Women are among the hardest individuals to trace through the historical record and this is especially true of female offenders who had a vested interest in not wanting to be found. That is why this thought-provoking and accessible handbook by Lucy Williams and Barry Godfrey is of such value. It looks beyond the crimes and the newspaper reports of women criminals in the Victorian era in order to reveal the reality of their personal and penal journeys, and it provides a guide for researchers who are keen to explore this intriguing and neglected subject.
The book is split into three sections. There is an introduction outlining the historical context for the study of female crime and punishment, then a series of real-life case studies which show in a vivid way the complexity of female offenders' lives and follows them through the penal system. The third section is a detailed guide to archival and online sources that readers can consult in order to explore the life-histories of criminal women.
The result is a rare combination of academic guide and how-to-do-it manual. It introduces readers to the latest research in the field and it gives them all the information they need to carry out their own research.
Dr Lucy Williams is a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Liverpool. Her publications include Wayward Women: Female Offending in Victorian England and the forthcoming Convicts in the Colonies: Transportation Tales from Britain to Australia . Professor Barry Godfrey is Professor of Social Justice at the University of Liverpool and Honorary Professor of Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University, China. Among his many publications are Crime, Wartime and Control: Protecting the Population of a Blitzed City, 1939-1945 (with P. Adey and David Cox), Victorian Convicts: 100 Criminal Lives (with Helen Johnston and David Cox) and Crime and Justice Since 1750 (with Paul Lawrence).