Bad Girls by Caitlin Davies
Society has never known what to do with its rebellious women.
Those who defied expectations about feminine behaviour have long been considered dangerous and unnatural, and ever since the Victorian era they have been removed from public view, locked up and often forgotten about. Many of these women ended up at HM Prison Holloway, the self-proclaimed 'terror to evil-doers' which, until its closure in 2016, was western Europe's largest women's prison.
First built in 1852 as a House of Correction, Holloway's women have come from all corners of the UK - whether a patriot from Scotland, a suffragette from Huddersfield, or a spy from the Isle of Wight - and from all walks of life - socialites and prostitutes, sporting stars and nightclub queens, refugees and freedom fighters. They were imprisoned for treason and murder, for begging, performing abortions and stealing clothing coupons, for masquerading as men, running brothels and attempting suicide. In Bad Girls, Caitlin Davies tells their stories and shows how women have been treated in our justice system over more than a century, what crimes - real or imagined - they committed, who found them guilty and why. It is a story of victimization and resistance; of oppression and bravery.
From the women who escaped the hangman's noose - and those who didn't - to those who escaped Holloway altogether, Bad Girls is a fascinating look at how disobedient and defiant women changed not only the prison service, but the course of history.
I've been reading a lot more non fiction of late and I absolutely loved this. I wanted to read it for the suffragette part but also because I've weird;y been interested in prisons over the last few years. No idea why particularly but there you go that's how my brain works.
The history side of this is awesome doing a broad overview of the history of Holloway prison from the Victorian era to its recent closure. I thought I'd be most interested in the suffragette stuff but honestly every bit of it was fascinating. I also thought the book had so most to say about the unequal treatment of women in society over time and the examples in this book really highlighted it from Victorian cases of women executed for crimes they didn't commit to the treatment of suffragettes and the image of anti-nuclear protesters in the 1980s.
In short I loved it and would recommend it for anyone interested in history, the prison system, feminism or sociology. It was awesome