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16-Year-Old Girl Jailed for Cursing

On Friday, January 30, 1953, 16-year-old Yvonne D. Fonda was arrested for cursing while skating at the Flushing Park Skating Rink in Queens, New York. Yvonne lived with her mother at 139-09 5th Avenue in Flushing and was attending Queens College at the time.

The incident began while Yvonne was attempting to do splits on ice. Each time she would fall, she let out an expletive. The management felt that the rink was too crowded for her to practice her splits and requested that she not only stop the fancy skating but that she stop using foul language. She refused and returned to the ice and continued on with the curse words.

An attendant asked Patrolman Gerard Stanton to remove Yvonne from the ice. She put up an incredible fight and he was left with no choice but to arrest Yvonne. He would later testify, “Not only did she resist but she used words that shocked me.”

While appearing in Weekend Court, Magistrate Charles F. Murphy asked Yvonne’s mother if her daughter cursed at home. “Yes, your honor, she frequently does,” she replied. Mom also admitted to cursing quite herself a bit at home.

Murphy told Yvonne, “I have a daughter 18 years old. If she made it a practice to speak to her father or mother in that fashion she wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week.

“What I am going to do is very unusual. I don’t generally set such a high bail on adolescents, but I want you to have a chance to sit quietly for a few days and reflect.”

The judge set her bail at $1,500 (nearly $15,000 today).  He advised the mother not to post bail. Yvonne was sent to the Women’s House of Detention.

On Wednesday, February 4, 1953, Yvonne was hauled back into court. Magistrate Corning McKennee determined that she was guilty of disorderly conduct and prior to releasing her, ordered Yvonne to return to the court on March 18 for sentencing.

When March 18th rolled around, Yvonne brought along her lawyer, Edward Condren.  He told Magistrate K. Irwin Shapiro that Yvonne came from “an old American family on her paternal side” and added that “one of her forebears was an early judge.”

Condren also decried Yvonne’s four-day imprisonment, pointing out that she had been placed in a cell with three female Communists and a pickpocket. He suggested that it was a “monstrous crime when a girl of 16 or 17 is placed in confinement and forced to consort with people of the type.”

In the end, Shapiro gave Yvonne a suspended sentence, noting that she has “a brilliant record in school.” He felt that placing her on probation would have interfered with her studies.

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