Ladies Nonetheless is a book written to fulfill a long standing promise. When Deacon Fran Hoyer worked as Assistant Chaplain in federal prison, the ladies would ask that she tell people that life for women in prison is not as traumatic as it is portrayed in the media. Their concern is that some of their family members are frantic with worry. Most of the women are mothers of young children who have nightmares, picturing their mom in a dungeon. So she promised, "Someday day Ill write a book about you" and thats how this book came into existence. The author begins by tracing the steps of how a suburban woman in her 60s became involved with women in prison. After six years her ministry came to an abrupt halt as a result of 9/11. During this time though she met a wide variety of imprisoned women, from all walks of life, all of whom depended on her for spiritual counseling. They ranged from homeless women who purposely committed minor crimes, just enough to be housed in the prison for the winter months, to a college professor who could never imagine her companion could be involved in illegal dealings. Deacon Fran used notes from her journals, articles written for church newsletters, and memories to give the readers a glimpse of prison life. We read of a woman giving birth in a cell, women on suicide watch, women frightened for their safety, women taking control of their surroundings and most of all, women interacting with women. Some were high profile cases and others unknown to anyone other than their intimate families.
In advocating for the rights of these women, the author points out the many abuses in the system. It poses a social dilemma, they have been placed there by our government for a perceived crime against society, do they deserve to be treated with loving care or with disregard for personal comfort and safety? Most of the women in this particular prison were not yet convicted, they were waiting to be tried. Its easy not to have compassion for the women as a group, they probably broke the law and now have to pay the price, or as the women put it, "you do the crime, you serve the time." But then, one has the opportunity to pick out individuals, just like the woman next door, or in your church community, and the compassion stirs within. Maybe they should be treated with more respect, given better living conditions, allowed to keep their humanity. This book, then puts human faces on the women for those who will never have the opportunity to sit on a metal framed bunk bed in a cell and comfort a woman who has been abused by family, society and life in general. Many of these women come from troubled backgrounds, neglected and abused by families and seeking affection from any source available. Many have had minimal formal education at best, and yet they survive. Some have come from other cultures and have no idea of being responsible to the government for their behavior. A Chinese woman was indignant that she was arrested for trying to earn money, "Its not the governments business what I sell, or how much money I earn." A Latino woman is confused, "I had to do what he said, hes my husband." An African American woman cries, "I need to care for my kids." A business woman from Europe claims, "I was just trying to do a favor for a friend." A Central American woman protests, "I never knew that I wasnt born in the United States, no one ever told me." These are the laments heard by Deacon Fran when she would ask a woman about her story, stories that often changed several times in the ensuing weeks. Quite often these women, if given the chance and a good education, could be leaders in their communities. They are bright, inventive, resourceful, but misguided.
This book gives glimpses into their lives. Their wish is that society does not paint them all with the same brush. That they can avail themselves of education, learn to read good books, and i