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On a May morning in 1939, eighteen-year-old Velma Demerson and her lover were having breakfast when two police officers arrived to take her away. Her crime was loving a Chinese man, a “crime” that was compounded by her pregnancy and subsequent mixed-race child. Sentenced to a home for wayward girls, Demerson was then transferred (along with forty-six other girls) to Torontos Mercer Reformatory for Females. The girls were locked in their cells for twelve hours a day and required to work in the on-site laundry and factory. They also endured suspect medical examinations. When Demerson was finally released after ten months’ incarceration weeks of solitary confinement, abusive medical treatments, and the state’s apprehension of her child, her marriage to her lover resulted in the loss of her citizenship status.

This is the story of how Demerson, and so many other girls, were treated as criminals or mentally defective individuals, even though their worst crime might have been only their choice of lover. Incorrigible is a survivor’s narrative. In a period that saw the rise of psychiatry, legislation against interracial marriage, and a populist movement that believed in eradicating disease and sin by improving the purity of Anglo-Saxon stock, Velma Demerson, like many young women, found herself confronted by powerful social forces. This is a history of some of those who fell through the cracks of the criminal code, told in a powerful first-person voice.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 janvier 2006
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780889209305
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0035€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Life Writing Series
In theLife Writing Series, Wilfrid Laurier University Press publishes life writing and new lifewriting criticism in order to promote autobiograph ical accounts, diaries, letters, and testimonials written and/or told by women and men whose political, literary, or philosophical purposes are cen tral to their lives.Life Writingfeatures the accounts of ordinary people, written in English, or translated into English from French or the languages of the First Nations or from any of the languages of immigration to Canada. Life Writingwill also publish original theoretical investigations about life writing, as long as they are not limited to one author or text. Priority is given to manuscripts that provide access to those voices that have not traditionally had access to the publication process. Manuscripts of social, cultural, and historical interest that are con sidered for the series, but are not published, are maintained in theLife Writing Archiveof Wilfrid Laurier University Library.
Series Editor Marlene Kadar Humanities Division, York University
Manuscripts to be sent to Brian Henderson, Director Wilfrid Laurier University Press 75 University Avenue West Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3C5
I N C O R R I G I B L E Velma Demerson
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program for our publishing activities. We acknowledge the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Ontario Book Initiative.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Demerson, Velma, 1920Incorrigible / Velma Demerson
(Life writing series) ISBN 0889204446
1. Demerson, Velma, 19203. Interracial datingOntario.
HV9505.D44A3 2004
© 2004 Velma Demerson
2. Women prisonersOntarioBiography. I. Title. II. Series.
Cover design by P.J . Woodland. Photograph of Harry Yipp by C.D. Hoy, used with kind permission of Barkerville Historic Town, BC (photo P1574). Text design by C. BonasTaylor.
Throughout this text fictional names have been used for inmates of the Toronto Industrial Refuge and the Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Females. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The names of government and institutional officials are as stated.
Every reasonable effort has been made to acquire permission for copyright material used in this text, and to acknowledge all such indebtedness accurately. Any errors and omis sions called to the publisher ’s attention will be corrected in future printings.
Printed in Canada
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmit ted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher or a licence from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For an Access Copyright licence, visit www.accesscopyright.ca or call toll free to 18008935777.
Order from: Wilfrid Laurier University Press Wilfrid Laurier University Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3C5 www.wlupress.wlu.ca
I dedicate this book to my beloved son Harry Yip
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I would like to join forces with all those who believe that the past and the present are indivisible.
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s the car turns into the driveway, I see the Andrew Mercer A Reformatory for Females as a dark formidable fortress pen cilled black against the white sky. The enormous structure with its jut ting turrets appears to stretch an entire city block. It casts a shadow over the grassy exterior extending to a wide spiked iron fence and onto the street beyond. The tall steeple gives a churchlike appearance but the numerous ironbarred windows embedded in the dark stone exterior frighten me. The building is distant from the street but as we draw near I can see the women who were at the Belmont Home with me leave the other car and move toward, then up the stairs. They are partly hidden by the hulking figures of two men. During the drive from the Home, we three girls squeezed into the back seat sat unmoving, still absorbing the shock of sudden removal from our restrictive but reasonably safe haven. Only Adelaide’s sniffling could be heard. Her tears weren’t allayed when Miss Pollack assured us of wellbeing in our new quarters. The foreboding appearance of the reformatory seems to justify Adelaide’s apprehension. She has stopped crying and is staring at the looming reformatory that awaits us. The car stops and the two plainclothes guards sitting in the front seat get out. One of the men opens the door. As we emerge from the back seat, we’re aware that the two men are within arm’s length, watching us warily. The small palefaced girl who had been sitting next to me is practically lifted off her feet by one overzealous guard. The other seizes my arm in a tight vise. Satisfied with having con tained his prey, he reaches out with his other hand and fastens his grip onto Adelaide. Her eyes are still glued to the stark prison confronting