Cutting of Womens hair in the Factory.
The desired end of all punishment is reformation; this is an axiom not to be controverted, and if those in whose hands is placed the power of enacting laws were to pause and consider the truth of it before they legislated, the result would be that laws in general would be more effective in their operation, and the desired end — reformation, would be obtained.
The abominable system of depriving women of their greatest ornament, the hair, on being sentenced, aye even for three days to the third class of the Factory came in vogue with many other like abominations during the reign of terror under Darling, a period now of nine years since its adoption; the avowed object, was the speedy and effectual reformation of that class of the prison population. But what, has been the result? Let those who have been in the habit of attending the Police office of Sydney for the last five or six years answer the question and it will be, that cases of women brought before the Bench on various charges since the adoption of the new plan have been tenfold what they were under the old system.
This assertion will perhaps cause many a clever man in his own conceit, to ask dogmatically how do you account for this? The answer is simple:— from the most remote antiquity to the present day; in every quarter of the globe, and among all races of mankind, the hair of woman has been her greatest pride, esteemed and cherished as such; then deprive her of it by force, under the plea of reforming her, and what must be the result but desperate and reckless conduct— whatever prospect of amendment might have before existed, it is now totally hopeless.
It may be urged on the plea of necessity, that there is no other kind of punishment will have a like effect, and indeed there is not. Other punishments may reform, but this totally places her out of the pale.
Why not substitute solitary confinement, which has never yet been tried; ’tis the best and most effectual of all punishments; witness America. Let sceptics upon these points attend the Police Office daily for a week, and they will see numerous instances where woman, charged with insolence, absence &c. and who perhaps have only been assigned one, two, or three days, on being again sentenced to the Factory, say, “I don’t care, for that, you cut my hair off once, you can’t do it again.” Does this say nothing to the impropriety of the system? Is this the way in which it should work? Oh, reform it altogether.
See Original: “Cutting of Women’s Hair in the Factory,”The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 25 April 1834, p.3
See also: Coroner’s Inquest of MARIA MURRAY, 18 April 1834