‘Wayward Girls and Wicked Women’: Two Centuries of ‘Semi-Penal’ Control

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

This paper explores the way in which unruly or `deviant' women have historically been subjected to various strategies and mechanisms of control, designed to regulate and reform them back to the acceptable and appropriate standards of femininity from which they were perceived to have strayed. In particular the way in which `semi-penal' institutions were utilised for this purpose is examined. It is argued that `semi-penal' institutions such as refuges, reformatories and homes, occupied a unique position within the social control continuum, somewhere between the formal regulation of the prison and the informal control of the domestic or communal sphere. What made them particularly unique was the way in which they managed to combine both formal and informal methods of control in order to produce feminising regimes, aimed at reforming recalcitrant women into respectable, gendered subjects. In addition, these institutions had the effect of `widening the net' of control for women, establishing an all-encompassing system of surveillance which was at once punitive and reformative. To facilitate this analysis, five groups of women have been identified; prostitutes, criminals, the `wayward', inebriates and the `feeble-minded'. The specific methods utilised to control and reform each of these groups will be discussed along with the themes of continuity which serve to synthesize the history of the treatment of such women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-171
JournalLiverpool Law Review
Volume22
Issue number2-3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2000

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correctional institution
reformatory
reform
femininity
social control
surveillance
continuity
Group
regime
regulation
history

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abstract = "This paper explores the way in which unruly or `deviant' women have historically been subjected to various strategies and mechanisms of control, designed to regulate and reform them back to the acceptable and appropriate standards of femininity from which they were perceived to have strayed. In particular the way in which `semi-penal' institutions were utilised for this purpose is examined. It is argued that `semi-penal' institutions such as refuges, reformatories and homes, occupied a unique position within the social control continuum, somewhere between the formal regulation of the prison and the informal control of the domestic or communal sphere. What made them particularly unique was the way in which they managed to combine both formal and informal methods of control in order to produce feminising regimes, aimed at reforming recalcitrant women into respectable, gendered subjects. In addition, these institutions had the effect of `widening the net' of control for women, establishing an all-encompassing system of surveillance which was at once punitive and reformative. To facilitate this analysis, five groups of women have been identified; prostitutes, criminals, the `wayward', inebriates and the `feeble-minded'. The specific methods utilised to control and reform each of these groups will be discussed along with the themes of continuity which serve to synthesize the history of the treatment of such women.",
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‘Wayward Girls and Wicked Women’: Two Centuries of ‘Semi-Penal’ Control. / Barton, A.

In: Liverpool Law Review, Vol. 22, No. 2-3, 05.2000, p. 157-171.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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