Year
1927
Month Day
April 30

The first federal prison for women opens in West Virginia

The Federal Industrial Institution for Women, the first women’s federal prison, opens in Alderson, West Virginia. All women serving federal sentences of more than a year were to be brought here.

Run by Dr. Mary B. Harris, the prison’s buildings, each named after social reformers, sat atop 500 acres. One judge described the prison as a “fashionable boarding school.” In some respects the judge was correct: The overriding purpose of the prison was to reform the inmates, not punish them. The prisoners farmed the land and performed office work in order to learn how to type and file. They also cooked and canned vegetables and fruits.

Other women’s prisons had similar ideals. At Bedford Hills in New York, there were no fences, and the inmates lived in cottages equipped with their own kitchen and garden. The prisoners were even given singing lessons.

Reform efforts had a good chance for success since the women sent to these prisons were far from hardened criminals. At the Federal Industrial Institution, the vast majority of the women were imprisoned for drug and alcohol charges imposed during the Prohibition era.

READ MORE: America's Forgotten Mass Imprisonment of Women Believed to Be Sexually Immoral

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Big Ben stops at 12:11 pm for 54 minutes

On April 30, 1997, at exactly 12:11 pm, London's iconic Big Ben clock stops ticking. For 54 minutes, the most famous clock in the world failed to keep time. Completed in 1859, Big Ben has a long history of technical issues. The first bell cast for the tower cracked before it ...read more

Japan's Emperor Akihito abdicates

On April 30, 2019, Japan’s 85-year-old Emperor Akihito steps down from the throne, becoming the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in over 200 years. Akihito was born on December 23, 1933, the eldest son of Emperor Hirohito, who had ruled Japan since 1926. Akihito was born two ...read more

New York World’s Fair opens

On April 30, 1939, the New York World’s Fair opens in New York City. The opening ceremony, which featured speeches by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and New York Governor Herbert Lehman, ushered in the first day of television broadcasting in New York. Spanning 1,200 acres at ...read more

Fall of Saigon: South Vietnam surrenders

The South Vietnamese stronghold of Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City) falls to People's Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong on April 30, 1975. The South Vietnamese forces had collapsed under the rapid advancement of the North Vietnamese. The most recent fighting had begun in ...read more

Tennis star Monica Seles stabbed

Top women’s tennis player Monica Seles is stabbed by a deranged German man during a match in Hamburg. The assailant, a fan of German tennis star Steffi Graf, apparently hoped that by injuring Seles his idol Graf would be able to regain her No. 1 ranking. Seles became the youngest ...read more