Kathryn Lawes, affectionately referred to as the “Mother of Sing Sing,” resided within the notorious prison’s facility along with her children. As the wife of the warden, she was deeply cherished by the inmates, who reverently addressed her as “Mother.”
Kathryn Stanley Lawes, earned her title of “Mother” due to her compassionate work with inmates at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. She was married to Warden Lewis Lawes, who led the prison from 1920 to 1941 and implemented many progressive reforms. Kathryn’s role was unique for a warden’s wife. She was highly involved with the inmates, to the point of being beloved by them. She arranged for every man in the prison to receive a Christmas present, helped them write letters to their families, and even interceded on their behalf with the warden.
Kathryn was especially considerate of inmates on death row. She helped make their cells more comfortable, spent hours talking to them, and assisted their families. She often housed the families in her own home as the execution date approached, and arranged their final visits. Additionally, she ensured every prisoner received a decent burial if they had no immediate family.
Kathryn was born in Elmira, New York, in 1885. She married Lewis in 1905, and they started their family. Kathryn and Lewis lived within the prison facilities, first at Hart Island reformatory and then at Sing Sing, where she offered many inmates the first maternal attention they had ever experienced.
Kathryn’s death in 1937 at the age of 52 is shrouded in mystery as she fell off the Bear Mountain Bridge. She was conscious when discovered but succumbed to her injuries soon after arriving at Ossining Hospital.