Thursday, January 23, 2020
Outside the Law: Women Criminals in Arizona History :: Essays Papers
Outside the Law: Women Criminals in Arizona History Throughout history, men and women have often been stereotyped into specific roles. Men have frequently been characterized as being more forceful and violent than their female counterparts. Men have also often been portrayed as adventurous pioneers while women were considered to be more frail and delicate. Nowhere has this stereotype been more prevalent than in Arizona history. In the years before statehood, Arizona's reputation as part of the "Wild West" was legendary. From stagecoach robberies and saloon fights to the shootout at Tombstone, the early days of the Arizona territory are filled with stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Of course, most of these stories involve the men of Arizona history. Men were typically cast both as the mysterious bad guys who robbed the stage, and as the noble sheriffs who struggled to uphold the law. Women, when they were remembered at all, were most frequently cast as virtuous pioneer women, struggling to retain femininity in the rough Arizona frontier, or as wanton saloon women with few redeeming characteristics. As can be expected, however, most of these stereotypes of women in Arizona history are sorely misguided. It is true that women in the nineteenth century were expected to abide by certain standards of 'womanhood'. According to Paul Knepper in his article, "The Women of Yuma: Gender, Ethnicity, and Imprisonment in Frontier Arizona, 1876-1909", these standards were "...the cardinal virtues of submissiveness, piety, purity, and domesticity" (241). Women in the Arizona territory had the doubly difficult duty of being expected to abide by these standards of womanhood while simultaneously fighting an undeveloped territory where any signs of weakness were shunned. There was a group of women in nineteenth century Arizona who did not fit this stereotype of female passivity and decorum. These were women who, for one reason or another, broke the law and were branded as criminals. Some of these women broke the law deliberately with shocking disregard to personal life or property. Others broke the law reluctantly, only trying to feed themselves or their families. Yet others were victims of an unfair morality bias against women. When they were punished for their crimes, some of them received leniency from the court based on their gender, while others were made to suffer horrible indignities because the system had no place for women criminals.