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Women, Crime and Punishment in Ireland
Life in the Nineteenth-Century Convict Prison

$99.99 (C)

  • Date Published: October 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108839501

$ 99.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • Focusing on women's relationships, decisions and agency, this is the first study of women's experiences in a nineteenth-century Irish prison for serious offenders. Showcasing the various crimes for which women were incarcerated in the post-Famine period, from repeated theft to murder, Elaine Farrell examines inmate files in close detail in order to understand women's lives before, during and after imprisonment. By privileging case studies and individual narratives, this innovative study reveals imprisoned women's relationships with each other, with the staff employed to manage and control them, and with their relatives, spouses, children and friends who remained on the outside. In doing so, Farrell illuminates the hardships many women experienced, their poverty and survival strategies, as well as their responsibilities, obligations, and decisions. Incorporating women's own voices, gleaned from letters and prison files, this intimate insight into individual women's lives in an Irish prison sheds new light on collective female experiences across urban and rural post-Famine Ireland.

    • Enriches our understanding of life in nineteenth-century Ireland with fascinating archival research
    • Offers a rare and intimate insight into women's lives before, during and after imprisonment
    • Demonstrates how individual stories of diverse women at different stages of their lifecycles or criminal careers are revealing of the lives of inhabitants more generally
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    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘The first comprehensive analysis of incarcerated women in Irish history, this book is nothing short of path breaking. Persuasive, innovative, and convincing, Farrell's book integrates the history of institutions in Ireland - a current fascination of many - with astute analyses of gender and sexuality, 'deviance' and criminality, and bodies and emotions. In the hands of this skilful historian, the daily struggles and triumphs of ordinary if 'outcast' women in the past come alive, providing essential context for discussions of gender in Irish life today.’ Cara Delay, College of Charleston

    ‘This work is a microcosm of nineteenth century Irish society dealing with gender, class, religion, poverty, and emigration. By reconstructing the experience of the female prisoner, her family and friends and the female staff within the prison system, it offers a new understanding of crime and punishment at the time.’ Bernadette Whelan, University of Limerick

    ‘The merit of this work, when reviewed within our long tradition of top-down historical writing, is the fact that the extraordinary exists merely in the ordinary.’ Judy Bolger, Book Reviews (

    ‘Women, Crime and Punishment in Ireland offers readers a deep and reflective insight into the world of women who were convicted of crimes and sentenced to three years or more in Mountjoy Female Convict Prison in Dublin.’ Jennifer Redmond, History: The Journal of the Historical Association

    ‘Farrell … provides readers with expert research and copious examples to demonstrate the interconnectedness between those imprisoned and the staff who oversaw them.’ J. M. O'Leary, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108839501
    • length: 330 pages
    • dimensions: 160 x 235 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.59kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures and tables
    List of abbreviations
    Introduction: 'Another generation of jail-birds'
    1. 'A powerful engine in reforming the prisoner': the prison framework and the convict body and mind
    2. 'A strange medley of character do these prisoners' friends present': family ties
    3. 'Even in prison, they have those extreme friendships, antipathies, and jealousies': convict relationships
    4. 'At first she refused to say how she got it': networks of acquisition
    5. 'I will be very desolate leaving prison': liberation
    Conclusion: 'I think of the time that you and myself ust [used] to be to gether'

  • Author

    Elaine Farrell, Queen's University Belfast
    Elaine Farrell is Senior Lecturer in History at Queen's University Belfast where her research focuses on gender, crime and punishment, and social relations. She is the author of A Most Diabolical Deed: Infanticide and Irish Society, 1850-1900 (2013) which was awarded the National University of Ireland Publication Prize in 2015.

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