Gender and Justice in the Progressive Era: An Investigation of Saint Louis Juvenile Court Cases, 1909–1912


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

There is increased interest in the history of the juvenile court and its role in the social control of youth. In this context, feminist scholars have emphasized the long‐standing legacy of the court’s attempt to control girls’ violations of gender images, particularly sexual behavior and status offenses. This perspective argues that girls are penalized more harshly than boys, despite being charged with less serious offenses. The present study tests hypotheses about the relationships between gender and charge, prehearing detention, and disposition using St. Louis juvenile court records for the years 1909–1912. Qualitative content analysis is used to probe more deeply the connection between gender and sexually based charges in the early history of the St. Louis juvenile court. Findings indicate that girls were subject to harsher forms of social control than boys, despite less serious charges, and that sexual behavior was described and treated much differently in girls’ records than in boys’. Connections to contemporary practices are delineated.

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