Tag Archives: Sewall-Belmont House

Virginia Turns Penal Colony into Art Colony

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I recently had an opportunity to visit the Occoquan Workhouse Prison, an early 20th century federal prison in northern Virginia, which was transformed by Fairfax County in 2008 into the Workhouse Arts Center, a collection of 100 artist studios and galleries.  Once regarded as a model for reform-minded incarceration with open dormitory-style residences accompanied by honest work on the surrounding country farm, its image was soon tarnished by the imprisonment and force-feeding of the women who were picketing the White House for suffrage–which helped turn public opinion against the Wilson Administration.  I had long known about this infamous event and wanted to get a better sense of the conditions.  At the small museum on site, I learned much about the prison’s history and the struggle for woman’s suffrage, however, I also learned that Continue reading