« ElőzőTovább »
they frankly own themselves perplexed; disregard of opinion, loss of all self-respect, they cannot tell “ what the parson is driving craving for notoriety, necessity for exciteat.” It is often objected to the efforts of ment, intolerance of quiet, and hatred of all every order of teachers—whether in pulpits, steady occupation. schools, or by any other systematic mode of This writer does not assume that, in the instructing and training the less fortunate worst cases brought under her notice, there classes that the good done bears no appre- have not been better impulses and memories ciable relation to the labor, fuss, and noise than found their way to the light, and which in the doing ; but it is something if they might possibly be reached; but of what she secure all who come within sound of their has seen she speaks :teaching from a certain extremity of igno- “But to see some of these women, hour rance, make them, for ever so little time, by hour, and listen to them in their mad detake in an idea of what religion and good- fiance, rage, and blasphemy, is almost to beness are, and what they themselves ought to lieve they are creatures of another mould be; so that they can henceforth understand and race, born with no idea of God's truth, the language of exhortation, hold some ideas and destined to die in their own benighted in common with good men, and be open,
“As a class, they are desperately wicked ; tellectually, at least, to the working of higher as a class, deceitful, crafty, malicious, lewd, influences than they habitually seek and live and void of common feeling. With their amongst.
various temperaments there are various ways We learn one thing of woman’s, natural of harmonizing them into obedience, and graces from such extreme instances of the here and there a chance of rousing some absence of them, which is that they are nat- but it can readily
be imagined that there are
little instinct to act and think judiciously ; ural to women if they are trained in them : all the vices under the sun exemplified in if a woman is brought up in modest, deco- these hundreds of women, and but a sparse rous ways, there is a natural bias in her to sprinkling of those virtues which should natapprove of them, to fall into certain habits, to urally adorn and dignify womanhood. follow certain engaging examples; but if peo- In the penal classes of the male prisons there ple ever act on the notion that the graces of is not one man to match the worst inmates of womanhood are inherent and inalienable, and our female prisons. There are some women therefore need not be fostered, they will find so wholly and entirely bad, that chaplains give themselves mistaken. All education of women, ures, and punishment has no effect, save to
up in despair, and prison rules prove faileither from neglect or system, which draws bring them to death's door,' on the thresthem out of the retirement and reserve con- hold of which their guilty tongues still curse genial to what Spenser calls shamefacedness, and revile; and one must let them have bears in most cases evident fruit. It is espe- their way, or see them die. There are some cially the women who have this training in women less easy to tame than the creatures its most flagrant extreme that make the most of believing that there ever was an innocent
of the jungle ; and one is almost sceptical revolting prisoners-; women who, from child-childhood or a better life belonging to them. hood, have led a public life in streets, and And yet, strange as it may appear, there are noise, and idleness, and promiscuous asso- few, if any, murderesses among them; they ciation. It is enforced in this work, that the have been chiefly convicted of theft after worst and most unma
manageable prisoners are theft, accompanied by violence, and they are not in for the gravest offences. No doubt satanically proud of the offences that have dread of shame and fear of man have much brought them within the jurisdiction of the
law. crime to answer for, as well as such violent
“In the prison the teaching that should passions and vices as are not incompatible have begun with the women in their girlhood with a grave, decorous exterior and decent is commenced, and exercises, in a few inhabits of life; but it is those who have been stances, a salutary influence; but ignorance, subject to least discipline, whose womanhood deep-besotted ignorance, displays itself with has been least cared for, and with whom the almost every fresh woman on whom the key usual safeguards of the sex have been most keeping our prisons full, our judges always
turns in her cell. It is the great reason for systematically defied, that supply the class busy; three-fourths of our prisoners, before of, not to say unfeminine, but inhuman pris- their conviction, were unable to read a word; oners ; brought to this pass by audacious had no knowledge of a Bible, or what was
in it; had never heard of a Saviour; and long restraint to which they have been subonly remembered God's name as always jected; and such a proceeding, if remoncoupled with a curse. Some women have strated with, is generally followed by a been trained to be thieves and worse than smashing of windows, and tearing up of thieves by their mothers-taking their les- sheets and blankets, that will often affect sons in crime with a regularity and a per- half a ward with a similar example, if the sistence that, turned to better things, would delinquent is not speedily carried off to rehave made them loved and honored all their fractory quarters. lives. They have been taught all that is “ It has been long observed that the force eril, and the evil tree has flourished and of example in the matter of breakings borne fruit; it is the hardest task to train out' is sure to be strikingly exemplified ; 80 warped and distorted a creation to the that for the sake of change even, and for right and fitting way. Praise be to those that excitement which appears to be part of hard-working, unflinching, prison chaplains their being, without which they must go who strive to their utmost, and are not al- melancholy mad, two or three women will, ways unsuccessful.”—Ibid. vol. i. p. 45. in a quiet aggravating manner, arrange for a One reason for the pre-eminence in wicked-systematic smashing of windows and tearing
of sheets and blankets. ness claimed for these unfortunates is, no
“I have even known women addressing doubt, that confinement and compulsory mo- their matrons in a style similar to the folnotonous labor drives them into a sort of lowingfrenzy. We can hardly believe that a man
I'm going to break out is intrinsically better because he takes his to-night.' punishment with phlegm, and submits to the
Oh, nonsense !--you wont think of such inevitable, which a different nervous organ
folly, I'm sure,
• Persuasion is generally attempted first, ization chafes against and defies. The great as a "breaking out disturbs a whole prison trial to the matrons and everybody con- for a day or two. nected with the female prisons is the habit I'm sure I shall then.' of “breaking out," as it is called--a fit of
"5 What for?' mischief which seizes some caged fury, and
“Well, I've made up my mind, that's spreads right and left from cell to cell, wher- what for., I shall break out to-night-see
if I don't.' ever the sound of breaking glass and crash
" Has any one offended you, or said anyof crockery can reach. Hating thought, and thing ?' yet driven to think in their unaccustomed “No-no. But I must break out. It's dreary solitude—hating work, and yet com- so dull here. I'm sure to break out.' pelled to labor at the needle, or other even
" . And then you'll go to the dark.”' more monotonous employment, hour after
"I want to go to the “dark"!' is the hour-life becomes unendurable; they must
“ And the breaking out' ofter occurs as break out; they feel the fit coming; they promised ; and the glass shatters out of the know the consequences-worse solitude in window frames, strips of sheets and blankets the dark, and bread and water; but their are passed through, or left in a heap in the own interest, their own future of an hour cell, and the guards are sent for, and there hence is nothing to them, the present is so is a scuffling and fighting and scratching and intolerable, and the present relief of noise screaming that Pandemonium might equal, and excitement so irresistibly attractive.
nothing else."-Ibid. vol. i. ** The male prisoners are influenced by times the practice is fallen into “on princi
This is one form of the malady ; but somesome amount of reason and forethought, but the female prisoner flies in the very face of ple,” after a sullen vindictive nursing up of prudence, and acts more often like a mad fancied wrong, for the sake of destroying woman than a rational reflective human be-government property. It is, again, the sign ing. Those who are cunning enough to of a violent ebullition of temper; though carry on by signs and looks, and tappings on constantly temper has nothing to do with the wall, a correspondence with their neigh- it, and it is simply entered upon from a bors, are less refractory than those of less craving for change, or, deliberately, for comexperience in evading prison rules. I have known many women, in defiance of a day or panionship, when it is known the refractory two's bread and water, suddenly shout across cells are full, and they must be put into them the airing-yard, or from one cell to another, by twos and threes. All excitement is inwith a noise all the more vehement for the fectious. It is easy to imagine that the im
pulse for destruction spreads. The love of night and day at the pitch of her voice the mischief has some place in all of us; it is burden of a drinking song; another, at only civilization that keeps it down. stated intervals, uttered a piercing shriek,
which for days baffled all attempts to dis“ One matron, who has since left the service--a matron of somewhat impulsive dis- cover its source. A young gypsy girl, one position-once told me in confidence, and of the worst and most frenzied cases, would with a comical expression of horror on her spend the time of her incarceration in viocountenance, that she was afraid she should lent dancing, and kept prisoners and matrons break out herself, the temptation appeared restless with her quick beats on the floor. so irresistible.
"I hare been used to a different sort of 6. This dance must have been entirely of life-father, mother, brothers and sisters all her own invention, it was so odd and cbararound me: light-hearted and happy—that acteristic. There was a peculiar Juba eleit's like becoming a prisoner one's self to ment about it, and a series of rapid, regular follow this tedious incessant occupation. I beats with the heel and toe alternately, that assure you, Miss that when I hear the had a frenzying effect on the listener in the glass shattering, and the women screaming, dead of night. Occasionally the night mamy temples throb, my ears tingle, and I want tron (whose office was slowly to pace the to break something dreadfully.”-Ibid. p. wards through the night) would attempt a 136.
remonstrance, and Letty would assail her
with a torrent of slang and Romany, dancAn excitable temperament may well find ing all the time for fear of throwing herself it difficult to maintain self-control in such out of practice. Like most violent women, scenes ; and there are women so desper- while the excitement of an outbreak was ately wicked,” so resolved to resist all efforts upon her, she was mad and dangerous. to be made any thing less abandoned or in- There was no reasoning with her; she had temperate than in their first estate, that they
done her worst and been punished to the will be violent in this way four or five times and dance and sing, and do what she
utmost, and now she would have her • • fling,' a week for two months in succession. In- pleased ; and if the matron continued redeed, the matron's sufferings from this cause monstrating Letty would fly at the door, and never end till habit acquiesces in them as beat it with her fists, and scream.”-Ibid. p. natural to the scene. Some of the dark cells 266. at Milbank are placed near the matron's But violence and confinement told upon sleeping-room, a fact known to the delin- the gypsy girl, whom one of the matrons requents, whom it animates to fresh exertions membered a little merry child running wild, of kicking and screaming and singing under and playing antics with her brother on a the notion of keeping it up while the “screws
At nineteen all traces of youth are in bed.” Yet in time the matron rises had past; she was in for stabbing a man in superior to this stroke of malice, and she a brawl, a feat of which she boasted (the sleeps through it all_sleeps and dreams of
well-behaved murderesses are more deliberbome.
ate in their crime), and was one of the worst “And amidst it all, and mingling with women; but with a touch of pride in her her dreams, goes the thump, thump, of the royal ancestry, and some family feeling, esprisoners' feet and hands; or wells up from pecially for her brother Vangelo, also “in the cell the defiant song of the caged tigress.” trouble.” It is one of the cases where there -Ibid. p. 149.
was even no inherited tradition of home to Of course it must be extremely difficult to temper a savage nature. She died in prison, find suitable punishment for such offenders, “ untrustworthy and violent to the last,” but but the writer's experience is against the least unruly to the matron who remembered
” she does not know of its ever her in childhood. On one occasion, howhaving worked in any single instance a sal- ever, the “dark” had real horrors to these utary effect upon a prisoner. With the wild spirits :strong it proves their power of tiring out
“ It happened that one particular dark their punishers, with the weak it would soon cell adjoined a portion of the pentagon beaffect the mind. The grotesque strangely longing to the men's prison, and from this mixes with the horrible in these scenes. cell issued suddenly the most piteous screams One terrible woman sang or rather yelled and cries for help. The matron in attend
- dark ;
walk or go
ance hurried to the dark, and found the three down in time, with other desperate devices inmates huddled together, shivering and of a similar nature. But the woman in horrified. ""What is the matter ?—what are you would go so near killing herself that the au
question, from scarcely provoked passion, calling for?' she inquired.
thorities were at their wits' end. She would "Oh! miss, for the Lord's sake, let us out! We'll never break out again--we'll take “headers ” against a stone wall, or behave ourselves so well!'
bring her head in contact with it by a series 66. What is the matter?'
of rolling swings, till the sound of the suc“Oh! there's the devil in the next cell cessive cracks sickened every bystander. behind here. I am sure the devil is coming She would bite off her handcuffs, and liberto fetch us all away! There he is again ! ate herself from every contrivance to restrain Oh! Lord have mercy upon us !!
“ And sure enough there issued from im- her movements ; pull up the flooring, wrench mediately behind the dark cell a series of the doors off their hinges, and disfurnish the most awful screams and yells that ever es- padded room with her teeth. It is curious caped human throats. It even alarmed the that this woman never uttered an oath the matron, who was accustomed to these par- whole time she was in prison, the body was oxysms of passion; it expressed such fear her sole engine of mischief. Another thing and horror and agony, and was like no hu
to remark is that this prodigious power was man screaming that had ever been heard in Milbank Prison. A legion of hyenas could kept up without exercise. She would not not have given vent to a noise more un
into the air, and any attempt to earthly; and the women added their shrieks force her resulted in a scene. The doctors, to the general tumult, and implored to be after a solemn sitting, pronounced this wild released.
creature in perfectly sound mind; but the “A messenger was sent round to the distinction between such a state and it is men's prison to learn the reason for so un- only an extreme of a not uncommon condiusual an occurrence, and presently the mys- tion in female prisoners—and madness must tery was cleared up. Some Chinese prisoners' had arrived and had been forced to be a very subtle one. Indeed, we cannot succumb to the general system of hair-cut-read these records without speculating on ting, despite their energetic protests to the the various degrees of responsibility among contrary, The cherisbed tails had been un- what are called rational beings. In the same mercifully shorn off amidst the screams of class, though far worse than this “ agile panthe Chinese ; and it was their lamentations ther," as she is called, are other women here over this calamity that had so alarmed the shown us ; but like her in the wild indifferprisoners in the cell adjoining the room where the operation had occurred.”—I bid. ence to their own well-being and in the gro
tesque animal form of vice they present. It conforms to the notion of possession- They.' stand out embodiments of gigantic of these wretched women not being them evils, of which society is dimly conscious. selves—that in their fits of fury they have What must be the condition of whole classes more than the strength of men. Muscular- which can produce these portents ? A cerity in its highest development is not a fea- tain " Towers, with a disproportionate reture of feminine Christianity. No demoniac volting countenance, a cripple, white faced, could surpass the feats of a certain “ Maria and with black eyes that made one shudder," Copes," distinguished by especial mention makes the reader shudder too. She was so in the report of the directors, " whose con- wicked that even the prisoners were horrified duct was so extraordinary and outrageous as at her.
“ She's like the devil hisself, isn't to be more that of a wild beast than a re- she, miss ? ” said one of them, herself not flecting rational human being.” This woman, noted for good behavior. This woman reso in common with many others of this nge lutely kept to her bed. sisterhood, is perfectly indifferent to her own “Blaspheming and singing were her two sufferings ; indeed, the lowest type of crim- principal employments; if needlework were inals often show a different nervous organi- given her, she would tear her work to pieces zation, and scarcely feel pain. They will and swallow her needle to horrify the ma
tron. She was taken to the refractory cell inflict horrible wounds on themselves for the
at times, but her crippled condition rensake of getting into the infirmary. Some dered her transfer thence an almost instanwill hang themselves, trusting to be cut taneous process; and her schemes for re
moval and self-damage were horribly ingen- opened, and the little kitten found suffocated ious. She was partial to secreting a piece by the prisoner. • That's how I should like of glass about her clothing, opening her to serve the whole of you,' she growled. . . reins with it, and allowing them to bleed Actions that would give pain to others were silently, giving no hint of what she had Honor Matthew's chief satisfaction. She done. It was only her gradual faintness passed from prison without a hope that one that gave the alarm, and brought relief to good light had been born within her during her, otherwise she would have bled stoically a long period of incarceration."-Ibid. vol. to death in her bed ; and this not once nor i. p. 155 ; ii. p. 281: twice, but in a general way, however closely watched. By some mystery never sol
Self-preservation and self-love are, we are vable by prison vigilance, the glass or the accustomed to think, so inseparable from pebble was always available and ready to be rational nature, that a uniform long-continproduced from her bed, or pillow, or even ued deliberate disregard of them is scarcely her back hair, for the horrible gash which compatible with sanity. But these mysteblanched the face of her watchers. If she ries of malignity overmastering all material was anxious to proceed to the infirmary, pleasures and desires are, perhaps, scarcely some such scheme she would always adopt, despite the vigilance of her officers, till her profitable subjects of speculation : still, iglife was despaired of. Towers always ral- norance and the frenzied impatience of a lied, however, and allowed herself sufficient wild nature at reproof, restraint, and puntime to recover some of her old strength, be- ishment, do seem to interfere in these cases fore, in a business-like manner, she would with responsibility. proceed to hack at her veins again. By way of change she would sometimes powder the confined to such witchlike perversions of
This lady's examples, however, are not glass and swallow it, and bring on internal hemorrhage—a practice adopted by more nature; such self-tormenting selfislıness. than one prisoner at both Milbank and Brix- All ordinary human weaknesses have their ton. ... Sometimes she would lie in bed, place in the prison cell. She assures us and scream for help, till assistance arrived, that, as a class, these women are inordinately when she would struggle into a sitting pos- vain. Women so dead to self-respect that ture, and fling every available utensil at the they do not care in what depths of degradalight, or the heads of the officers—she was tion all the world sees them, are yet the slaves not particular-accompanying every effort at damage by an oath, or an expression that of personal vanity, and will resort to the made the blood run cold.”—Ibid. vol. i. p.
most ludicrous means of gratifying it. Con286.
demned to the company of their own sex, Another of these miserable and abandoned and to a costume the least gratifying to a creatures, whose hatred and malignity over- gaudy taste, the passion for ornament, fashflowed upon themselves, persisted in remain- ion, and color will crop out, and find induling in the dark. “ The dark suited her;
„ gence too. The first cruel blow to a female and she threatened to break out or attempt convict's pride is inflicted on her entrance some one's life if she was thwarted. There into the prison. The hair is cut off ; there she remained, day after day, refusing all is something pathetic in the universal recoil persuasion and every inducement to return
from this indignity, which, however necesto prison duties.
sary and merited, is yet an aggression on
“ nature itself.” “ The matron in attendance had a favorite little kitten which was accustomed to follow “ Women whose hearts have not quailed, her about the wards; and it chanced that on perhaps, at the murder of their infants, or opening the door to attend to this woman, the poisoning of their husbands, clasp their the kitten concealed itself in the cell, and hands in horror at this sacrifice of their natwas locked up with the prisoner.
ural adornment-weep, beg, pray, occasion“ This feline intruder would have been ally assume a defiant attitude and ist to hailed a welcome guest by most women un- the last, and are finally only overcome by der the same circumstances ; but this pris- force. It is one of the most painful tasks of oner had never shown an instance of affection the prison, this hair-cutting operationfor any living thing within the prison walls. moreover, it is, in my opinion, at least, a The kitten was missed, and search was made test of character. for it-the woman in the dark cell had seen “ One woman will be resigned to her fate nothing of it. • What made any one think on the instant, and, with a Socratic stoicism, she knew about the kitten?' The cell was will compress her lips and submit herself to