Proof My Brain No Longer Works

I’ve started working on the section about the Penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island (backstory: I’m writing a book about Blackwell’s Island for Algonquin Books). I find this great quote by Charles Dickens describing the stripes the men wore, and I wondered if the women wore stripes as well. But I couldn’t find a reference to what the women wore anywhere, not in decades of annual reports, or newspaper articles, etc. I also couldn’t find a single photograph of the female prisoners, although I found a couple of drawings, which kinda looked like the women’s dresses were striped, but it looked more like the technique they used to employ for shading.

Then I remember I have this great article by Emma Goldman, who spent a year in the Penitentiary. Surely she would think to include a detail like that! I’m looking around on my computer, but I don’t immediately find it. Where did I put it? And what was the title again?

Here’s the part that proves my brain no longer works. Recap: I’m specifically trying to find out if the women wore stripes. So, I suddenly remember the title of Goldman’s article. It’s, “My Year in Stripes.” But do I realize then that I now have my answer?? NO. I was just happy I remembered the title, and I read through the article, not realizing until I got to the line about what they wore that the answer was in the title. Idiot!

An arrest I recently walked by in the 14th Street subway station.


Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

4 thoughts on “Proof My Brain No Longer Works

  1. I think your brain works just fine.

    As for the arrest, I’m confused. Where are the cops? I can’t believe that any of the people I see there are cops, not even the orange shoelaces guy whose feet we can see.

  2. I would be scared to death to be arrested by people who don’t remotely look like cops. I would be thinking the whole time that terrible things were going to happen to me because they couldn’t be cops. If I had the wherewithal, I’d even resist arrest, thinking they weren’t cops. What kind of hell is that to put people through? (A rhetorical question – I wouldn’t think you had the answer!) Good grief.

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