Kansas State Industrial Farm 1921
Kansas State Industrial Farm
In 1887 women were sentenced to prison at the Kansas State Penitentiary where they stayed at the Women’s Ward on prison grounds. In April of 1916, the women were removed from the Women’s Ward to a farmhouse a mile from the main prison grounds. One year later, the Board of Corrections named it the Kansas Industrial Farm for Women and established it as a separate institution. Here women served their sentence free from chains and bars, working the farm and residing in cottage style buildings. While the Kansas State Industrial Farm changed its name in 1983, reflecting the shift from farming to vocational and educational training, the institution lasted until the last female inmates moved to Topeka in 1995.
In November of 1921, KSIF inmates numbered 1416-1425 were all charged with lascivious conduct, also known as lewd or lascivious behavior. Lascivious conduct is sexual behavior that is considered contrary to local morals. Sentencing for lascivious behavior ranged anywhere from 30 days to 6 months.
What do you think?
Below are some excerpts from a local newspaper reporting the arrests of these women. Were the women exhibiting truly unlawful behavior, or was this an instance of extreme moral policing?
Monday November 21, The Columbus Daily Advocate
DANCE RAIDS BEGIN
County Officers arrested girls Saturday Night
AT THE SKIDMORE DANCE HALL
Shall the public dance hall go? Shall it go on until all the girls—and boys, too—are ruined, or merely well started on the road to ruin? In the Cherokee County jail today are six girls and young women, of whom five tearfully admit: “The public dance got us here!”
One of the young women has a baby; another has two children. And yet, even the ties of motherhood were not strong enough to keep them from being caught in the same trap that enmeshed the younger girls. …(the officers) raided the Skidmore dance hall Saturday evening about 9:30, and took from the floor several girls against whom the officers say they have ample evidence to send them to the Women’s Industrial Farm at Lansing.
“It was one of those cheek –to-cheek, nose-rubbing affairs,” said one of the raiding party today. “About the same kind you see at any public dance now-adays, where all elements mingle promiscuously.” ...With these arrests, this makes a total of ten women who have been picked up within the past five days.
Thursday November 24, The Columbus Weekly Advocate
Parents Do Not Control.
“Some parents would be astounded” said Dr. Montgomery today. “If they knew of the demoralizing influence of public dance halls. Their girls may be the next ones caught...Understand, I am not opposed to good clean dances, but can you show me where there ever was, or will be, a clean public dance where every class of people can come in for a dollar or less?”
“This is only a beginning” said an officer today. “There will be other raids...and we expect to increase the attendance at the Women’s Industrial Home at Lansing..in the next six months”
To Prevent Disease
It is the business of the County Health Department to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, so far as possible. For this reason, the arrest of any males or females, suspected or believed to be spreading veneral diseases, becomes a matter of vital interest to the health authorities. Dr. Montgomery said today: "The public should understand that whether the other county officers make a raid, or whether it is done directly by my authority, I would be derelict in my duty if I did not insist upon a physical examination to determine whether persons arrested for lewd or lascivious conduct are really afflicted with this loathsome disease. And that is the reason the State of Kansas and the federal government has provided a place at Lansing, where these kind of people can be isolated for treatment.