a robust history of late twentieth-century radical feminist antiviolence organizing. Thuma reminds us that the activism of the present is built upon an important legacy of work that traversed movements and prison walls. If we are to build an abolitionist feminist future, we would be wise to pay attention to the antiracist queer feminist politics of these activists. We owe a debt of gratitude to them for paving the way, and to Thuma for chronicling their struggles."--Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz

"All Our Trials is a tour de force. It stands among the best books on the history of modern feminist politics and represents one of the most elucidating histories of the US carceral state produced to date. Emily Thuma centers criminalized women’s ideas and organizing, providing graceful historical analysis that will undoubtedly influence current conversations about imprisonment, gender, and sexual violence. This history opens a fiercely urgent path toward an anticarceral feminist future."--Sarah Haley, author of No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity

"With deep compassion, Thuma offers one of the most compelling historical analyses of how feminist activism of Black, queer, and criminalized women has worked to resist the long and dangerous reach of the carceral state. All Our Trials is an important text in the growing fields of critical prison studies and anti-carceral feminism and a critical addition to activist reading lists."--Beth Richie, author of Arrested Violence: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation

"All Our Trials transforms our understanding of both the history of feminism and of the carceral state. In her deeply compelling account, Thuma documents the work of activists who centered the lives of the most marginalized in their social justice imaginary and their political agenda, producing an anticarceral feminist politics and an expansive analysis of the interconnections between interpersonal and state violence. A crucial and timely read as we wrestle with gender, race, and violence today."--Regina Kunzel, author of Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality


Emily L. Thuma is an assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of California, Irvine.

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