Dr Rachel Bennett (University of Warwick)
Identifying and Advocating for Women’s Health: The Duchess of Bedford’s 1919 Committee of Enquiry into Medical Care in Holloway Prison
Inside Reform: Prison Healthcare Campaigns, Past and Present. Inside Reform was a policy workshop co-convened by Associate Professor Catherine Cox (UCD) and Professor Hilary Marland(Warwick), as part of their Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award Project, ‘Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000’. This event was hosted by the UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland and held at the National Gallery of Ireland on 2 June 2017.
When it opened in 1852 Holloway Prison catered for male and female prisoners, however the closure of London’s Newgate Prison in 1902 and the increasing pressure for prison space prompted the decision to make Holloway a female only prison in 1903. This decision also facilitated the broader aim of achieving the absolute separation of the sexes. Holloway became the largest female prison in England but it was quickly faced with overcrowding and a new wing had to be added in 1906.
During the First World War the prison experienced shortages of provisions and medical staff and its wake the site became a site for inquiry and subject for debate over healthcare in prisons. The inquiry of 1919 was in part borne out of concerns that were being raised over the conditions of women being received into the prison.
Dr Rachel Bennett is a Research Fellow on the Wellcome Trust project, ‘Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000’, at the University of Warwick. Her research strand is focused upon medical care in English and Irish women’s prisons and examines provisions for maternity care and childbirth in the prison, the distinct responses of women to the prison experience and the importance of women’s reform groups and charitable organisations in identifying and advocating for female prisoner health needs. Her broader research interests include several facets of crime and punishment in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, the intersections between medical advancement and the criminal justice system, and the pre- and post-mortem treatment of the criminal body.