(Re)Examining Feminism and Justice

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Canadian Journal of Women and the Law. Volume 23, Number 1 (2011), p. 385-391.


female offenders; Feminism; homeless female offenders; justice; official crime statistics; powerless women in court system; Toronto Women's Court; women and court; women and crime; women criminality Canada


Overall, Glasbeek concludes that maternal feminists’ belief that moral typologies could be mapped onto criminal law enforcement with relative ease resulted in their strong support for the Toronto Women’s Court.Overall, this study combines an excellent use of archival and primary sources with a sophisticated and nuanced assessment of the women associated with the Toronto Women’s Court, including both its proponents and supporters as well as those who appeared there as accused persons. Glasbeek is particularly careful in assessing the “evidence,” noting how often the circumstances and views of accused women are presented by official reports and commentaries, not by these women themselves, many of whom were “poor, sometimes homeless, often illiterate, and relatively powerless.” Her meticulous review of archival sources includes city jail registers at three-year intervals, official crime statistics, press reports (particularly the police court columns), and case files of the Andrew Mercer Ontario Reformatory for Females, where many women were imprisoned with indeterminate sentences and then later released subject to parole supervision by the Mercer. Particularly in Chapters 4 and 5, but also throughout the book, Glasbeek’s review of women’s “cases” provide important data about women and criminality in Toronto in the early decades of the twentieth century, even though they may well reveal only a fraction of their stories. As Glasbeek suggests, some of these women’s stories provide a “counterpoint” to the interpretations routinely offered by the TLCW in their public pronouncements about social problems relating to women and crime, and the need for a Women’s Court to dispense equal justice.

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