Lessons in Womanhood: Education at the Prison for Women, 1934-1965
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The Prison for Women (P4W) in Kingston, Ontario was the sole federal prison for Canadian women throughout the majority of the twentieth century. As such, studying P4W represents a comprehensive study of Canadian women’s incarceration, which is unique in Canadian prison history in comparison to men’s institutions. This thesis explores the educational history of P4W from 1934-1965 to examine what opportunities were afforded to incarcerated women and to reveal the intentions of the Penitentiary Service in their provision of education. This thesis argues that education at P4W intended to reform incarcerated women into models of respectable womanhood. This project relies on archival documents from the Correctional Service of Canada fonds at Library and Archives Canada, files from the Public Safety Library Archives, the Isabel J. Macneill fonds from the Nova Scotia Archives, and prisoner press publications. To frame this research, this thesis takes a blended functionalist and narrative approach to legal history to underscore that the development of education in P4W followed the development of education in Ontario, and that narratives are required to appreciate P4W’s gendered educational history. P4W’s education is contextualized by Chapter One, which provides an overview of imprisonment in English Canadian history. To further deepen analysis, education has been separated and organized into three categories: academic, vocational, and recreational. Chapter Two analyzes academic education and reveals that incarcerated women’s education relied heavily on correspondence courses. This reliance resulted in the neglect of illiterate women’s education until 1949 when the first teacher was hired. Chapter Three analyzes vocational education and presents the narrow options that incarcerated women had for employment. Chapter Four analyzes recreational education which explores what types of activities incarcerated women were allowed to participate in outside of their daily prison employment. Each of these chapters conclude that incarcerated women in P4W were offered educational programs that reinforced ideas and behaviours associated with respectable womanhood.