Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Ohio Reformatory for Women
I'll admit that I have always heard different music than most and that this "vacation" is odd even for me. I spent Monday at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio interviewing quiltmakers there. Their quilts were featured in a special exhibit called "Beyond the Barrier" at Sacred Threads. It has been a dream of mine to document this part of quilt history for more than 5 years.
The prison was built in 1916 on about 257 acres of land. Approx. 2,500 women call this place "home." There is a long driveway and visitors must enter from the side. I truly didn't know what to expect. I was meant by two wonderfully humorous guards who put me at ease. My bags were searched. I had to go through a metal detector, surrender my driver's license and have my right hand stamped before being admitted to the prison. I spent most of my day in the original prison which is made of limestone and reminds me of something you would see on a college campus. Actually the whole place felt more like a college campus except for the fence of razor wire.
Elizabeth Wright, Administrative Assistant to the Warden, is a delightful 33 year old woman who has dedicated her life to public service. She sat in on the interviews and was most helpful. She also gave me a tour which helped me further understand the place. I think one of the best things that I can say about the place is that everyone works and there are truly a variety of things to do from making quilts for charity to cosmetology to dog training to flag making to caring for injured wildlife. Don't get me wrong, I still wouldn't want to live there. However, it is a place where women can be rehabilitated and get the skills to be successful once they are released.
I did six interviews including one with the Chaplain who oversaw the program. It was an emotionally draining day. I'm still processing all I saw and heard so be patient with me. I will be sharing shows with you over the next week or so. Gratefully, Karen