The Period of Hard Labor

Having passed solitary confinement and probation, I entered upon
the third stage, hard labor, when I was permitted to leave my cell
to assist in carrying meals from the kitchen, and to sit at my door
and converse with the prisoners in the adjoining cells for two hours
daily–but always in the presence of an officer who controls and limits
the conversation. My daily routine was now also somewhat different from
that of solitary confinement and probation.

At six o’clock the bell rings to rise. Half an hour later a second bell
signifies to the officers that it is time to come on duty. Each warder
in charge of certain wards–there are three wards to each hall–then
goes to the chief matron’s office, where she receives a key wherewith
to unlock the prisoners’ cells. All keys are given up by the female
warder before going off duty, and locked for the night in an iron safe
under the charge of a male warder. When again in possession of her key
she repairs to her ward, and at the order, “Unlock,” she lets out the
prisoners to empty their slops. This done, they are once more locked
in, with the exception of three women who go down to the kitchen to
fetch the cans of tea and loaves of bread which make up the prisoners’
breakfast. At Woking the breakfast was of cocoa and coarse meal bread,
while later, at Aylesbury, it consisted of tea and white bread. I am
constrained to remark here that more consideration should be shown by
the medical officer toward women who complain of being physically unfit
to do heavy lifting and carrying. The can is carried by two women up
two or three flights of stairs, according to the location of their
ward, and the bread by one woman only. Each can contains fourteen
quarts of tea, and the bread-basket holds thirty pounds or more of
bread. To a woman with strong muscles it may cause no distress, but in
the case of myself and others equally frail, the physical strain was
far beyond our strength, and left us utterly exhausted after the task.

The breakfast was served at seven o’clock, when the officers returned
to the mess-room to take theirs. At 7:30 a bell rang again, and the
officers returned to their respective wards. At ten minutes to eight
the order was given, “Unlock.” Once more the doors were opened. Then
followed the order, “Chapel,” and each woman stood at her door with
Bible, prayer-book, and hymn-book in hand. At the words “Pass on,” they
file one behind the other into the chapel, where a warder from each
ward sits with her back to the altar that she may be able the better
to watch those under her charge and see that they do not speak. After
a service of twenty minutes the prisoners file back to their cells,
place their books on the lower shelf, and with a drab cape and a white
straw hat stand in readiness for the next order, “To your doors.” This
given, they descend into the hall and pass out to their respective
places of work.


Many of these women have their tender, spiritual moments. At such times
they will beg for a favorite hymn to be sung at the chapel service
on Sunday, and their requests are generally granted by the chaplain.
He is the only friend of the prisoner, and his work is arduous and
often thankless. He is the only one within the walls to whom she may
turn for sympathy and advice. It may not be every woman who gladly
avails herself of the enforced privilege of attending daily chapel.
“Religion,” as a term, is unpalatable to many. But there are very few
who are not better and happier for the few moments’ unofficial talk
with her chaplain, be she Protestant or Roman Catholic.

It is to be regretted that his authority is so limited, and his
opportunities for brightening the lives of those who walk in dark
places so few. Red tape and standing orders confront him at every
turn, so that even the religious training is drawn and sucked beneath
the mighty wheel of the Penal Code, and there is no time for personal
suasion to play more than a minor part in a convict’s life.


The work for first offenders, who are called the “Star Class,” consists
of labor in the kitchen, the mess, and the officers’ quarters. Six
months after I entered upon the third stage I was put to work in the
kitchen. My duties were as follows: To wash ten cans, each holding
four quarts; to scrub one table, twenty feet in length; two dressers,
twelve feet in length; to wash five hundred dinner-tins; to clean
knives; to wash a sack of potatoes; to assist in serving the dinners,
and to scrub a piece of floor twenty by ten feet. Besides myself there
were eight other women on hard labor in the kitchen. Our day commenced
at 6 A.M., and continued until 5:30 P.M. A half hour at breakfast time,
twenty minutes at chapel, one hour and a half after the midday meal,
and half an hour after tea summed up our leisure. The work was hard and
rough. The combined heat of the coppers, the stove, and the steamers
was overpowering, especially on hot summer days; but I struggled on,
doing this work preferably to some other, because the kitchen was the
only place where the monotony of prison life was broken. It was the
“show place,” and all visitors looked in to see the food.


What dining in prison means may be judged by a perusal of the schedule
as given in the Prison Commission Report:



Three-quarters of a pint of cocoa, containing ½ ounce of cocoa, 2
ounces milk, ½ ounce of molasses. Bread.


Sunday. 4 ounces tinned pressed beef. Bread.

} 3 ounces (cooked), with its
} own liquor, flavored with ½
Monday. Mutton } ounce onions, and thickened
Tuesday. Beef } with bread and potatoes left
Wednesday. Mutton } on previous days, 1/8 ounce
Friday. Beef } of flour, and for every 100
} convicts, ¾ ounce of pepper.
} ¾ pound potatoes. Bread.

Saturday. 1 pint soup, containing 6 ounces of shins of beef
(uncooked), 1 ounce pearl barley, 3 ounces of fresh vegetables,
including onions, and for every 100 convicts, ¾ ounce pepper. ¾
pound potatoes. Bread.

Thursday. ¾ pound pudding, containing 1 ounce 2 drachms water. ¾ pound
potatoes. Bread.


1 pint gruel, containing 2 ounces oatmeal, ¾ ounce molasses, 2 ounces
milk. Bread.

Bread per convict per week, 118 ounces.

Bread per convict each week-day, 16 ounces.

Bread per convict each Sunday, 22 ounces.

Salt per convict per day, ½ ounce.[2]


During the four years I worked in the kitchen I saw many people. The
Duke of Connaught, Sir Evelyn Wood and his staff, Lord Alverston, Sir
Edward du Cane, the late Lord Rothschild, and Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise,
besides judges, magistrates, authors, philanthropists and others of an
inquiring turn of mind, who had obtained the necessary permit to make
the tour of the prison under the escort of the governor or one or two
of his satellites. These ladies and gentlemen expressed the most varied
and sometimes startling opinions. I recollect on one occasion, when
some visitors happened to be inspecting the kitchen during the dishing
up of the hospital patients’ dinner, one old gentleman of the party was
quite scandalized at the sight of a juicy mutton-chop and a tempting
milk pudding. He expostulated in such a way that the governor hastened
to explain that it was not the ordinary prison diet, but was intended
for a very sick woman. Even then this old gentleman was not satisfied,
and stalked out, audibly grumbling about people living on the fat of
the land and getting a better dinner than he did. I firmly believe that
he left the prison under the impression that its inmates lived like
pampered gourmets, and that he no longer marveled there were so many
criminals when they were fed on such luxuries.


On another occasion a benevolent-looking old lady, having given
everything and everybody as minute an inspection as was possible,
expressed herself as being charmed, remarking:

“Everything is so nice and homelike!”

I have often wondered what that good lady’s home was like.

A little philosophy is useful, a saving grace, even in prison; but
people have such different ways of expressing sympathy. A visitor, who
I have no doubt intended to be sympathetic, noticing the letter “L” on
my arm, inquired:

“How long a time have you to do?”

“I have just completed ten years,” was my reply.

“Oh, well,” cheerfully responded the sympathetic one, “you have done
half your time, haven’t you? The remaining ten years will soon slip
by”; and the visitor passed on, blissfully ignorant of the sword she
had unwittingly thrust into my aching heart. Even if a prisoner has
little or no hope of a mitigation, it is not pleasant to have an old
wound ruthlessly handled, and ten years’ imprisonment as lightly spoken
of as ten days might be.


I preferred the kitchen work, although often beyond my strength, to any
other that fell to a prisoner’s lot, because of the glimpses into the
outside world it occasionally afforded. But I never permitted myself
to dwell upon the fact that at one time I had been the social equal
of at least the majority of those with whom I thus came into passing
contact, since to do so would have made my position by contrast so
unbearable that it would have unfitted me to do the work in a spirit
of submission, not to speak of the mental suffering which awakened
memories would have occasioned. I soon found that both my spiritual and
my mental salvation, under the repressive rules in force, depended upon
unresisting acquiescence–the keeping of my sensibilities dulled as
near as possible to the level of the mere animal state which the Penal
Code, whether intentionally or otherwise, inevitably brings about.

I have been frequently asked by friends, since my release, how I could
possibly have endured the shut-in life under such soul-depressing
influences. I have given here and there in my narrative indications
of my feelings under different circumstances. Here I may state in
general that I early found that thoughts of without and thoughts of
within–those that haunted me of the world and those that were ever
present in my surroundings–would not march together. I had to keep
step with either the one or the other. The conflict between the two
soon became unbearable, and I was compelled to make choice: whether
I would live in the past and as much as possible exclude the prison,
and take the punishment which would inevitably follow–as it had in
so many cases–in an unbalanced mind; or would shut the past out
altogether and coerce my thoughts within the limitations of the prison
regulations. My safety lay, as I found, in compressing my thoughts to
the smallest compass of mental existence, and no sooner did worldly
visions or memories intrude themselves, as they necessarily would, than
I immediately and resolutely shut them out as one draws the blind to
exclude the light. While I thus suppressed all emotions belonging to
a natural life, I nevertheless found, whenever I came accidentally in
contact with visitors from the outside world, that my inner nature was
attuned like the strings of a harp to the least vibration of others’
emotions. The slightest unconscious inflection of the voice, whether
sympathetic or otherwise, would call forth either a grateful response
or an instant withdrawal into the armor of reserve which I had to adopt
for my self-protection. But this exclusion of the world created a dark
background which served only to intensify the light that shone upon me
from realms unseen of mortal eyes. Lonely I was, yet I was never alone.
But, however satisfying the spiritual communion, the human heart is so
constituted that it needs must yearn for love and sympathy from its own
kind, for recognition of all that is best in us, by something that is
like unto it, in its experiences, feelings, emotions, and aspirations.


A prisoner is allowed to receive a visit from her friends at intervals
of six, four, and two months, according to her stage of service.
There are four stages, each of nine months’ duration: first, solitary
confinement; second, probation; while the third and fourth stages are
not specially designated. During the first two stages the prisoner is
clothed in brown, at the third stage in green, and the fourth in navy
blue. Every article worn by the prisoner or in use by her is stamped
with a “broad arrow,” the convict’s crest.

A visit may be forfeited by bad conduct or delayed through a loss
of marks. When a prisoner is entitled to receive a visitor, she
applies to the governor for permission to have the permit sent to the
person she names; but if the police report concerning the designated
visitor is unfavorable the request is not granted. When a prisoner’s
friends–three being the maximum–arrive at the prison gates they ring
a bell. The gatekeeper views them through a grille and inquires their
business. They show their permit; whereupon he notifies the chief
matron, who in turn notifies the officer in charge of the prisoner.

The rule regarding visits precluded any discussion of prison affairs,
or anything regarding treatment, or aught that passes within the
prison walls. Had I permitted myself to break this rule the visit
would have been stopped at once by the matron in charge. Consequently,
all the statements on such matters reported from time to time in the
press during my imprisonment, and quoted as received from my mother or
friends, are shown to be pure fabrications.


A visit! What joy or what sorrow those words express in the outside
world! But in prison–the pain of it is so great that it can hardly be

Whenever my mother’s visit was announced, accompanied by a matron I
passed into a small, oblong room. There a grilled screen confronted me;
a yard or two beyond was a second barrier identical in structure, and
behind it I could see the form of my mother, and sitting in the space
between the grilles, thus additionally separating us, was a prison
matron. No kiss; not even a clasp of the hand; no privacy sacred to
mother and daughter; not a whisper could pass between us. Was not this
the very depth of humiliation?

My mother crossed every two months from France to visit me. Neither
heat nor cold deterred her from taking this fatiguing journey. Thus
again and again she traveled a hundred miles for love of me, to cheer,
comfort, and console; a hundred miles for thirty minutes!

At these visits she would tell me as best she could of the noble,
unwearied efforts of my countrymen and countrywomen in my cause; of
the sympathy and support of my own Government; of the earnest efforts
of the different American ambassadors in my behalf. And though their
efforts proved all in vain, the knowledge of their belief in my
innocence, and of their sympathy comforted, cheered, and strengthened
me to tread bravely the thorny path of my daily life.

Almost before we had time to compose ourselves there would come a
silent sign from the mute matron in the chair–the thirty minutes
had passed. “Good-by,” we say, with a lingering look, and then turn
our backs upon each other, she to go one way, I another; one leading
out into the broad, open day, the other into the stony gloom of the
prison. Do you wonder that when I went back into my lonely cell the
day had become darker? I went forth to meet a crown of joy and love,
only to return with a cross of sorrow; for these visits always created
passionate longings for freedom, with their vivid recollections of past
joys that at times were almost unbearable. No one will ever know what
my mother suffered.


As the years passed the repression of the prison system developed a
kind of mental numbness which rendered my life, in a measure, more
endurable. It also came as a relief to my own sufferings to take an
interest in those of my fellow prisoners. Then Lord Russell of Killowen
wrote me a letter[3] expressing his continued confidence in me, which
greatly renewed my courage, while the loving messages from my friends
in America kept alive my faith in human nature.


By the exercise of great self-control and restraint I had maintained a
perfect good-conduct record at Woking for a period of years, when an
act of one of my fellow prisoners got me into grievous trouble.

It is the rule to search daily both the cell and the person of all
prisoners–those at hard labor three times a day–to make sure that
they have nothing concealed with which they may do themselves bodily

To me it was a bitter indignity. I was never allowed to forget that,
being a prisoner, even my body was not my own. It was horrible to
be touched by unfriendly hands, yet I was compelled to submit–to
be undressed and be searched. During the term of my imprisonment I
was searched about ten thousand times, and on only one occasion was
anything found contrary to regulations. I had no knowledge of it at
the time, as the article had been placed surreptitiously in my cell by
another prisoner to save herself from punishment.

The facts are as follows: I was working in the kitchen, when a prisoner
upset some boiling water on my foot. I thought it best not to speak of
it, and did not, therefore, mention it to any one. My foot, however,
became inflamed and caused me great pain, and the prisoner in question,
noticing that I limped, inquired what the matter was. I told her that
the coarse wool of my stocking was irritating the blister on my foot.
Thereupon she offered to give me some wool of a finer quality with
which to knit a more comfortable pair. I was not aware at the time that
this was not permitted, nor that the wool was stolen. When it neared
her turn to be searched, having a lot of this worsted concealed in
her bed, she made the excuse of indisposition in order to return to
her cell and get rid of it. While there she transferred it from her
cell to mine, its neighbor, the doors of the cells being open during

[Illustration: BARONESS VON ROQUES, The mother of Mrs. Maybrick.]

When the time came to search my cell, the wool was, of course, found,
and I was at once reported. The warder took me to the penal ward, and
I was shut in a cell, in which the light came but dimly through a
perforated sheet of iron. This was at eight A.M. At ten o’clock I was
brought before the governor for examination and judgment. I stated that
the wool did not belong to me and that I was ignorant as to how it got
into my cell. The governor took the officer’s deposition to the effect
that it was found in my cell, and reasoned that I must, therefore,
have knowledge of the article. I was taken back to the punishment cell
and left there for eight hours. When the officer opened the door to
read to me the governor’s judgment, I was found in a dead faint on the
floor. With some difficulty I was restored to consciousness and was
then removed to the hospital. When I had sufficiently recovered from
the shock, I was allowed to return to my own cell in the hall to do my
punishment. I was degraded for a month to a lower stage, with a loss of
twenty-six marks, and had six days added to my original sentence.

Had this offense occurred under the more enlightened system that
obtains at Aylesbury Prison at the present time, I should have been
forgiven, as it was a first offense under this particular rule. The
governor at Woking was a just and humane man, and he was not a little
troubled to reconcile the fact of my being in possession of this
worsted, when I had no means of access to the tailor shop or of coming
in contact with any of the workers there who alone had the handling
of it. Of course, I could not explain that the worsted had been passed
into the kitchen by one of the tailoresses, who came every morning to
fetch hot water for use in the tailor-room, and who was a friend of the
prisoner who put it in my cell.

I was kept in the hall during the months of my penal punishment, and
also for twelve months thereafter, since at that time a “report” always
carried with it a loss of the privilege of working in the kitchen.
When I had an opportunity, in “association time,” of speaking to the
prisoner who had got me into this trouble, and reproached her for the
injury she had done me, she frankly confessed her deed, but excused
herself by saying that she did not expect I would be punished; that
she was tempted to do it because at that time her case was under
consideration at the Home Office, and that she had received the promise
of an early discharge if she did not have any “reports.” She well knew
that if this worsted had been found in her cell this promise would
have been revoked. As she was a “life woman,” and had served a long
time, I had not the heart to deprive her of this, perhaps her only
chance of freedom, through a vindication of myself. A week later I had
the satisfaction of knowing that my silence had been the means of her


The punishment of prisoners at Woking consisted of:

1. Loss of marks, termed in prison parlance, “remission on her
sentence,” but without confinement in the penal ward.

2. Solitary confinement for twenty-four hours in the penal ward, with
loss of marks.

3. Solitary confinement, with loss of marks, on bread and water from
one to three days.

4. Solitary confinement, with loss of marks, on bread and water for
three days, either in a strait-jacket or “hobbles.” Hobbling consists
in binding the wrists and ankles of a prisoner, then strapping them
together behind her back. This position causes great suffering, is
barbarous, and can be enforced only by the doctor’s orders.

5. To the above was sometimes added, in violent cases, shearing and
blistering of the head, or confinement in the dark cell. The dark
cell was underground, and consisted of four walls, a ceiling, and a
floor, with double doors, in which not a ray of light penetrated. No. 5
punishment was abolished at Aylesbury, but in that prison even to give
a piece of bread to a fellow prisoner is still a punishable offense.


Punishment should be carried out in a humane, sympathetic spirit, and
not in a dehumanizing or tyrannous manner. It should be remedial in
character, and not degrading and deteriorating. It should be the aim
and object of the prison system to send a prisoner back into the world
capable of rehabilitating himself or herself and becoming a useful
citizen. The punishment in a convict prison, within my knowledge, is
carried out in an oppressive way, the delinquent is left entirely to
herself to work out her own salvation, and in nine cases out of ten
she works out her own destruction instead, and leaves prison hardened,
rancorous, and demoralized.


There are so many prisoners with whom complaint-making is a mania,
who on every possible occasion make trivial, exaggerated, and false
complaints, that it is not altogether strange that officials look
with a certain skepticism on all fault-finding; hence it frequently
happens that those with just grievances are discredited because of the
shortcomings of the habitual grumblers. At the same time, one can not
disapprove too strongly of collective punishment which involves the
utter absence of trust in any prisoner, however deserving. A prisoner
slightly abuses a privilege or is guilty of some small infringement of
the rules, when down comes the hammer wielded by the inexorable Penal
Code, and strikes not only the one offending, but, in its expansive
dealing, all the other prisoners, guilty or innocent of the offense.
Many a privilege, trivial in itself and absolutely harmless, has been
condemned because of its abuse by one prisoner.

I cite one instance. Each cell was provided with a nail on which,
during the day, the prisoner could hang a wet towel, and, during the
night, her clothes. Those who worked in the laundry came in with wet
clothing every evening, which, as no change is allowed, must be either
dried at night or put on wet the next morning. One prisoner pulled her
nail out and purposely wounded herself. She was weak-minded, and no
doubt thought to excite pity. The matter was referred to the director,
Mr. Pennythorne, who gave the order that all the nails throughout
the building be removed. Hence, because of the shortcomings of one
weak-minded woman, all opportunity for the working women to dry their
clothes was taken from them. Others besides myself appealed to the
director and protested. He replied that we would be obliged to submit
to the edict the same as the rest, and that no distinction could be
made in our favor. Of course we could not argue the matter; the penalty
fell heavier upon the laundry women and the kitchen workers than upon
myself. It is a glaring instance of the great wrong done by collective
punishment. However, the prisoners had their revenge, for they never
referred to him afterward except as “Mr. Pennynails.”


Individual supervision is compulsory, and in many cases it is
essential, but not in all. Surely there are some prisoners who might,
with good results, be trusted. The supervision is never relaxed; the
prisoner is always in sight or hearing of an officer. During the day
she is never trusted out of sight, and at night the watchful eye of the
night officer can see her by means of a small glass fitted in the door
of each cell. She may grow gray during the length of her imprisonment,
but the rule of supervision is never relaxed. Try and realize what
it means always to feel that you are watched. After all, these
prisoners are women, some may be mothers, and it is surely the height
of wickedness and folly to crush whatever remnant of humanity and
self-respect even a convict woman may still have left her. These poor
creatures who wear the brand of prison shame are guarded and controlled
by women, but men make the rules which regulate every movement of
their forlorn lives.


The rules of prison, rigorous as they are, are not wholly without
some consideration for the hapless beings who are condemned to suffer
punishment for their sins within their gloomy walls. On the men’s side
the system is harsher, the life harder, and the discipline more strict
and severe; and I can well believe that for a man of refinement and
culture the punishment falls little short of a foretaste of inferno.
But gloomy and tragic as the convict establishment is, it is a better
place than the county prison, and I have heard habitual criminals avow
that a convict prison is the nearest approach to a comfortable “home”
in the penal world. I know that a certain type of degenerate women,
after serving their sentences, have committed grave offenses with the
sole object of obtaining a conviction which would send them back to
penal servitude. For such the segregation system would be the most
effectual remedy.


I had never been a robust woman, and the hardships of prison life were
breaking down my constitution. The cells at Woking were not heated. In
the halls were two fireplaces and a stove, which were alight day and
night; but as the solid doors of the cells were all locked, the heat
could not penetrate them. Thus, while the atmosphere outside the cell
might be warm, the inside was icy cold. During the hard winter frosts
the water frequently froze in my cell over night. The bed-clothing was
insufficient, and I suffered as much from the cold as the poorest and
most miserable creature on earth. Added to this, I was compelled to go
out and exercise in all kinds of weather. On rainy days I would come in
with my shoes and stockings wet through, and as I possessed only one
pair of shoes and one pair of stockings, I had to keep them on, wet as
they were. The shoes I had to wear until worn out; the stockings until
changed on the Saturday of each week, which was the only day a change
of any kind of underwear could be obtained, no matter in what condition
it might be. Therefore, the majority of the inmates in the winter time
seldom had dry feet, if there was much rain or snow, the natural result
being catarrh, influenza, bronchitis, and rheumatism, from all of which
I suffered in turn.


As long as the prisoner is not feverish she is treated in her own cell
in the ward, her food remaining the ordinary prison dietary; but as
soon as her temperature rises, as occurred in my case frequently, she
is admitted as a patient to the infirmary, where she is fed according
to medical prescription.

The infirmary stands a little detached from the prison grounds. It has
several wards, containing from six to fifteen beds, and several cells
for cases that require isolation. The beds are placed on each side of
the room, and are covered with blue and white counterpanes. At the head
of each is a shelf, on which stand two cups, a plate, and a diet card.
In the middle of each room is a long deal table. On the walls are a few
old Scriptural pictures.


When a prisoner is admitted she is first weighed and then allotted a
bed. Her food and medicine are given her by an officer, who places it
on a chair at her bedside if she is too ill to sit at the table. The
doctor makes his rounds in the morning and evening, and if the patient
is seriously ill he may make a visit in the night also. The matron
in charge goes through the wards at stated times to see that all is
going well, but there is no nursing. The prisoner must attend to her
own wants, and if too weak to do so, she must depend upon some other
patient less ill than herself to assist her. To be sick in prison is
a terrible experience. I felt acutely the contrast between former
illnesses at home and the desolation and the indifference of the
treatment under conditions afforded by a prison infirmary. To lie all
day and night, perhaps day after day, and week after week, alone and in
silence, without the touch of a friendly hand, the sound of a friendly
voice, or a single expression of sympathy or interest! The misery and
desolation of it all can not be described. It must be experienced. I
arrived at Woking ill, and I left Woking ill.


[2] A convict employed in washing, or other exceptional hard work, may
have daily an extra allowance of 3 ounces bread, and cheese 1 ounce,
as an intermediate meal between breakfast and dinner, and an extra
allowance of 1 ounce of meat (uncooked) four times a week. A convict
on entering the second-class will have the choice of 1 pint of tea
(made of 1/6 ounce tea, ½ ounce of sugar, 2 ounces milk) and 2 ounces
additional bread instead of gruel for supper; and a convict on entering
the first or special class will have, in addition to the above, the
choice of 4 ounces of baked mutton cooked in its own liquor, not
flavored or thickened, instead of boiled meat or soup, if she takes tea
instead of gruel. The food is wholesome, but spoiled by overcooking.
But oh, how jaded the palate becomes!


I had been admitted to the infirmary suffering from a feverish cold.
I had been in bed a fortnight and was feeling very weak, when, on the
morning of November 4, 1896, I awoke to find the matron standing at
my bedside. “Maybrick,” she said, “the governor has given orders that
you are to be removed to-day to Aylesbury Prison. Get up at once.”
Without a word of explanation she left. I had become a living rule of
obedience, and so with trembling hands dressed myself. Presently I
heard footsteps approaching. A female warder entered with a long, dark
cloak covered with broad arrows, the insignia of the convict. I was
told to put on this garment of shame. Then, supported by the warder,
I crossed the big yard to the chief matron’s office. There other women
of the “Star Class” were waiting, handcuffed. A male warder stepped
forward and told me to hold out my hands, whereupon he fastened on a
pair of handcuffs and chained me to the rest of the gang. This was done
by means of a chain which ran through an outer ring attached to each
pair of handcuffs, thus uniting ten women in a literal chain-gang.
This was to me the last straw of degradation–the parting indignity
of hateful Woking; but, happily, this was a painful prelude to a more
merciful régime at Aylesbury.

Some of the women were weeping, some swearing. When all were ready the
prison-van drove into the yard and we filed out to the clanking of our
chains. Then the door was shut and we were driven off. A special train
was waiting at the station, and escorted between male warders we got
in. It was bitterly cold and raining heavily, but crowds lined the road
and platforms.


Copyright by S. G. Payne & Son, Aylesbury.

AYLESBURY PRISON, Where Mrs. Maybrick was confined from 1896 to 1904.]


We were objects of morbid curiosity to the idle and curious people, who
may or may not have felt sorry for us. But to be stared at was most
distressing to all, to the first offender in particular. If the public
but realized how prisoners suffer when their disgrace is thus brought
to the public notice, they might feel ashamed of their lack of ordinary
human consideration and pass on. But why should it be necessary at all
to subject a prisoner to such humiliation and degradation? Male as well
as female prisoners could be transferred from one prison to another
without attracting any notice in the street or at the station, if
they were provided with garments for traveling upon which the hideous
brand of shame–the “broad arrow”–is not stamped. It is this mark of
condemnation which attracts the morbid curiosity of the people. Such
exhibitions and the callous disregard of a prisoner’s feelings can
only harden and embitter the heart and lower his or her self-respect.


After a journey of nearly five hours we arrived at Aylesbury Station.
The public were apparently aware that the first batch of convicts was
to be transferred that day, as there were crowds at all the stations at
which we stopped. When we got out at Aylesbury it was with difficulty
that a passage was made for us. The prison-vans were in readiness, and
we were rapidly driven away. I felt weak and faint and cold. A thick
fog enveloped the town, and I could see only the dim outlines of houses
appearing and disappearing as we passed along. We stopped before what
appeared a gigantic structure, and then drove through two large iron
gates into a small courtyard. There we descended and drew up in line
to be counted by the officer, while our numbers and names were given
to the governor, who stood waiting to receive us. The order “Pass on!”
was called by the matron in charge, whereupon we entered a long, dark,
gloomy passage, at the end of which was a strong, barred door. This was
unlocked, and, when we had passed in, relocked.

I have already described what a prison is like. Again we stood in line.
Then a male warder came forward. He unlocked my handcuffs and unclasped
the chain which bound me to my fellow convicts. With a clang that
echoed through the empty halls they fell together to the ground. My
wrists were bruised and sore from the long pressure of their combined

Presently the order “Pass on!” was repeated, and, led by a female
warder, we went up two flights of the iron stairway to the top ward of
the hall. Each prisoner was then in turn locked into a cell. Thus ended
my second journey as a prisoner. The contrast with former journeys in
my life drew bitter tears from my eyes.

During the remainder of the week daily batches of prisoners continued
to arrive, and on the sixth day all had been duly transferred from
Woking Prison, which was then turned into military barracks.

After this short break in our prison life the same daily routine was
once more taken up. Whether it was due to the change of air or other
physical causes I can not say, but from the time of my arrival I began
to droop. I lost strength and suffered terribly from insomnia.


Six months after our arrival, there came a change of authorities, and
with the passing of the years a more enlightened régime was instituted
by the Home Office. If a prisoner has any complaint to make or
wishes to seek advice, she asks to have her name put down to see the
governor. She is then termed a “wisher,” and is “seen” by him in his
office in the presence of the chief matron. Her request is written down
by him in her penal record, and if he can not settle the matter out of
hand it is referred to a “visiting director,” to whom the prisoner is
permitted to make a statement. If this gentleman finds that his powers
are insufficient to deal with the question, he in turn passes it on to
the prison commission, and sometimes it goes even to the Secretary of
State himself.

The same privilege holds good concerning medical matters. If a prisoner
is feeling ill she asks the officer in charge of the ward where she
is located to enter her name on the doctor’s book. At ten o’clock
the prisoner is sent for, and sees the doctor in the presence of an
infirmary nurse. He enters her name in a book, also the prescription,
both of which are copied later in the prisoner’s medical record. If a
prisoner is dissatisfied with the treatment she is receiving, she can
make application to see the “medical inspector,” who comes to the
prison every three months. But if neither the governor, nor the doctor,
nor the director, nor the inspector gives satisfaction, then there is
the “Board of Visitors” to inquire into the complaint.


The idea of the “Board of Visitors” is to act as a guaranty to the
public that everything is honest and above board, and that there
can be no possibility of inhuman treatment. If this is the sole
object in view–namely, that the prisoners shall be seen by these
“visitors”–then the object is largely attained. They have done much
to ameliorate the prisoners’ condition. Whereas, at one time the women
slept in their clothes, they are now provided with nightdresses;
instead of sitting with their feet always on the stone floor, they are
now allowed a small mat, as well as a wooden stool; and, as the result
of many complaints regarding the rapid decay of teeth, toothbrushes
are allowed, a concession which I much appreciated. For a short time
felt slippers were granted us, but these have been discontinued on
the ground of expense. The same beneficent influence also secured
wide-brimmed hats for the women. Formerly they had nothing to protect
their eyes, and the reflected glare from the stone walls was the cause
of much weakness and inflammation.

There were several changes in the diet also. Tea was substituted for
cocoa at breakfast and supper, white bread in lieu of wholemeal bread,
and tinned meat replaced the dry bread and cheese previously given on

The time of solitary confinement was reduced from nine months to four,
and immediately on its expiration the probationers can now work in
“association” in either the laundry or the tailor’s shops where the
officers’ uniforms–of brown cashmere in summer and navy-blue serge
in winter–are made, besides all the clothing for the prisoners’ own
use; also in the twine-room, where excellent spinning is done; while
the prisoner with special aptitude may be recommended to the bead-room,
which turns out really artistic work.


The prisoners were also allowed to receive three photographs of near
relatives and to keep them in their cells. Previously these had to be
returned within twenty-four hours. Best of all, the intervals between
letters and visits were reduced by a month. The number of letters
permitted to be sent by a prisoner varies according to the stage she
is in. In the fourth stage a letter is allowed every two months, and
a “special letter” occasionally, if the prisoner’s conduct has been

The following is a copy of the prison regulations concerning
communications between prisoners and their friends:

“The following regulations as to communications, by visit or letter,
between prisoners and their friends, are notified for the information
of their correspondents:

“The permission to write and receive letters is given to prisoners
for the purpose of enabling them to keep up a connection with their
respectable friends, and not that they may be kept informed of public

“All letters are read by the prison authorities. They must be
legibly written, and not crossed. Any which are of an objectionable
tendency, either to or from prisoners, or containing slang or improper
expressions, will be suppressed.

“Prisoners are permitted to receive and to write a letter at
intervals, which depends on the rules of the stage they attain by
industry and good conduct; but matters of special importance to a
prisoner may be communicated at any time by letter (prepaid) to the
governor, who will inform the prisoner thereof, if expedient.

“In case of misconduct the privilege of receiving and writing a letter
may be forfeited for a time.

“Money, books, postage-stamps, food, tobacco, clothes, etc., should
not be sent to prisoners for their use in prison, as nothing is
allowed to be received at the prison for that purpose.

“Persons attempting to clandestinely communicate with, or to introduce
any article to or for prisoners, are liable to fine or imprisonment,
and any prisoner concerned in such practises is liable to be severely

“Prisoners’ friends are sometimes applied to by unauthorized persons
to send money, etc., to them privately, under pretense that they can
apply it for the benefit of the prisoners, and under such fraudulent
pretense such persons endeavor to obtain money for themselves. Any
letter containing such an application received by the friends of a
prisoner should be at once forwarded by them to the governor.

“Prisoners are allowed to receive visits from their friends, according
to rules, at intervals which depend on their stage.

“When visits are due to prisoners notification will be sent to the
friends whom they desire to visit them.”

While in Woking Prison, under the privilege of these rules, I wrote the
following letter to the late Miss Mary A. Dodge (“Gail Hamilton”)–she
who was my most eloquent and steadfast champion in America:

P 29, June 24, 1892.


I feel that I owe you such a debt of gratitude for the truly noble,
beautiful, and womanly manner in which you have used that glorious
gift of God–your genius–in the cause of a helpless and sorely
afflicted sister, whose claim to your compassion was but that of a
common humanity and nationality, that I feel I must send you a few
lines, if only to disabuse your mind of any lingering doubts of my
gratitude that my silence may have caused to arise. My dear mother
has, I believe, explained to you the almost insurmountable difficulty
I find in writing to friends abroad, with only one letter every two
months at my disposal, and which I do not feel justified in depriving
her of. I can, therefore, only express through her from time to time
my heartfelt thanks for all that has been and is still being done
in my behalf. I utterly despair, however, of finding words that
shall convey to you even the faintest idea of the fulness of a heart
completely overwhelmed by the sympathy, kindness, and generosity of my
friends. My feelings of love, however, and admiration for you and them
is simply beyond all power of expression.

The world may and does bemoan the gradual extinction in this
generation of those finer and nobler traits of character which
our forefathers so beautifully exemplified; lays at the door of a
higher civilization the terrible increase of selfishness, pride, and
indifference to all the higher duties of Christianity. But, I ask,
where can a grander exception be found to such apparent degeneration
than that displayed by the conduct of those truly noble men and women,
who, without a thought of self or of the trouble involved, have stood
forth to plead the cause of their countrywoman? Could man do more
than he is doing? Could woman do more for her nearest and dearest than
the ladies of America are doing for me? No! a thousand times, no!

Some day, my health and purse permitting, I shall hope to tell them
face to face, if mere words can tell, how greatly their faithful,
unwearying efforts, their undaunted energy, their sympathy and
kindness and generosity have helped me to rise above the depressing
influences of the injustice I am suffering under, to endure patiently,
to bear bravely the hardships of this life, and to feel through all
that the hope and comfort afforded me by their help is but a beautiful
example of the way in which God answers the prayers of his people.

I would now fain beg of you, dear friend, to express my deepest and
most heartfelt gratitude to President Harrison, Mr. Blaine, and the
other members of the Cabinet. Also to all the distinguished gentlemen
who so generously attached their signatures to the splendid petition
sent lately from Washington to the Hon. Henry Matthews, Secretary
of State, London, and to assure them of my great appreciation of the
honor and justice they have done me in thus espousing my cause. Oh,
how wretchedly I have expressed what I really feel and would like to
say! But you, too, have a woman’s heart, and you can therefore realize
the feelings I find it so hard to express. It would be a still more
hopeless task to try to tell you what I think of you–noblest and
truest of women; that must wait until we meet. Until that glad day,
believe me,

Yours gratefully and sincerely,

P.S. My next date for receiving letters is 19th July.

Washington, D. C., U. S. A.


I was sitting in my cell one day feeling very weak and ill. I was
recovering from an attack of influenza, and the cold comfort of
my surroundings increased the physical and mental depression which
accompanies this complaint. I wondered vaguely why my life was spared,
why I was permitted to suffer this terrible injustice, when my sad
thoughts were distracted by the sounds of approaching voices. I arose
from my seat–which is a compulsory attitude of submission when an
authority approaches a prisoner–and stood waiting for I knew not
what. Presently I heard the tones of a voice which I can never forget
while memory lasts, though that voice is now hushed in death; a voice
which, through the darkest days of my life, ever spoke words of trust,
comfort, and encouragement. Surely I must be dreaming, I thought, or my
mind is growing weak and I am becoming fanciful; for how should this
voice reach me within these prison walls? I looked up, startled, and
once more thought my mind was wandering, for there stood the noblest,
truest friend that woman ever had: the champion of the weak and
the oppressed; the brave upholder of justice and law in the face of
prejudice and public hostility–Lord Russell of Killowen, Lord Chief
Justice of England. He stepped into my cell with a kindly smile on his
face, and sat down on my stool, while the governor waited outside. He
talked to me for half an hour, and I can never forget the beauty and
grandeur of that presence. As he rose to leave he turned toward me,
and, seeing unshed tears in my eyes, he took my hand in his, and in his
strong, emphatic way said: “Be brave, be strong; I believe you to be an
innocent woman. I have done and will continue to do all I can for you.”

It has been denied in England that Lord Russell took any interest in me
other than he might in any client he was paid to defend; but the letter
which I have already given, written to me at Woking, as well as various
statements made by him, and quoted elsewhere, must set that aspersion
at rest.