Five Women from Arizona

1871 photo of Oregon State Penitentiary shows a 2 story brick building with a clock tower in the center, surrounded by fence.
The exterior of the Oregon State Penitentiary in 1871. Enlarge image
How did five female inmates from Arizona, convicted in a federal court on liquor violation charges, end up serving time in the Oregon State Penitentiary? This was not unheard of during the prohibition era in Oregon, as some geographical areas had little or no facilities to house female inmates. In the cases of Katherine Hicks, Marilyn Carroll, Lillian Dyer, Mabel Smith, and Mary Smith, their convictions in Globe, Arizona, resulted in their prison sentences being served in Salem, beginning in May of 1930.

Four of the women were in their early-to-mid-twenties. Mabel Smith was the oldest at 32 years of age. The records don’t indicate that any of the five women were criminal masterminds or part of a large scale operation, although what the U.S. Marshal attached to their cases suggested that they were involved in prostitution.

Some of the anecdotal evidence painted a vivid picture of their prior activities. Katherine Hicks had been fined for “speeding and street fighting,” and Mary Smith was also fined $25 because she also “had a street fight.” She also indicated that she had once used an assumed name “to cross line as mans [sic] wife.”

The most compelling case of the five involved Mabel Smith, who spent part of her sentence at the Oregon State Hospital. The notes from her asylum case file vividly describe her illness, which included “complaining of electrical influences over her body” that she believed were done by the Secret Service; that she had been married seven or eight times and had been a prostitute for eighteen years; and that she “hears voices at times” and that a light was thrown on her. A Wasserman blood test returned a positive result for syphilis. She was a patient at the asylum from August of 1930 to February of 1931.

In some cases, best illustrated by Marilyn Carroll, the convicts were the beneficiaries of numerous letters of testimony in which the writers characterized them as unfortunate “victims of circumstance” and that their crimes constituted a “slight indiscretion” due to “evil influences.” Writers of these letters sometimes included local law enforcement officials; family friends; and even past teachers and school administrators.

Although they were each sentenced to serve one year plus one day, they were all discharged on March 2, 1931 after serving slightly less than ten months. Following release, Mary Smith wrote a letter from Arizona to the penitentiary superintendent in April of 1931 addressing an incident involving the stopping up of a prison lavatory, pinning it on specific inmates and adding “we all had a good laugh.”

About the Inmates

Mug shot of Marilyn Carroll with prisoner number 11173
Marilyn Carroll's Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View her fingerprint card
#11173
Name: Marilyn Carroll
Received: May 13, 1930
Discharged: March 2, 1931
Crime: Unlawful & Felonious Sale of Intoxicating Liquor
County: Federal
Age: 25
Height: 5’5 1/2”
Weight: 117lbs
Build: Slight
Hair: Light Brown
Eyes: Blue
Complexion: Light
Born: Minnesota
Occupation: Waitress
Mug shot of Lillian Dyer in a floral print dress with prisoner number 11174
Lillian Dyer's Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View her fingerprint card
#11174
Name: Lillian Dyer
Received: May 13, 1930
Discharged: March 2, 1931
Crime: Unlawful & Felonious Sale of Intoxicating Liquor
County: Federal
Age: 21
Height: 5’6 1/2”
Weight: 152lbs
Build: Fleshy
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Gray
Complexion: Dark
Born: New Mexico
Occupation: Waitress
Mug shot of Katherine Hicks in a sleeveless dress with flower pattern around collar and prisoner number 11172
Katherine Hicks' Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View her fingerprint card
#11172
Name: Katherine Hicks
Received: May 13, 1930
Discharged: March 2, 1931
Crime: Unlawful & Felonious Sale of Intoxicating Liquor
County: Federal
Age: 24
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 149lbs
Build: Muscular
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Medium Blue
Complexion: Light
Born: New Mexico
Occupation: Waitress
Mug shot of Mabel Smith in plain dress with white collar and prisoner number 11173
Mabel Smith's Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View her fingerprint card
#11175
Name: Mabel Smith aka Mabel Larson
Received: May 13, 1930
Discharged: March 2, 1931
Crime: Unlawful & Felonious Sale of Intoxicating Liquor
County: Federal
Age: 32
Height: 5’7 1/4”
Weight: 144lbs
Build: Medium
Hair: Medium Brown
Eyes: Gray
Complexion: Light
Born: Arizona
Occupation: Hotel Landlady
Mug shot of Mary Smith with prisoner number 11176
Mary Smith's Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View her fingerprint card
#11176
Name: Mary Smith
Received: May 13, 1930
Discharged: March 2, 1931
Crime: Unlawful & Felonious Sale of Intoxicating Liquor
County: Federal
Age: 23
Height: 5’6” 
Weight: 166lbs
Build: Chunky
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Gray
Complexion: Dark
Born: Kansas
Occupation: Cook