Rafter, Nicole Hahn 1939-

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RAFTER, Nicole Hahn 1939-
(Nicole Rafter)


Born 1939; married Robert Hahn (a writer); children: Alex, Sarah. Education: Swarthmore College, B.A., 1962; Harvard University, M.A.T., 1963; State University of New York Albany, Ph.D., 1978.


Office—Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115. E-mail[email protected]


Writer, editor, historian, criminologist, and educator. Northeastern University, professor and senior research fellow, college of criminal justice, 1977-97, adjunct professor, 1997—. Has taught English at the high school and college level. Visiting senior research fellow, St. John's College, Oxford, 2004; visiting scholar, Oxford University, 2005-06


Distinguished Alumni Award, State University of New York, 1998; Wilbur Founder's Award, American Association on Mental Retardation, 1999; senior scholar award, American Society of Criminology Division on Women and Crime, 1999; fellow, American Society of Criminology, 2000; resident research fellow, Study Center of Liguria, Bogliasco Foundation, 2001.


(Editor, with Elizabeth Anne Stanko) Judge, Lawyer, Victim, Thief: Women, Gender Roles, and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1982.

Partial Justice: Women in State Prisons, 1800-1935, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1985.

(Editor and author of introduction) White Trash: The Eugenic Family Studies, 1877-1919, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1988, 2nd edition, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 1990.

(Editor, with Frances Heidensohn) International Feminist Perspectives in Criminology: Engendering a Discipline, Open University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1995.

Creating Born Criminals, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1997.

(With Debra L. Stanley) Prisons in America: A Reference Handbook, ABC-Clio (Santa Barbara, CA), 1999.

(Editor-in-chief) Encyclopedia of Women and Crime, Oryx Press (Phoenix, AZ), 2000.

(With Susan Erony) Searching the Criminal Body: Art/Science/Prejudice (exhibit catalogue), University Art Museum, University of Albany, State University of New York (Albany, NY), 2000.

Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films and Society, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000, 2nd edition, 2006.

(Translator and author of introduction, with Mary Gibson) Cesare Lombroso and Guglielmo Ferrero, Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2004.

(Translator and author of introduction, with Mary Gibson) Cesare Lombroso, Criminal Man, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2006.

Contributor to books, including History and Crime: Implications for Criminal Justice Policy, edited by James A. Inciardi and Charles E. Faupel, Sage (Beverly Hills, CA), 1980; Social Control and the State, edited by Stan Cohen and Andrew Scull, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993; Inequality and Social Control, edited by George Bridges and Martha Myers, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1994; Oxford Companion to United States History, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001; and Perpetual Children: A History of Mental Retardation in America, edited by Steven Noll and James Trent, Jr., New York University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Criminology, Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Crime and Delinquency, Social Science History, Chicago Tribune, Socialist Review, Human Rights, Journal of Academic Librarianship, Correctional Law Reporter, Women and Criminal Justice, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Social Problems, Theoretical Criminology, and Brooklyn Law Review.


Nicole Hahn Rafter is a writer, editor, criminologist, and professor. A prolific writer on issues related to crime, criminal justice, incarceration, and criminal rehabilitation, Rafter has studied issues such as women and women's culture in prison, prison reform, criminal law, women's prison history, and the effects of gender on justice. Among Rafter's favored topics is the concept of the born criminal, that some are simply predetermined to become criminals and that they have no control over their inclinations to crime. In Creating Born Criminals, Rafter pulls together a number of archival records, institutional histories, and multidisciplinary investigations to investigate a theory of crime based on eugenics. She looks at eugenic concepts such as "innate criminology" and "feeblemindedness" (today known as mental retardation) as they were applied to criminals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Though these and other eugenic models of criminality were eventually rejected, Rafter sees a subtle reemergence of such eugenic thinking in concepts such as the XYY—or extra male chromosome—explanation of aggression and criminal behavior. Ian R. Dowbiggin, writing in the Canadian Journal of History, called Creating Born Criminals an "important step forward" in the history of eugenics. "It is a significant contribution to the scholarly literature on eugenics because it describes in detail the considerable influence of eugenics on criminal justice and theories of criminology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."

Rafter turns her editorial attention to a seminal work in the field of eugenic crime studies with Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman, edited with Mary Gibson, published in Italy in 1893 by Cesare Lombroso and Guglielmo Ferrero. Lombroso was a pioneer in the introduction of scientific methodology into the study and explanation of crime. His book "was a seminal work, and as Rafter and Gibson explicate, its influence upon criminologists' perspectives on the scantily researched area of female criminality endured until the explosion of new writing on women and crime by feminist authors" of a later time, explained reviewer Lizzie Seal in Crime, Law, and Social Change. The book was available in English only in a heavily censored 1895 version. Rafter and Gibson's version restores material on lesbians and prostitutes and provides a new translation that "makes enhanced feminist analyses of Lombroso's work possible," Seal noted. Lombroso classified women into the three categories of the book's title; to him, criminal women and prostitutes were inferior to so-called normal women, characterized by physical abnormalities, masculine traits, predilections to crime, and general failures in the contemporary roles of women. Lombroso's work was at best controversial and contaminated with misogyny, but it still stands as an important contribution to criminal studies and feminist studies as well. While the editors "make no attempt to paint Lombroso's often questionable work in a favorable light, they do seek to show, both in their detailed 'Editors' Introduction' and through the translation itself, how and why Lombroso's work was so influential in its day and how it has continued, in one way or another, to influence the field of criminology ever since," observed Garland E. Allen in Isis. Rafter and Gibson's work "represents an exceptional contribution to historical criminology and criminological theory," commented Sanja Milivojevic in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology.

Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films and Society is the "first sustained academic treatment of crime in cinema" and "a benchmark contribution to this burgeoning literature," remarked Robert Menzies in the Canadian Journal of Criminology. In the book, Rafter argues that "movies are a critical source of knowledge and opinion about crime, and a potentially rich medium of criminological inquiry," Menzies noted. Rafter explores topics such as cinematic explanations of criminality, cop movies, courtroom films, prison and execution films, and the nature of crime-movie heroes. In the larger view, Rafter also examines how cinematic representations of crime influence viewers' real-life perception of crime and criminals. "Although somewhat academic, this book provides food for thought on a very clever topic," commented Booklist reviewer Ted Leventhal. Menzies called it a "beautifully crafted and thoroughly satisfying book" and "both a celebration of cinema and a meditation on the cultural relevance of contemporary criminology."



Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, December, 2004, Sanja Milivojevic, review of Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman, p. 449.

Booklist, September 1, 1997, Mary Carroll, review of Creating Born Criminals, p. 41; March 15, 2000, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Prisons in America: A Reference Handbook, May 1, 2000, Ted Leventhal, review of Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films and Society, p. 1637; February 15, 2001, review of Encyclopedia of Women and Crime, p. 1178.

Canadian Journal of History, August, 1999, Ian R. Dowbiggin, review of Creating Born Criminals, p. 311.

Canadian Journal of Criminology, July, 2001, Robert Menzies, review of Shots in the Mirror, p. 418.

Crime, Law, and Social Change, March, 2005, Lizzie Seal, review of Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman, p. 203.

Film Criticism, fall, 2001, William Covey, review of Shots in the Mirror, p. 65.

Gender & Society, June, 1997, Lora Bex Lempert, review of International Feminist Perspectives in Criminology, p. 369.

Isis, December, 2005, Garland E. Allen, review of Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman, p. 666.

Library Journal, November 15, 1999, Frances O. Sandiford, review of Prisons in America, p. 61; April 1, 2000, Kim R. Holston, review of Shots in the Mirror, p. 104; November 15, 2000, Deirdre Bray Root, review of Encyclopedia of Women and Crime, p. 60.

Social Service Review, September, 1999, Morris A. Fred, review of Creating Born Criminals, p. 440.


Nicole Rafter Hahn Home Page,http://www.nicolerafter.com (November 12, 2006).

Northeastern University Web site,http://www.neu.edu/ (November 12, 2006).