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When author Sheila O’Connor set out to uncover buried family secrets, she discovered instead the little-known history of incarcerating adolescent girls for disturbingly long sentences for “immorality” and “incorrigibility” in the early part of the twentieth century at the Minnesota Home School for Girls in Sauk Centre, Minnesota and across the United States. Confronted with a history of not one girl, or one family, but tens of thousands of victims, Sheila O’Connor set out to document, and bring to life, a silenced story that included corporeal punishment, solitary confinement, state-mandated breastfeeding, forced sterilizations, and parole assignments as domestic servants in private homes. Drawing on the facts of her own grandmother, who was sentenced as a pregnant fifteen-year-old to six years in 1935, Sheila O’Connor will talk about the historical research that lead to her book Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions, her ongoing-work to bring this history to light, and the ways in which this lost past remains pressingly relevant to girls and women today.
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