Jean Trounstine

b. 1946

Jean Trounstine taught literature to women inmates and cofounded an award-winning alternative probation program that uses writing and literature to offer prisoners a second chance.  Trounstine began teaching literature, writing, and drama at Framingham Women’s Prison through her work as professor of humanities at Middlesex Community College. She innovated a special drama class in which the inmates would study plays with her and produce them in the prison. When Trounstine’s job at the prison was eliminated due to federal budget cuts, she found alternative ways to work on issues related to prison and the arts, such as the alternative probation program, Changing Lives Through Literature. The program earned the New England Board of Higher Education’s Award for Excellence and an Exemplary Education grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Trounstine’s book Shakespeare Behind Bars explores her experiences teaching in prison, and she has also written a book of poetry and edited a collection of women writing on marriage.  Jean Trounstine was honored at the 2000 Women Who Dared event in Boston.

Scope and Content Note

Trounstine discusses her German-Jewish roots and growing up in Cincinnati.  She talks about how her Jewish identity shaped her political lens. Throughout her life, Jean's Jewish identity was  a driving force for her social activism, including prison reform work.Trounstine gives specific examples of her prison work, with the women in prison putting on plays, and shares both the challenges and rewards of such work.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now

How to cite this page

Oral History of Jean Trounstine. Interviewed by Judith Rosenbaum. 21 July 2000. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 20, 2024) <>.

Oral History of Jean Trounstine by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at