A Montana-born woman, 34-year-old Mae Kavanaugh, was convicted of writing “fictitious checks” and sent to San Quentin State Prison, the infamous northern California prison, on March 25, 1918, to serve a two year term.
Eight years earlier, in 1910, Mae and a male accomplice, H. S. Farnsworth, lured a man to their rented Santa Cruz cottage. Suddenly the lights went out and the victim, John Hodges, found himself in the dark with Miss Mae. A man found alone with a single woman could only be after one thing, and if his wife found out, it would be highly embarrassing for him, perhaps even disastrous. Mae pulled a gun on Hodges and demanded $500. Not having the cash on him, Hodges wrote her a promissory note.
Instead of paying up, Hodges reported the couple to the sheriff. Farnsworth, a man described as a “once wealthy contractor” was convicted of extortion and given the maximum sentence of 5 years in San Quentin. “I’m sorry I can’t make it more,” commented the judge when Farnsworth was sentenced.
I am down and out. I was once well to do but met with reverses, and this thing appealed to me as a chance to make a raise.
—H. S. Farnsworth, June 28, 1910, Santa Cruz, California
Mae was very lucky; she got probation and was ordered to “give Farnsworth up.” Apparently she gave up Farnsworth, but neglected to give up crime.
San Quentin is the oldest correctional institution in California. It housed women from the time it opened in 1852 until 1932, when a prison for women was built in Tehachapi.
Featured image: Mae Kavanaugh, San Quentin mug book photo. California Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950.