Policing Sex in the Sunflower State, keynote address at KAH conference

Thirsty's Brew Pub and Grill, Hays, KS

Nicole Perry, author of Policing Sex in the Sunflower State: The Story of the Kansas State Industrial Farm for Women, will deliver the keynote address at the Kansas Association of Historians conference in Hays, KS.

Between the years of 1917 and 1942, over 5,000 women were detained at the Kansas State Industrial Farm for Women under Chapter 205. This state law allowed health authorities to “quarantine” women for no other offense than having a venereal disease, while men were allowed to walk free. In the interwar period, 70 percent of the population at this women’s prison were there under Chapter 205, serving sentences that averaged four months. Chapter 205 was a clear example of state-sanctioned discrimination, yet it was not only men behind this policy. A group of activist women lobbied to create the Farm as one of their first legislative priorities after winning the right to vote in the state. Professional women took over the task of “reforming” the detained inmates once they were at the institution, attempting to instill proper notions of femininity. This presentation will explore the lives of the women involved with this institution—the activist women who lobbied to create the Farm, the professional women who worked there, and the inmates whose freedom was taken away—to raise questions for us to consider today about ethical activism, learning from history, and how to protect women’s right to reproductive healthcare.