Celebrated prison reformer Miriam Van Waters made history for her sensational battle to retain the superintendency of the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women in 1949. Maternal Justice provides a compelling biography of this early lesbian activist by moving beyond the controversy to tell the story of a remarkable woman whose success rested upon the power of her own charismatic leadership. Estelle B. Freedman draws from Van Waters's diaries, letters, and personal papers to recreate her complex personal life, unveiling the disparity between Van Waters's public persona and her agonized private soul. With the power and elegance of a vel, Maternal Justice illuminates this historical context, casting light on the social welfare tradition, on women's history, on the American feminist movement, and on the history of sexuality. Maternal Justice is as much a work of history as it is biography, bringing to life t only a remarkable woman but also the complex political and social milieu within which she worked and lived. --Kelleher Jewett, Nation This sympathetic biography reclaims Van Waters for history. --Publishers Weekly
Winner of Sierra Prize of the Western Association of Women Historians 1997.