by Victoria Law
2012, 2nd Edition
In 1974, women imprisoned at New York's maximum-security prison at Bedford Hills staged what is known as the August Rebellion. Protesting the brutal beating of a fellow prisoner, the women fought off guards, holding seven of them hostage, and took over sections of the prison.
While many have heard of the 1971 Attica prison uprising, the August Rebellion remains relatively unknown even in activist circles. Resistance Behind Bars is determined to challenge and change such oversights. As it examines daily struggles against appalling prison conditions and injustices, Resistance documents both collective organizing and individual resistance among women incarcerated in the U.S. Emphasizing women's agency in resisting the conditions of their confinement through forming peer education groups, clandestinely arranging ways for children to visit mothers in distant prisons and raising public awareness about their lives, Resistance seeks to spark further discussion and research into the lives of incarcerated women and galvanize much-needed outside support for their struggles.
This updated and revised edition of the 2009 PASS Award winning book includes a new chapter about transgender, transsexual, intersex, and gender-variant people in prison.
"Victoria Law's eight years of research and writing, inspired by her unflinching commitment to listen to and support women prisoners, has resulted in an illuminating effort to document the dynamic resistance of incarcerated women in the United States."
"Written in regular English, rather than academese, this is an impressive work of research and reportage"
—Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row political prisoner and author of Live From Death Row
"Finally! A passionately and extensively researched book that recognizes the myriad ways in which women resist in prison, and the many particular obstacles that, at many points, hinder them from rebelling. Even after my own years inside, I learned from this book."
—Laura Whitehorn, former political prisoner
"Excellently researched and well documented, Resistance Behind Bars is a long needed and much awaited look at the struggles, protests and resistance waged by women prisoners. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the modern American gulag."
—Paul Wright, former prisoner, founder/publisher of Prison Legal News, editor of Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America's Poor and Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration
"Repression tries not only to crush but to quiet. But as Vikki Law shows in this multifaceted book, all that is unseen is not absent. Guided by years of anti-prison organizing and a palpable feminist practice, Law documents the many ways women challenge the twin forces of prison and patriarchy, each trying to render women invisible. In the face of attempts at erasure, women prisoners resist to survive and survive to resist. We would do well to pay attention."
—Dan Berger, co-editor, Letters from Young Activists
"Resistance offers us a much-needed, much broader and nuanced definition of resistance—a woman's definition based on the real material conditions of women. I hope that when one reads about the experiences of women prisoners' organizing and resistance, the reader, both woman and man, will begin to glimpse the possibilities and necessity of such forms as we continue to struggle for a more just and equal world free from all forms of oppression. If women worldwide are unable to liberate themselves, human liberation will not be possible."
—Marilyn Buck, anti-imperialist political prisoner, activist, poet and artist
About the Author:
Victoria Law is a writer, photographer and mother. After a brief stint as a teenage armed robber, she became involved in prisoner support. In 1996, she helped start Books Through Bars-New York City, a group that sends free books to prisoners nationwide. In 2000, she began concentrating on the needs and actions of women in prison, drawing attention to their issues by writing articles and giving public presentations. Since 2002, she has worked with women incarcerated nationwide to produce “Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison” and has facilitated having incarcerated women’s writings published in larger publications. She is the co-editor of Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities.
About Laura Whitehorn (Introduction)
Laura Whitehorn has been a political activist since the 1960s. She spent 14 years in prison for the Resistance Conspiracy case. Released in 1999, she lives in New York City. She is now a senior editor at POZ magazine.