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Illustrated collage of many women in profile
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As a Black woman, my Blackness is honored in February while my womanhood is honored in March. For me, Women’s History Month means paying homage to women who have paved the way for myself and others.

Those who I most want to honor are women who have loved me unconditionally. They have been stable rocks throughout my incarceration at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, the only women’s prison in New Jersey. Other women incarcerated here also shared reflections on the women who have been significant in their lives.

First, I would like to honor my grandmother, Phone Lee Pridgen. She is my Pisces twin, born on March 14, one day after me. She died years ago, but March is always a time for me to reflect on her life. Before prison, my grandmother would support me with funny and helpful advice.

“Keep your underwear clean at all times, baby,” she might have said. “You never know when or if you will get into an accident and have to go to the hospital.”

I’d also like to honor my mother, Louvenia Stone. While incarcerated, she has consistently been at my court hearings, called me and visited me. She is my ride-or-die. My mom taught me to respect and honor my body by not allowing anyone to disrespect me. Growing up, she stayed on me about self-care and self-love. As I became a teenager, my mom would take me shopping and joke that I needed to stop filling the shopping cart with soda and candy, and instead focus on feminine hygiene products.

“You are not a little girl anymore,” she would say.

Both my grandmother and mother taught me the value of an education. They told me that I could be and do anything, and they allowed me to see that the only one who can limit me is me.

I have tried to teach the same lessons and values to the young ladies in my prison. I can tell they have listened when they go on to attend college classes and demonstrate respect for themselves and others. A few of the younger ladies have even referred to me as “mom.”

Stephanie, who has been incarcerated for six years, said Women's History Month is a month of strength and a time for women to master themselves mentally, physically and spiritually.

She added that her late sister has inspired her most. Her sister’s legacy has reminded and encouraged her to do the right thing while incarcerated. She hopes to see her sister again in heaven.

Faith, who has been incarcerated 21 years, said that Women’s History Month is a time to honor the women of the past, including the great Sojourner Truth, who escaped slavery and became an abolitionist.

Faith's voice softened when she spoke of her mother, Ms. Dorothy, whom she described as a constant inspiration. Ms. Dorothy has stood by her daughter throughout her incarceration, answering the phone calls, visiting when she can and sending money. Faith said her mother has been dedicated when she did not have to be.

Ashley, who has been incarcerated at my prison the last two years, said she is inspired by one of the other women incarcerated here, Natasha White, who is in her 15th year of incarceration. White has never received any formal write-ups on her record, a difficult accomplishment with all the daily cattiness that occurs inside. White is also forthright, encouraging, inclusive and friendly, Ashley said.

Even in prison, women can still make an impact on the lives of the people around them and on their loved ones on the outside. We do this through being kind to one another, uplifting each other, and maximizing instead of minimizing one another. In the fight for women’s rights, liberation and equality, women in prison must be included as well.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Lucretia Stone is a writer incarcerated in New Jersey.