Of diverse persons, men and women and whores : women and crime in nineteenth century Canterbury.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The concept of Woman as Criminal provides the focus for an examination of the treatment of women offenders by the criminal justice system in nineteenth century Canterbury. Assumptions and ideologies implicit in criminological theories of female criminality are identified, and the translation of these into a series of stereotypical images of the female offender noted. Supreme and Magistrates Court data from the latter half of the nineteenth century is analysed in terms of the comparative treatment of men and women defendants, and the context for such investigation located within the history of Canterbury's settlement. Sentencing disparities in the court data suggest two of the stereotypical images of the woman offender to be particularly appropriate for examination within the Canterbury environment. Court and newspaper material is then analysed with a view to assessing the extent to which the stereotypes of the "sexualised" and "victimised" female offender were evident in the treatment of women defendants. Such examination occurs within the context of a discussion of Victorian sexual ideology and the idealised images of womanhood prevalent in the nineteenth century. The perception of women as either madonnas or whores is modified in accordance with the complexity of Victorian social attitudes, while the image of women offenders as helpless victims is rejected for its refusal to recognise structurally induced limits and the constraints of social realities.