Persistence and irony in the incarceration of women in the Texas Penitentiary, 1907-1910
Gregory, Jane Howe
Boles, John B.
Master of Arts
Between 1907 and 1910, Progressive reformers' attacks on the convict lease system of the Texas Penitentiary brought sexual misconduct of guards with female prisoners into public view and prompted officials to transfer women convicts from farm to farm in an attempt to contain both the abuse and the publicity it generated. In spite of the moves, the efforts of reformers, and the hiring of the first penitentiary matron, little of substance changed for women prisoners. They remained on a penal farm, guarded and supervised by men, their work and housing strictly divided by race. Persistent patterns of labor assignment, punishment, and sexual abuse inherited from slavery, and the continuation of political patronage and widespread administrative perquisites undermined attempts to improve the women's care. Ironically, the testimony of women prisoners to a legislative investigating committee about sexual activity contributed to their continued isolation on a penal farm.