Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Women of the House of Refuge

Today we return to Mary A. Worswick's article about the House of Refuge, which appeared in the New York Press in August 1890, to learn the stories of more of the young women incarcerated there.

A good home and a good husband, Annie T—, aged 19 years, had no excuse for her downfall. After a year and a half of married life she separated from her husband, led astray by a divorced man. Finally she sank lower and was convicted of disorderly conduct.
After the death of her two children Martha S— became intemperate. She is 24 years old and married to a man of 60.
Ella D—, a white woman, was 25 years old and living with a colored man when arrested for petit larceny and sent here.
An unhappy home—father and mother separated and mother living with another man. A life of hardship. Has earned her living since she was 10 years old. Since that age has had no schooling. Those are the causes that led to the downfall of seventeen-year-old Lizzie C—.
Born in Pennsylvania and graduated from a common school in that State, Clara H—, a pale, delicate looking woman of 25 worked as a saleswoman. She became a victim of the morphine habit and finally drifted to the Western part of this State, from where she was committed as a vagrant.
One poor girl, Hattie S—, was the only support of a widowed mother in feeble health and great poverty. She is quiet and sad faced and cries for her mother when alone, the matrons say. Was four days in jail for striking a man, six months in the House of Shelter in Albany and sent here for vagrancy.
"It was the only way I could support myself and my mother," said Mary C—, a Canadian, 26 years old, who was committed for keeping a disorderly house. She had worked in factories and as a nurse girl.
Katie S—, 19 years old, has been on Randall's Island and in the Protectorate at Westchester, and was sent here for vagrancy. Her mother is dead and her father drives an ash cart.
Sixteen-year-old Jenny A— is a country girl who ran away from home and went to the city. Her mother sent her here. She has a stepfather.
Married at 16 to a drunkard, separated from her husband, the mother of two children, both cared for by charity; sixty days in the Rochester workhouse, committed here for intoxication, a physical wreck. That is the summary of the sad history of Lillian S—, 27 years of age.
Ellen McK— and Maggie C— are two Irish girls, 16 years old, who were together committed here after having escaped from the House of the Good Shepherd in Troy. Only 16, yet Ellen is in broken health and Maggie has been pronounced incurably diseased by physicians. Ellen was brought up by her godmother, Maggie's mother is dead, and both went to the bad when very young.
Got drunk on the day she was to have been married. Committed to the Refuge, aged 18. That is the record of Florence M, a gentle faced girl who is the mother of a child now in the Babies' Nursery at Albany.
A victim of the morphine habit, Lizzie McM—, aged 23, was committed, convicted of prostitution. Her mother is in the penitentiary.
There is still more of Mary A. Worswick's account of her visit to the House of Refuge for Women, but we will save it for another day.

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