Forgotten Female Felons
My newest book-in-progress.
Publish date is mid-2024.S
Scroll down for more photos and information.
Images used with permission from the
Museum of Colorado Prisons
FORGOTTEN FEMALE FELONS is a book of short fiction stories about the early women incarcerated in the Territorial, then Colorado State Prison, from roughly 1872 to the early 1900s. The bones of the stories are based on facts, then woven with elements of history, culture, and human nature, specifically female.
This is a unique book about an overlooked piece of the American west. These women’s stories are just as valid, real, and interesting as the explorers, soldiers, and cowboys.
All of us have thoughts and acts we keep secret, and the female felons are no different. How many of them played over and over in their minds the choices they had made, wishing for a second chance? These women are part of the tapestry of life that we all are part of, the darker rougher side that we learn from vicariously.
“I have hope that each female felon left prison determined to put her prison experience behind her and be welcomed home by her family and friends. I also believe that by explaining the social and cultural context of the times in which these women lived, that the reader will have a better understanding of their experiences. I hope I have managed, in some small way, to restore the dignity and worth of these women.” Sherry Skye Stuart
I first met these ladies over ten years ago in the basement archives of the Colorado Museum of Prisons. Their faces tugged at my heart and imagination, as I carefully scanned the fragile log sheets bound into thick bulky notebooks. Each logsheet detailed the facts of their incarceration - name, age, crime, location, parents, spouse, occupation, literacy, drug use, length of imprisonment, and release.
All of it fascinating reading. What stuck with me however, were their faces and dresses and hats. They looked like "normal" women, not like criminals. I realized that they were someone's mother, sister, cousin, neighbor. They were real women with real stories.
After I developed my presentation of the same name, I delved even deeper. I found some of these women on census records, in newspaper articles, court records. As women, most of them disappeared from public records.
In time, I began writing fiction stories about possibilities, envisioning them as whole women, not just about perhaps the worst thing they had ever done. Or maybe they didn't even commit the crime.
My book will be ready in late 2023. I want to introduce you to these ladies, to in some measure, restore their dignity as women.