The cover of "The Women's House of Detention"

The Women’s House of Detention

Hugh Ryan ’00

The institution of the title was a women’s prison in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village from 1929–74. As Ryan (a historian who previously penned When Brooklyn Was Queer) explains, it played a key role in the city’s LGBTQ+ history and broader culture. “For tens of thousands of arrested women and transmasculine people from every corner of the city, the House of D was a nexus, drawing the threads of their lives together in its dark and fearsome cells,” he writes in the book, subtitled A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison. “Some were imprisoned there once, for as little as a day; others returned often and were held for years at a time. For decades, upon their release these women navigated the streets of Greenwich Village: ate in its automats and diners; caroused in the bars that would let them in; lived in nearby tenements; slept rough in the parks; visited friends and loved ones who were on trial or in detention; worked what jobs would hire them; attended court-mandated health screenings and probation meetings; and in a million and one other ways, made the Village their own.” In mid-May, NPR’s Terry Gross interviewed Ryan about the book on “Fresh Air.”

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