Four Unruly Women
Stories of Incarceration and Resistance from Canada’s Most Notorious Prison
Bridget Donnelly. Charlotte Reveille. Kate Slattery. Emily Boyle. Until now, these were nothing but names marked down in the admittance registers and punishment reports of Kingston Penitentiary, Canada’s most notorious prison.
In this shocking and heartbreaking book, Ted McCoy tells these women’s stories of incarceration and resistance in poignant detail. Locked away from male prisoners in dark basement wards, these women experienced isolation and segregation, along with the worst elements of prison life – starvation, corporal punishment, sexual abuse, and neglect. Yet they met these challenges with resistance and resilience.
Although the four women served sentences at different times over a century, they shared experiences that illuminate how the most marginalized elements in society – the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged – reckoned with poverty and crime and grappled with the constraints placed on them by shifting notions of punishment and reform.
The inhumanity suffered by these four women stands as profoundly disturbing evidence of the hidden costs of isolation, punishment, and mass incarceration.
This book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of crime and punishment or the history of women.
Although Ted McCoy’s Four Unruly Women is a short and accessibly written text—and, therefore, an excellent teaching resource!—it also offers a meticulously researched and multilayered analysis of four women, all imprisoned at the notorious Kingston Penitentiary (KP) at different times, for a revealing glimpse into the gendered pains of imprisonment over the course of a century (1838–1934).
This book honours Bridget Donnelly, Charlotte Reveille, Kate Slattery and Emily Boyle by bringing their disturbing stories to light.
Compelling, poignant, infuriating, and touching – this book shines a light on the inhumane treatment of female prisoners and the toll it inflicted on them and their families. These women’s stories deserve to be read by as many people as possible so that we may remember them and the disgraceful way they were treated.
Ted McCoy weaves a powerful, moving tribute to the women who resisted from inside the Kingston Penitentiary between 1835 and 1935. Read about their solitary isolation in dank dungeons, confinement in ‘the box,’ cat-o’-nine tails lashings, and sexual assaults, and marvel at their remarkable courage.
Introduction: Seeking Unruly Women
1 Bridget’s Life Sentence
2 Charlotte’s Moral Insanity
3 Alias Kate
4 Emily’s Maternal Ideal
Afterword: Seeing Unruly Women
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