Caught: Montreal's Modern Girls and the Law, 1869–1945


347 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-9450-3
DDC 364.36082'0971428




Alexander David Kurke is a criminal lawyer in Sudbury, Ontario.


Caught documents the evolution of the juvenile justice system from the
mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, specifically as it relates to
teenaged girls in Montreal. Tamara Myers applies to her task a
multidisciplinary focus that includes history, sociology, and
feminist-inspired social control analysis. Her core data derive from
case files developed by the various “professionals” who peopled the
entity that came to be known as the Montreal Juvenile Delinquents’
Court (MJDC), and that were used to process the girls who were caught in
its toils. This book is suitable for those studying the history of legal
institutions and penology, and for those who practise in the Canadian
youth justice system.

Myers establishes a relatively historical flow. She begins by
considering the origins of Montreal juvenile justice as a child welfare
construct (Chapter 1). Chapters 2 and 3 chart the growth of the convent
reform school under the Catholic Soeurs du Bon Pasteur, and the evolving
social attitudes toward troubled girls—from endangered victims to
juvenile delinquents—as their desire for greater autonomy came into
conflict with the social values of church, la nation, and family.

Chapter 4 looks at the birth of the MJDC. The Protestant Girls’
Cottage Industrial School (GCIS) was established to offer an allegedly
more educational program than the reform school. Over time, increasing
conflicts over girls’ independence led their families to invoke the
draconian strictures of the MJDC (Chapter 5). Chapter 6, the most
troubling chapter, considers lost virginity as the ultimate proof of
delinquency. Chapter 7 describes how the system of reform school and
GCIS came under scrutiny and forced reconsideration in the mid-1940s.

Myers’s study offers an interesting historical perspective against
which to assess youth justice in our own times. Our current Youth
Criminal Justice Act discourages incarceration, but it does not prevent
it. Breaches of probation and subsequent incarceration remain a
significant part of youth court practice, as they did a century ago
under the Juvenile Delinquents Act. Caught makes the reader think twice
about the best way to deal with “troubled” teens.


Myers, Tamara., “Caught: Montreal's Modern Girls and the Law, 1869–1945,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 1, 2022,