Saturday, March 23, 2013


Okay, today I didn't read anything out of my housewife books, but I DID learn more about life in the 1950's.  I visited the Idaho State Penitentiary, which was run from 1887-1973.  I learned a lot about life for women in the 1950's, especially female criminals.  Here are some fun facts for you:

1.  Did you know that a third of women in prison in the fifties were there for credit card fraud or for bouncing a check?   Do women still go to prison for that? I feel like people bounce checks all the time.  Note to self:  DON'T DO THAT!

2. I read some stories of the prisoners who were held at the Idaho State Penitentiary.  Many of the women  were there for adultery.  Were any men there for adultery?  Of course not, cuz it's okay if guys cheat but women can't.  What's up with that?!  Apparently that's the way laws were back then.  Women had to be pure....or else.

3. A large number of women went to prison for administering or receiving abortions.  It made me wonder - when abortion was legalized, did these women have to stay in prison?  Want to know the answer? YES, they did!  How unfair is that?!  They were serving a sentence for something that is now legal!  Rude.

3. During the late fifties, transitioning into the beginning of the sixties, the Idaho judicial system came under attack because a string of women murdered their husbands and got relatively light sentences.  Male murderers were sentenced for life, but women only got a few years.  The general consensus now is that there was lots of spousal abuse going on in the fifties, but it was legal and generally acceptable for a man to hit his wife.  In front of a jury, though, many times the judge felt bad for an abused woman and gave her a lesser sentence because he figured she was just defending herself.

4.  Women had WAY better quarters than the men.  The men had tiny little cells and almost never got to get out of them.  Women had a whole ward to themselves, fenced off from the men, and they only had to sleep in their cells.  During the day they got to garden, knit, do crafts, and write.  They even published a magazine for other female inmates across the country.  Wow - girl power!

So I learned today that I definitely never want to go to prison...but I guess it would be better to be a female criminal than a male one.


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