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6-7:30PM Women and Lunacy @ Golden History Museum

photo of 2-1/2 story courthouse outlines showing locations of jail, courtrooms, judge's offices, and surveyer's office
Photo of the 1878 Jefferson County Courthouse with different segments as described by the Colorado Transcript

What started as a small curiosity turned into a big question: did the Colorado criminal justice system pathologize women in the early twentieth century? The Golden History Museum collection includes a jailhouse register from Jefferson County covering 1878 to 1929. While researching a famous lynching case in Golden, Colorado, involving two men, we noticed that most of the charges for women were for “insanity.” The project bloomed into a multi-institutional search for the women recorded in the register.

This talk is focused on methods of record retrieval alongside institutional barriers. The archivist at the Colorado State Hospital Museum in Pueblo welcomed us to research the asylum’s archived medical records and documents. On the other hand, Jefferson County’s archivist informed us that valuable Lunacy Commission records are still sealed to date, obscuring some of the instances of women who were institutionalized against their will repeatedly. This presentation will offer biographies of the women and will explain the obstacles and benefits of working across multiple institutions in Colorado for historical research.   


large brown leather binder with cover saying "JAIL REGISTER - FEB 15th 1878 To 1929"
Jefferson County Jail Register - 1878-1929 - Golden History Museum Collection