New book by Queen’s historian details Irish women’s experience of 19th century prisons

An historian from Queen’s University Belfast has launched a book exploring life for women in the 19th century convict prisons in Ireland.

Dr Elaine Farrell
Dr Elaine Farrell

‘Women, Crime and Punishment in Ireland, Life in the Nineteenth-Century Convict Prison’, by Dr Elaine Farrell from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s, is published by Cambridge University Press and is the first study of women’s experiences in a 19th entury Irish prison for serious offenders.

Showcasing the various crimes for which women were incarcerated in the post-Famine period, from theft to murder, it examines inmate files in close detail in order to understand women’s lives before, during and after imprisonment.

The book shines a light on the hardships many women experienced, their poverty and survival strategies.

Dr Farrell said: “Individual women have a central place in this book, their lives documented in rich historical records precisely because they were convicted of a crime that was thought to warrant a lengthy prison stay. Crimes included serious violent offences like murder and manslaughter, but other offences for which girls and women ended up in prison for years might seem trivial to our eyes.

“In telling these diverse stories of crime and imprisonment, I hope to shed greater light on the broader realities of life in 19th-century Ireland for ‘ordinary’ girls and women.”

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