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Book Talk and Discussion - The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison

A Conversation with Hugh Ryan, Writer and Curator

About the Book

Please join us for a discussion of Hugh Ryan's book, The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison (Bold Type Books, May 10, 2022.)

The Women's House of Detention book cover

This singular history of a prison, and the queer women and trans people held there, is a window into the policing of queerness and radical politics in the 20th century. The Women’s House of Detention, a landmark that ushered in the modern era of women’s imprisonment, is now largely forgotten.

But when it stood in New York City’s Greenwich Village, from 1929 to 1974, it was a nexus for the tens of thousands of women, transgender men, and gender-nonconforming people who inhabited its crowded cells. Some were famous – Angela Davis, Andrea Dworkin, Afeni Shakur – but the vast majority were incarcerated for the crimes of being poor and improperly feminine. Today, approximately 40 percent of the people in women’s prisons identify as queer; in earlier decades, that percentage was almost certainly higher.

About the Author

Photo of author Hugh Ryan

Hugh Ryan is a writer and curator, and most recently, the author of The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison, which New York Magazine called “one of the best books of 2022.” His first book, When Brooklyn Was Queer, won a 2020 New York City Book Award, was a New York Times Editors' Choice in 2019, and was a finalist for the Randy Shilts and Lambda Literary Awards. He was honored with the 2020 Allan Berube Prize from the American Historical Association. Since 2019, he has worked with the New York City Department of Education to develop LGBTQ+ inclusive educational materials and trainings.


Kate Mogulescu

Associate Professor of Clinical Law
Brooklyn Law School


Sponsored by the Center for Criminal Justice

This event is being held in person at Brooklyn Law School.

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