Prostitution and the corset

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Prostitution and the corset prostitution as a representation of the position of women in British society from 1850 - 1914
Campbell, Alyse ( author )
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Prostitution -- History -- Great Britain ( lcsh )
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non-fiction ( marcgt )


Rather than discuss what historian Shani D'Cruze explains as a "Victorian preoccupation with the symbolic role of the prostitute in society as the personification of disorderly female sexuality and the cultural counterbalance with the chaste middle-class wife," this work argues that prostitutes signify an exaggerated example of the inferior social position of all women in Victorian society.1 Indeed, prostitutes draw public attention to what historian Mary Lyndon Shanley, characterizes as "the economic and political, as well as the social and sexual, domination of women by men."2 Between 1850 and 1914, prostitution as an industry highlighted and depended on a population of women already made vulnerable by gender-biased legal, criminal, social, and domestic frameworks during this period and the men who dominated society. The articles published in the Times provide a stimulating lens through which to view how prostitution highlighted the gender inequality prevalent in the legal, criminal, social and domestic frameworks.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Colorado Denver.
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Department of History
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by Alyse Campbell.

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University of Colorado Denver
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PROSTITUTION A ND THE CORSET : PROSTITUTION AS A REPRESENTATION OF THE POSITION OF WOMEN IN BRITISH SOCIETY FROM 1850 1914 by ALYSE CAMPBELL B. A., Regis University, 2009 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the Universit y of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts History 2014


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Alyse Campbell has been approved for the History Program By Marjorie Levine Clark Chair Myra R ich Rebecca Hunt April 10, 2014 ii


Campbell, Alyse (Master of Arts, History) P rostitution and the Corset : Prostitution as a Representation of the Position of Women in British Society from 1850 1914 Thesis directed by Professor Marjorie Levine Clark ABST RACT preoccupation with the symbolic role of the prostitute in society as the personification of disorderly female sexuality and the cultural counterbalance with the chaste middle cl ass rostitutes signify an exaggerated example of the inferior social position of all women in Victorian society 1 Indeed, prostitutes draw public c and 2 Between 1850 and 1914, prostitution as an industry highlighted and depended on a population of women already made vulnerable by gender biased legal, criminal, social, and dom estic frameworks during this period and the men who dominated society. T he articles published in the Times provide a stimulating lens through which to view how prostitution highlighted the gender inequality prevalent in the legal, criminal, social and dom estic frameworks The form and content of this abstract have been approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Marjorie Levine Clark iii 1 Crimes of Outrage: Sex, Violence and Victorian Working Women (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1998), 3. 2 Mary Lyndon Shanley, Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850 1895 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 80.


DEDICATION The completion of this thesis would not have been possible without the help of many individuals i ncluding my academic advisor, Dr. Marjorie Levine Clark, and my thesis committee members Drs. Myra Rich, and Rebecca Hunt. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my minor advisor, Dr. Tom Noel, for helping me stay passionate throughout this p rocess and my time at the University of Colorado Denver. I greatly apprecia te the support of my family, friends teachers and professors who have walked with me on this journey. Finally, I would like to thank my husband, Kevin Campbell, for his unwavering patience and support; this would not have been possible without him. iv


TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................... ........... .......... 1 II. HISTORIOGRAP ............................................................. ...............................7 III. PROSTITUTION AND THE LAW ........... ........................... ............................. ...12 IV. PROSTITUTION AND THE POLICE ..................... ........ .. ................. .......................22 V PROSTITUTION AS A SOCIAL ISSUE .30 VI. PROSTITUTION ............................. ..................38 .................... ......... ..............................45 REFERENCES ........................................................................................... ............. .........47


1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION At age nineteen, Rose Hunt was not new to a life of d espondency. According to the London Times 1 According to her own admission, Rose had previously spent four ye ars living as a prostitute in one of the darkest and most dangerous areas of London. Charged with attempt to absolve herself of her sins, she explained her fall from gr ace to the police court in March of 1850. 2 She presented herself as a wayward youth, struggling to make ends meet while living in a house of prostitution, fighting for her own survival. She related that she found herself in the company of a corrupting in fluence, who led her into a life of 3 While her testimony emphasized her desperation, Rose was guilty of a crime in the eyes of the law. Yet, according to the article, her pros ecution for prostitution also represented her salvation. The courts referred her to a social committee designed to help suffering girls like her to reclaim their lives. Her last words to the court were appreciative and not 4 Victorian society depended upon a nuanced yet overt patriarchy. Based on principles that pre dated the Victorian era, men were masters of their homes and their 1 The Times March 28, 1850, 8. 2 Ibid., 8. 3 Ibid., 8. 4 Ibid., 8.


2 wives. Many Victorian institutions, especially marriage, reflected an understa nding that it was natural for men to have power over women. Women depended on men, and as other abilities, assigned her both her proper sphere in society and her rights u nder the 5 Thus, women exerted their influence in the home, the center of domestic life. modicum of respectability fell largely to the woman, who labored, scrimped, w ent sleepless and hungry, and even prostituted herself in order to meet the standards of a 6 He argues that women held the responsibility for the household and this conflicted with what prostitution represented. Prostitution, at its core went against existence outside of the home, in the public sphere and exposed the presumed rampant sexual desires of women. The traditional perception of women in Victorian E ngland is of a literal and metaphorical corset: straight, rigid, and constraining and the social and legal practices during this period reinforce this imagery. Historian Jeffrey Weeks points to the ty on the female while allowing a 7 Rigid gender norms emphasized the very different social expectations for men and women. Society expected men to be sexual beings, and prostitutes provided an outlet for thei r natural desires. Yet, society expected 5 Mary Lyndon Shanley, Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850 1895 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 80. 6 John R. Gillis, For Better or Worse: British Marriag e 1600 to Present (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 248. 7 Jeffrey Weeks, Sex, Politics, and Society (New York: Longman, 1981), 22.


3 they besmirched their role by seeking out sex in a very public way. Prostitutes challenged Victorian ideals, but they are also a n example of the exaggerated position of all women between 1850 and 1914. Women had no rights to own property or to their children until the passage of the Property Acts of 1870, 1882, and the Infant Custody Act of 1886. 8 Indeed, the principle of covertur e, which defined Victorian marriage, meant that upon marriage a woman lost her legal identity and could no longer enter into any contract without permission of her husband. In effect, the wife became the property of her husband. 9 This meant, that married women had little or no control over their financial well being. 10 Participation in prostitution created income and provided a small modicum of control of their environment, even if it came at the price of selling their bodies. Laws that targeted their beh avior as both socially and physically dangerous further identified these women as in conflict with their gender repressed society. To understand the significance of prostitutes and prostitution, the key is their relationship with the gender biased norms o f Victorian society preoccupation with the symbolic role of the prostitute in society as the personification of disorderly female sexuality and the cultural coun terbalance with the chaste middle class social position of all women in Victorian society. 11 Indeed, prostitutes draw public 8 Lyndon Shanley, 49, 131. 9 Ibid., 22. 10 Ibid., 16. 11 Crimes of Outrage: Sex, Violence and Victor ian Working Women (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1998), 3.


4 attention to what historian Mary Lyndon Sh 12 Prostitution was a physical transaction that demonstrated the idea that women served men, and it was widespread in Victorian culture. 13 Be tween 1850 and 1914, prostitution as an industry highlighted and depended on a population of women already made vulnerable by gender biased legal, criminal, social, and domestic frameworks during this period and by the men who dominated society. In the drawin g rooms and social clubs of London, readers of the Times found the stories of prostitution in several locations in the newspaper: the police column, the various court columns, and divorce notices. In the police columns, the Times portrayed prostitutes as criminals or worse, habitual offenders who deserved no sympathy. The various court columns also used this type of language and also tried to create an divorce not ices allowed the Times to discuss prostitution as involved in the destruction of another valued institution, marriage. In general, the Times used the term prostitute loosely to mean any female who participated in sexual acts for money and only occasionall y distinguished women who habitually did so from those who did so casually. For the Times prostitution represented an expansive term that included casual or prostitutes who participated irregularly, and more business like brothels. This work utilizes th ese terms similarly because it uses the Times as a lens for understanding Victorian society between 1850 and 1914. 12 Lyndon Shanley, Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850 1895 80. 13 Current Issue s in ed. Arina Angerman, et al., (London: Routledge, 1989) 232.


5 Figure 1: This figure illustrates the number of articles that contained the words prostitute or prostitution published in the Times during each decade from 1850 1914. The number of Times articles that discussed prostitution reflect a fluctuating interest in this subject between 1850 and 1914, and provide interesting insights into the changing public attitudes about gender inequality dur ing this period. To study prostitution, I will look at the way prostitutes appeared in the Times in order to show how they were dramatic, public examples of all Victorian women. The Times is an excellent source to explore these issues because of its pro minence in British culture. According to historian Kevin Williams, author of Read All of About It! A History of the British Newspaper the Times was one of the most respected newspapers in Britain. 14 The Times largely due to the influence of a series of excellent editors, expanded its influence as a newspaper of repute and respectability. 15 Strong growth in readership, 14 Kevin Williams, Read All About It! A History of the British Newspaper (New York: Routledge, 2010), 84. 15 Ibid., 82. 0 200 400 1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s Number of Times Articles Where Prostitute or Prostitution Appears


6 from 5,000 in 1815 to 40,000 in 1850, demonstrates that the Times reflected interests of English middle class culture during this period. 16 Consistently, articles published in the Times used the term prostitute as a very fundamentally important to recognize the distinctions between doing prostitution and the Times ignored the first two types and focused only on the third. 17 Therefore, for the purposes of this essay, the term prostitute describes any woman believed to pa rticipate in prostitution or the selling sex for money. The Times did not distinguish between those women casually involved in prostitution and those housed in brothels for the purposes of prostitution and neither does this work. However, the majority of the cases published in the Times focused on whether a prostitute was actually engaged in the alleged act or whether, as they argued, the police or public wrongly labelled them. As historian Anna Clark explains, even during this era, the definition of pros titute changed. She explains marital sex was a 18 The Times creates the framework for the analysis in this work because of the fluidity of the language that discussed prostitution during this period. 16 Times. 17 Julia Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885 1960, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 26. 18 History 232.


7 CHAPTER II HISTORIOGRAPHY According to historians like Judith Walkowitz, Paula Bartley and Julia Laite, the crux of understanding prostitution in Victorian England is that prostitutes were vulnerable in many ways : economically, socially, and sexually Victorian ideals placed the responsibility on women to be the paragons of purity, and historians like Jeffrey Weeks are quick to point out that this restrictiv e understanding of sexuality ignored the complexity of prostitution. It would be too simple, as historian Judith Walkowitz explains, to think that prostitution was only about sex. As she states in her book, Prostitution and Victorian Society and social position, some women may have found the shorter hours and better pay of 19 In many ways, historians like Walkowitz, arrived at the conclusion that prostitution was an almost natural product of Victorian society, because it was a necessary answer to many problems, i.e. to satisfy the natural sexual desires of men and provide additional income for desperate women. However, this ignored the idea that prostitution would exist in any society driven by gender biases against women. While the various vulnerabilities of these women are important in understanding their participation in prostitution, they were disadvantaged because they were women first, and prostitutes second. The mere presence of prostitutes in the streets made them re presentations of sexual practices outside the accepted societal norms. According to historian Deborah 19 Judith Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 14.


8 Epstein Nord, prostitutes represented a principle intrinsic to Victorian society during this ond the bounds of domestic or sanctioned public space bear the mark of sexual taint and suspect economic 20 Victorian society possessed very explicit ideas regarding what women were allowed to do, be, and where they could do so and prostitutio n challenged these ideals. As historian Julia Laite 21 Prostitution existed, she argues, as a dir ect result of the gendered understanding of society. The perspectives of both of these historians support the connection between the experiences of prostitutes and the experiences of women in society. However, they do not try to argue that p rostitutes ar e the most obvious example of the way Victorian society constrained the role of women. Instead, Judith Walkowitz, has painstakingly explained the lives of prostitutes and worked to tell their individual stories with an emphasis on economic vulnerability. To understand the motivating economic factors that affected women who went into prostitution, one must look deeper than desperation or sheer economic want. As she explains, prostitution, 22 Prostitutes were a diverse group of women, some women participated in prostitution casually to supplement their income from other work, and others part icipated in prostitution as their only source of income. Walkowitz argues that 20 Deborah Epstein Nord, Walking the Victorian Streets : Women, Representation and the City (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), 135. 21 Laite, Common Prostitutes, Ordinary Citizens 30. 22 Ibid., 19.


9 women had very few opportunities to stray outside of their gender role, which drastically limited their ability to find higher paying jobs 23 r that she sees a lack of economic resources as an important cause of prostitution. 24 The key to understandin g this economic vulnerability i s seeing prostitution as the product of a gender prejudiced labor market. 25 Like Walkowitz, h istorian Paula Bartley, author of Prostitution: Prevention and Reform in England 1860 1914 emphasizes the idea that if women had other options, they would not have sold t heir bodies 26 Furthermore, a ccording to Bartley, prostitution was an industry dependent on the excessive we alth of men. As she explains, rostitution was based on the inequitable distribution of wealth: it needed one section of the community, namely men, to have enough surplus money to be able to afford to pay for the sexual services of another section of the community, namely women, who were financially less well off. 27 When taken together, Walkowitz and Bartley argued that the sources of prostitution were gender inequality within the labor market and unequal distribution of wealth. The efforts of both Walk owitz and Bartley emphasized the complexity of the economic motivations of prostitutes in an effort to counter the argument that greed or poverty alone motivated these women to engage in prostitution. In their efforts to illuminate the motivations of prost itutes, they missed an opportunity to expand further the discussion of prostitution and its relationship to a sexually repressed Victorian society. 23 Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society 19. 24 Ibid., 19. 25 Ibid., 20. 26 Bartley, Prostitution: Prevention and Reform in E ngland 1860 1914 (London: Routledge, 2000), 2. 27 Ibid., 9.


10 Sexuality pervaded Victorian culture and, historian Michael Mason explains, the most notorious topics in the sexual culture of the 28 prevalence of prostitution and the perceptions of the public. He vividly describes in their streets. 29 Historian Jeffrey Weeks argues that the accepted practices of the time allowed for less sexual freedom for women, yet simultaneously created an environment that allowed men to pursue sex outside of marriage. 30 This created a dichotomy of roles for women; they were wives who engaged in sex only within their marriage, or they were the prostitutes. One category of women represented sexual purity and the other existed to fulfill the desires of men. 31 Prostitutes forced society to confront i ts sexuality and this made them exceedingly vulnerable, as representations of what Victorians worked so hard to ignore. Historian Judith Walkowitz point ed to the passage of the Contagious Disease Acts of 1864, 1866 and 1869, as strong evidence of the legal and sexual vulnerability of women during this period. 32 The Acts brought prostitution into the greater discussion about public health and highlighted the sexual vulnerability of women who participated in sex outside of marriage. The CD Acts subjected wome n suspected of prostitution in the port cities to medical examinations without their consent. If the compulsory examinations found evidence of venereal disease, authorities placed these women in hospitals until they could prove that they no longer posed a medical danger to society. 33 28 Michael Mason, The Making of Victorian Sexuality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 73. 29 Ibid., 78. 30 Weeks, Sex, Politics, and Society 22. 31 Ibid., 22. 32 Walkowitz, Prostitution and Vi ctorian Society 2. 33 Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 7.


11 The CD Acts blamed women for the spread of venereal disease and forced them to surrender their personal rights to protect the public Men could also carry venereal diseases but, until the late 1880s, the laws targeted only th e dangers prostitutes represented and not the men paying them. 34 Laws like the CD Acts sought to control prostitution, because of the dangers that prostitutes posed to society. This negative hese women, which demonstrates their vulnerability. Many of the historians who have studied prostitution typically conclude that p articipation in prostitution represented a culmination of the various vulnerabilities of women during this period. 35 However, all women faced economic, social and sexual vulnerability as a direct result of a gender biased society. Prostitutes were the most noticeable, public representations of the subservient position of women. Viewing prostitution through the lens of the Times this study illustrates how prostitution as an industry highlighted and depended on a population of women already made vulnerable by gender biases present in the legal, domestic and social frameworks of the time. 34 The Times, October 12, 1898 5 35 Bartley, Prostitution: Prevention and Reform in England 1860 191 4 Laite. Common Pro stitutes and Ordinary Citizen, Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society.


12 CHAPTER III PROSTITUTION AND THE LAW To gain a better understanding of the legal disadvantages prostitutes faced understanding the interactions between prostitut es and the law is very important In a Most of the nineteenth ce ntury legislation, until almost the turn of the twentieth century, focused on the participation of women in prostitution and ignored the men who paid for their services Furthermore, the gender biased legal system made it difficult for women to defend the mselves against charges of prostitution. The legislation during this period targeted what lawmakers and the public perceived was a harmful, criminal population of women who made their living by encouraging vice amongst the upstanding male citizens of Lond on. One of the most significant laws regarding prostitution was the Vagrancy Act of 1824. According to Julia Laite, t offensive behavior, and introduced sections that allowed police and night watchmen to 36 This law marked the beginning of a new stage of attention to prostitutes as part of a broader movement to control criminal behavior. tes were subject to Vagrancy Acts and local by laws making it an offence for them to create a nuisance: soliciting was defined as a nuisance, and indeed being a prostitute looking for 37 Thus, these laws constructed the language with which police could prosecute prostitutes. The wording of this law was 36 Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 6. 37 Lesley Hall, Sex, Gender and Social Change Since 1880


13 important because it sought to protect the innocent public from the possibility of encountering belligerent and ill behaved women who intruded into pu blic spaces. However, no law made prostitution or selling sex illegal. 38 Instead, they created a new identity for prostitutes as nuisances to society. In 1839, the passage of the Metropolitan Police Act contributed to this new legal identity for prostitute s by further limiting the behavior of women in the streets Julia Laite argues that this Act was significant because it 39 The legisla and annoyance, but it did lay out the investigative procedure for police to follow. According to the Act, the police had to first to prove that a woman was a prostitute and then that sh e annoyed others in the street. The language of this law is important because it s ought to limit pr specifically tried to turn the public against pr ostitutes because it required witness testimony to prove that annoyance occurred. In this way, the law reinforced the connection of prostitutes with criminals by creating a separate criminal identity for them, associating them with petty crime and making them increasingly unwelcome in the streets. 40 Consis tently, the wording of the articles in the Times also framed prostitution as a nuisance to the respectable public. For example, in February of 1865, the Times published an article g in Regent Street to 38 Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citiz ens 6. 39 Ibid., 6. 40 The Times August 10, 1855, 10.


14 41 Under the Metropolitan Polic e Act, the alleged annoyance caused by these women constituted a crime. 42 The police testified that the accused were prostitutes and the prosecution needed no other evidenc e against them beyond the way the police perceived their identity. In this case constable Cane, C 35, knew the prisoners to be prostitutes question. 43 Even though the evidence against these women was limited, the courts convicted them, and the portrayal of th is legal proceeding in the Times did not indicate any suspicions rega judgment demonstrated how the protection of the public was, in s ome cases, judged more important than the rights of individual women Victorians believed that prostitutes represented a danger to public health, and fear of venereal disease precipitated the passage of the Contagious Disease Acts (C D Acts) in 1864, 1866 and 1869. 44 Under the Acts, women found in port cities suspected of prostitution faced intrusive medical examinations without their consent and lengthy hospitalizations if doctors found evidence of venereal disease. 45 The supporters of the CD Acts con sidered prostitutes and the venereal diseases that they allegedly carried as a danger to soldiers and the public, because the nature of the ir business meant they encounter ed single and married men alike who would then expose their sweethearts and wives. 46 F eminists opposed to the CD Acts, like Josephine Butler, Lydia Becker, and Elizabeth Wolstenholme, characterized t he laws 41 M arlborough Street. The Times February 20, 1865, 11. 42 Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 6. 43 M arlborough Street. Matilda Schultz was charge The Times February 20, 1865, 11. 44 Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society 71. 45 Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 7. 46 A. James Hammerton, Cruelty and Companionship: Conflict in Nineteenth Century Married Life (London: Routledge 1992), 109.


15 system of sexual, eco nomic, and political domination 47 They argued that, in or der to protect male soldiers in port towns, women on the street were compelled to surrender their privacy and faced legally sanctioned medical and social scrutiny. Efforts to repeal the CD Acts began almost as soon a s they went into effect in 1864. Women in opposition to the Acts quickly established 48 Members of the LNA argued that the Acts allowed for continued physical and legal dominati on over women. They also pointed out that the Acts addressed the spread of venereal disease while validating the interaction of soldiers with prostitutes as acceptable. 49 legislating for 50 Her arguments highlighted the difficult position of all women by pointing out the ways that the law restricted women and especially women who tried to use public spaces. According to Mary L 51 Thus, the feminists argued, the vague language of laws regarding prostitution exposed all women to unnecessary dangers by generally targeting any woman found in public. 52 In agreement with the feminists, but perhaps not for the same reasons, some members of the 47 Lyndon Shanley, Feminism, Marriage and the Law in Victorian England 1850 1895 81. 48 Ibid., 83, 84. 49 Ibid., 83, 84. 50 Ibid., 102. 51 Ibid., 86. 52 Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 71.


16 public felt the Acts w ere insufficient to address the much larger issue of prostitution. In an article published in 1868, one author explained that there were not enough lock hospitals to address the need in Aldershott, Chantham, and Portsmouth. The author also eloquently exp 53 This article stressed the complexity of the issue of prostitution and lamented that the law was not sufficientl y informed to address all the aspects of this industry. The law created the vague category of common prostitute, but left the interpretation of what they looked like and how they acted at the discretion of the individuals that encountered them. Ordinary wo men walking in the streets faced the possibility of misidentification as prostitutes by the police or other members of the public. 54 This created an interesting situation for women trying to navigate public spaces, because society based their judgments on a vague legal category and an established cultural idea defined by fear. After all, a presence in the public world provoked a heightened sense of sexual antagonism and 55 Le gislation like the CD Acts provided the impetus for a confrontation of the conflicting interests of those who sought prostitutes and those who wanted the industry abolished. T he opinion of the Times on the success of the CD Acts is difficult to discern be cause it published so few articles that analyzed them in any detail. Instead, t he CD Acts appeared in Letters to the Editor trying to incite the public to action. For example, 53 Th e Times February 6, 1868, 8. 54 235. 55 Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight 7.


17 a letter published in 1868 discussed the positive impact of the CD Acts in se veral coastal towns and proposed an extension of the laws to larger towns like London because of their effectiveness. The author argued, the law can do much to diminish mortality arising from contagious disease, preventing the prostitute from plying her trade in public thoroughfares, and to some extent keeping temptation out of the way of the thoughtless and the irresolute, and above all, shelter and protect those miserable women, whom circumstances, ignorance or want have drawn into such an abyss of woe. 56 that prostitutes found themselves in. However, h e further argued that venereal disease decreased because of the CD Acts. 57 Letters to the Editor like this one hi ghlight ed the idea that the public believed that prostitutes created dangers to public health, but also demonstrated how complex the issue of prostitution actually was. Victorian feminists argued that the CD Acts represented an excuse for the violation of women in the nam e of prevention and made a concerted effort to An article published in the Times in 1882 eloquently explained one of the popular objections to the CD Acts when it stated ay have proved from a sanitary point of view, the 58 In other words, seeing the CD Acts as a purely medical issue perpetuated a lack of consideration of the issue as a civil rights issue for women. A however understood as the result of vice and promiscuity, and thus largely located within the bodies of prostitutes (men being defined as victims of the diseases rather than as 56 The Times February 6, 1868, 8. 57 Ibid., 8. 58 The Contagious Diseases A cts The Times August 11, 1882, 5.


18 themselves instrumental 59 Legislators focused on the physical dan gers they believed prostitutes presented and forced these women to surrender their privacy to safeguard the health of British soldiers. In general, the articles in the Times indicate that the CD Acts were moderately successful in curbing the venereal disease that prostitutes carried. 60 An 1882 article detailed an extensive Parliamentary investigation on prostitution and venereal disease that included testimony fr om seventy one witnesses. The Commission concluded that the reduction in venereal disease outweighed the risks of possible misidentification of women in the streets as prostitutes. After all, the investigators argued, they found no evidence of any woman who was wrongfully accused To make their argument, the commission emphasized the prevalence of venereal disease among the Irish as evidence that without the Acts, Britain would experience an upswing of vice and disease. 61 However, even after such an in depth investigation, the Committee also acknowledged that there was not enough public support to extend the Acts. 62 Without the Acts to control the behavior of prostitutes, legislators tried other means to restrict the presence of women in public spaces. After the passage of the CD Acts, and the identification of prostitutes as public health dangers, new Licensing Laws more clearly defined what behavior was appropriate in public houses landlord was not to permit drunkenness, disorderly conduct, unlawful games or the 59 Hall, Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain Since 1880 22. 60 The Contagious Diseases Acts The Times August 11, 1882, 5. 61 Ibid., 5. 62 Ibid., 5.


19 specificall y. 63 However, by the 1870s, t he licensing process for public houses became increasingly complicated because of the public concern regarding prostitution. 64 The penalty, according to an article published in 1872, for a licensed public house charged with al lowing prostitutes to congregate on the premises included heavy fines and loss of liquor license 65 The article stated, common brothel, and that no prostitutes, reputed thieves, or other persons of notori ously bad character shall be harboured 66 The rules were clear, but the language deceptively broad. C ases prosecuted during this decade suggested that women who remained in public houses longer than what society expected ran the risk of t he police assuming their purpose was immoral 67 Likewise, legislators targeted another place where prostitutes congregated, the brothel. T he passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 18 85 made brothels illegal, which changed the dynamic of prostitutio n 68 Making brothels illegal was significant because it targeted the non public part of the industry. Prostitutes who worked in brothels represented the more organized and the part of the industry that viewed prostitution as a chance for regular income. A fter the Vagrancy Act and Metropolitan Police Act deemed prostitution an annoyance, many prostitutes moved their business indoors to avoid the increased scrutiny in the streets. 69 Laite argues that the specificity of the law changed the industry of prostit ution and created new relationships between 63 J. Parry Lewis, Freedom to Drink: A Critical Review of the Deve lopment of the Licensing Laws and Proposals for Reform (London: The Institute of Economic Affairs, 1985), 16. 64 The Times May 10, 1872, 5. 65 Ibid., 5. 66 Ibi d. 5. 67 Ibid., 5. 68 Laite, Co mmon Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 7. 69 Ibid., 15.


20 prostitutes and their various protectors but did little to decrease prostitution. 70 T he passage of this law went largely unnoticed in the Times even after the furor that accompanied the passage of the CD Acts tw enty years earlier. Perhaps this legislation received a better response than the CD Acts because it was dir ected at houses of ill repute and not at the participants directly. Sixteen years later, i n 1898, the Times published a notice of an update to the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which recognized the participation of men in prostitution for the first time. The new law included provisions that labeled any man who knowingly consorted with a prostitute or lived off the earnings of a prostitute as a bond 71 In other words, at the close of the decade, readers of the Times saw a different, perhaps less gender biased legal response to prostitution class in London especially those of foreign nationalities, th ousands of whom live in the way indicated 72 The Times painted a picture of a mass exodus of men and prostitutes from London to Scotland, Australia, and the Cape, wher e the new Act did not apply 73 This law repr esented a nexus of several prevalent issues in society, including the fear of foreigners and the belief in the connection between prostitution and other street crimes. However, most significantly, this law marked a more concerted effort on the part of leg islators to look beyond the prostitute herself and direct legal attention to the ways men profited from the industry. From 1900 to 1914, the issue of male participation in prostitution became more prominent in the legislation, but men featured only as pimp s who compelled women to 70 Laite, Co mmon Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 212. 71 The Times, October 12, 1898 5 72 Ibid., 5. 73 Ibid., 5.


21 participate, not as active participants themselves In January 1903, the courts defended Martha Atwell as they brought charges of assault against Walter May. The article established that Atwell earned her living by prostitution, but this fact was not the focus of the court case. According to the article, the centerpiece of the case was the conduct of May not Atwell. Atwell alleged that May physically beat her, but he also faced the relatively new charge of profiting from prosti tution. The court argued that he made a habit of living o f f the wages of prostitutes and did not view this behavior with any sympathy. May received a sentence of nine months of hard labor, but the article did not mention any punishment for Atwell. 74 Thi s case is significant because it blamed a man for his role in compelling a woman to participate in prostitution. T he public supported prosecutions of pimps, but still ignored the larger issue of men who paid prostitutes By the beginning of World War I, the government and the police tied prostitute id general police orders that required anyone arrested for solicitation to supply their fingerprints. 75 According to historia 76 The changing laws did not necessarily decrease prostitution, but instead, changed the practices and the social perception of the women who participated in the industry. From the geographic changes that dictated where prostitution could not take place to the increased concern about prostitutes as dangers to the public health, the law framed how the public perceived prostitutes a nd prostitution. 74 The Times January 13, 1903, 13. 75 Julia Laite History Workshop Journal 105 Issue 65 (2008), 98. 76 Ibid., 105.


22 CHAPTER I V PROSTITUTION AND THE POLICE The persistence of prostitution and t he deliberate vagueness of anti prostitution laws complicated issues of authority for the police during this period. As historian Phillip Thurmond Smith notes, 77 While police power expanded during this period, prostitution i tself was not illegal. Instead, police targeted prostitutes who committed other crimes or annoyed the public. A detailed study of the articles published in the Times suggests that during this period the police defined their authority as protectors of th e public, while the gender biased laws allowed them to target prostitutes as women out of place who challenged police authority in public spaces. Prostitutes faced increasing scrutiny because they were women working in a highly visible industry that confl icted with the professed values of Victorian culture. The authority the public vested in them, and the legal authority that the police had was relatively new, and began in the 1830s It provided police with the power to safeguard the public from the dan ger that prostitutes represented. 78 In terms of their legal authority, t he Vagrancy Act of 1824 and the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 represented the most significant solicitation laws for London because they gave police the authority to prosecute prosti 79 Likewise, additional stipulations 77 Phillip Thurmond Smith, Policing Victorian London (London: Greenwood Press, 1985), 203. 78 Clive Emsley, The English Police: A Political and Social History (London: Longman, 19 96), 35. 79 Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 6.


23 80 These stipula tions greatly expanded police power to prosecute prostitutes who congregated in brothels. These laws did not include any specifically gendered language; however, the public perception of prostitutes painted them as dangerous to the public health and a nui sance to society. 81 The CD Acts of the 1860s reinforced this idea by identifying prostitutes as public health danger s 82 To satisfy the public, the police needed 83 The members of respectable socie ty feared not only crime, but also what they perceived as the lifelong vice ridden criminal class of perpetrators who lived in the poorest areas of the city. 84 As a gaol chaplain explained in a letter to the editor of the Times one woman who he counseled h ad an arrest record so long that when published, it filled one quarter of a page and spanned 29 years. 85 During the Victorian era, members of well being and social st 86 The phenomenon of one class trying to separate itself from what it perceived to be lower classes was not new, but especially prevalent in the Victorian period. The middle class wanted to establish a separate crimes and lived in dense overpopulated areas of the city. 87 Perhaps some contemporaries believed that the divisions between these two classes were distinct and 80 Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 6. 81 Clive Emsley, Crime and Society in England 1750 1900 (London: Longman, 1987), 67. 82 Laite, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens 7. 83 Emsley, The English Police: A Political and Social History 71. 84 Emsley, Crime and Society in England 1750 1900 66. 85 The Times August 4, 1869; p. 4. 86 David Taylor Criminal Conversations ed. Judith Rowbotham and Kim Stevenson ( Columbus: University of Columbus Press 2005 ), 10. 87 Emsley, Crime and Society in England 1750 1900 67.


24 obvious, but historian David Taylor argues that there was also a growing fear that the lines had started to blur between respectability and criminality. 88 No matter how clear or faint the class distinctions, in essence, society believed that police constituted a safeguard that protected the upper classes from the more vice prone, deplorable lower classes. Because the upper and middle class Victorians believed the police should protect them from the dangerous lower classes, the dynamic between the police and the public changed during this p eriod. 89 Patrolling the streets often involved venturing into the seedier parts of London in the pursuit of petty criminals. In these areas, the efforts of police were not always welcome, but this did not deter them. For members of the lower classes, pol misdemeanours: street traders were ordered to move along, as were groups of loitering 90 This lead to some residents who felt victimized by the power of p olice. Historian streets, and their use of this power, probably contributed to the belief among many members of the working class that there was one law for the rich and another harsher, law for the po 91 Indeed, when encouragement for increased authority of the police appeared in the Times it targeted the slums of London where the working classes lived. One of the first articles published in the Times during the 1850s described the complex rela tion ship between police authority, property owners, and prostitutes. In this case, an owner of a public house faced charges of allowing prostitutes to consort on his property. The accused owner countered that regardless of the alleged guilt of the women, 88 Taylor Criminal Conversations 20 89 Emsley, Crime and Society in England 1750 1900 67. 90 Ibid. 60. 91 Ibid., 67.


25 the y did not deserve to wander the streets, especially without refreshments. 92 In this case, the police prosecuted the women because of their presence in a public house, while the owner argued that there was not su fficient evidence to support any char ge 93 Perhaps this working class business owner felt targeted by the police because, a s the article explained, constable to tell a person keeping a house of public res ort that he had seen some of these wome in turning 94 As the public house owner in this case pointed out, the testimony of a policeman alone would no t get him to expel potentially innocent customers from his premises. 95 The gender biased laws, in this case, also had implications for business owners and demonstrated how the police used their power to control what happened in public spaces. T he laws allowed police to pursue women who prostituted themselves and s ome of the cases published in the Times highlighted the negative interactions between the court, police, and prostitutes For example i n May1852, a policeman stood accused of ac cepting bribes from prostitutes trying to avoid prosecution. In this case, the courts exonerated the policeman because the testimony of prostitutes could not be trusted. 96 A ssumptions regarding the character of the women almost automaticall y discredited their testimony for truth which is to be expected at the hands of those who have lost the respect of society, it is obvious that such testimony must be received w 97 92 The Times, February 5, 1850, 7. 93 Ibid., 7. 94 Ibid., 7. 95 Ibid., 7. 96 The Times May 28, 1852, 7. 97 The Times May 28, 1852, 7


26 The fact that the testimony of a n alleged prostitute was not as trustworthy as that of a policeman demonstrates the disadvantages experienced by prostitutes, but their disadvantage had two major components: first that they were w omen, and second that they were prostitutes. Society ostracized prostitutes because of their alleged profession, but also because they were women, which was already a very restricted legal identity. In December of 1869, a case involving a public house a ccused of harboring prostitutes demonstrated how police targeted women found in public. In this case, the police raided a public house because they believed the owner harbored prostitutes afte r they observed numerous women enter and leave with men. The d prostitutes with refreshments and that it was not harbouring or permitting prostitutes to 98 The police offered no additional evidence other than their own observations of men and women on the premises together. However, the magistrate sided with the police, and pointed out that were there for the purposes o 99 Judgments like this one demonstrate the societal belief that women did not belong in public at night. This case was just one example of many where the police represented not only the criminal enforcement, but also the moral enforcement for society. The public often turned to police to clean up their streets, and expressed their dissatisfaction when they felt the police action was inadequate. For example, i n Bow 98 The Times December 4, 1869, 11. 99 Ibid., 11.


27 Street in 1853, several churchwardens and citizens filed a complaint against the local precinct because of what they characterized as a lack of action against multiple houses of ill repute. They alleged that, the police had the power to stop the prostitution in both the streets and w con sidered public places and under the purview of the police. The article described the complexities of the issue when the prosecutor claimed that, in these instances, the police did not have the authority to enter into any private residences, regardless of any suspicions of prostitution 100 The law limited police authority by not making prostitution illegal, but the police found other ways to prosecute women for this crime. In some articles, the public expected vigilance from the police and when they felt the police had not effectively protected them, the Times provided a vehicle for this criticism. 101 In 1869, the vestry of Whitechapel parish brought complaints to the disorderly prostit to the prostitution in the district, the article mentioned three Irish prostitutes charged as part of the complaint. 102 Upper class citizens pressure d the p olice to address prostitution a nd criticized the police heavily when they felt they did not sufficiently protect citizens. walked a tightrope of public expectation. If they aggressively pursued prostitution in the 100 The Times, June 30, 1853, 7. 101 Ibid., 7. 102 The Times August 10, 1869, 9


28 wrong places, or did not provide effective protection against criminality they must face a critical public 103 Conflicting opinions about the ideal level of police power led to intense review of the effectiveness of th e police. In 1906, the Times published an article that discussed the work of the Royal Commission on the Metropolitan Police. This Commission investigated police practice s in three different types of cases: drunkenness, disorder and solicitation or pros titution cases. The article included statistics about arrests for these crimes and described the difficulty the police faced as th ey investigated them 104 The Commission understood that the Metropolitan Police represented the front lines against criminal b e havior in the streets. The message from the Royal Commission was clear : there were limits to the steps police could ta ke in the pursuit of criminals like prostitutes. A year later in 1907 the Royal Commission commented further on the possibility of abu se of power from the police, and clearly stated its belief that anyone who arrested a person without cause or who overstepped their authority should face dismissal. 105 However, as the cases published in the Times demonstrated, police could follow proper pro cedure and still prosecute prostitutes who annoyed the public. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the outlook on how the police should address prostitution was still undecided A Times article that assessed the conditions of the streets of Lond on even vacillated on the notion that cleaner streets resulted from increased pow er for the police. 106 Remin d ing readers that the police had no power to rid the streets of prostitutes unless they could prove a crime had been committed, t he article 103 The Times June 30, 1853, 7. 104 The Royal Commission On The Metropolitan Police The Times July 16, 1906, 11. 105 The Times July 27, 1907, 3. 106 The Streets At Night. The Times, December 18, 1901, 11.


29 argued that the police approached their work with vigor but hesitated to expand their power. 107 In some ways, the article explained how prostitution was much more will not get rid 108 At the dawn of a new century, the Times presented conflicted views on how best to address prostitution. In some ways, the emphasis on the criminality of these women argued for greater police enforcement, and yet other articles suggested t hat prostitution was a much larger issue that involved many different groups within society: the police, men, and women of many different classes. 109 In general, the public considered p rostitutes, or the women of the streets, dangerous, and understanding th e efforts of the police to control this population indicates a great deal about the inherent gen der biases of Victorian society between 1850 and 1914 The police personified enforcement of the gender biased laws that reinforced the limited identities of women. The police had the power to label women as prostitutes, conferring a broadly applied, but a limited legal identity The women labelled with this identity not only faced legal sanctions, but also social stigma because of the public sexuality they r epresented. 107 Th e Streets At Night. The Times, December 18, 1901 11. 108 Ibid., 11. 109 Ibid., 11.


30 CHAPTER V PROSTITUTION AS A SOCIAL ISSUE Both contemporaries and historians agreed that pros titution was a prevalent issue during the nineteenth century. 110 Prostitution was a public manifestation of the consequences of strictly defined gender r oles that created separate standards for men and women. The sex industry resulted from a society that simultaneously expected women to contribute a great deal by raising children and taking care of the home, and restricted their identities legally, sociall y and sexually. The negative perceptions of prostitutes demonstrated an environment where prostitution could flourish, and also provided opportunities to ridicule the women desperate enough to prostitute themselves. According to historian Deborah Epstein prostitute was linked th r ough metaphor and notions of contagion with the decay, 111 In reality, these women were legally, economically and socially vulnerable and their public existence confronted the values that Victorian society professed. The experiences of these women, who faced ridicule both because they were women, and because of their prostitution, emphasized the vulnerability of all women during this period. Indeed w omen accused of prostitution faced an uphill battle when it came to defending themselves against a charge that included both a legal and social component. In an 1852 case, Ann Butler, faced charges of theft from a customer, even 110 Laite, Common Prostitutes, Ordinary Citizens 10. 111 Epstein Nord, Walking the Victorian Streets 83.


31 though the police found no money on her person. 112 The gentleman who brought the charges told the court that while drinking with the accused at a public house, he fell asleep and when he awoke he found his money missing. The police found Butler at a nearby pubic house drunk and searched her person but found none of the missing money. After a magistrate saw the evidence in this case, he agreed to hold Butler over to allow the police to continue their investigation. 113 One of the significant issues highlighted in th that there was no concrete evidence of the theft found, and more that the accused was an alleged prostitute and therefore criminal What society believed prostitutes were ignored the greater complexity of their lives, which often included economic ha rdship Women, and perhaps especially married women, were in an economically vulnerable position between 1850 and 1914. They depended on their husbands for support and could be left with very few options if they married a man who was less than dutiful. For example, in April of 1854, the Times introduced readers to Mrs. Fredericks, whose husband, Ca ptain Fredericks, had recently abandoned her. Left destitute with two 114 The focus of this case was the negative effect Mr desertion set this series of events in motion. Cases like this one emphasized the gender biases present in both the social and legal frameworks during this period Society tried to dictate not only how women could contribute to their families, but also judged them 112 The Times October 6, 1852, 7. 113 Ibid., 7. 114 T he Times April 20, 1854, 11.


32 harshly for their desperation if they prostituted themselves. In other words, the industry of prostitution continued because of a society that pu nish women for their participation and ignored the actions of men. A particularly brutal case appeared in the Times in 1866 that illustrated the difficulty of married women to survive economically if their husbands did not support them sufficiently. In th negligence. Prior to their marriage, according to Mrs. Coleman, Mr. Coleman, a working situation and to 115 By 1859, she was without sufficient financial support, and tried to survive on the proceeds from her needlework. However, Mr. Coleman, dissatisfied with the little money she earned, forced her into a life of prostitution. She t suggested that the petitioner earn money by going upon the streets. She refused, and she begged and entreated him to get money by other means, but he insisted, but he beat her and threatened to 116 he assumption that respectable married women were protected by their husbands. Society expected middle class women to marry and raise children, and expected working class women to marry, raise children, and contribute to the finances of the family as much as possible It was not surprising that some of the poorest among them turned to prostitution to support themselves or their families 117 Historians a cknowledge 115 T he Times January 27, 1866, 11. 116 Ibid., 11. 117 Walkowitz, Pros titution and Victorian Society, 16.


33 that economic re asons might not have been the decisive factor for each woman, but typically, in combination several other contributing factors, including sexual and social motivations. 118 Each w oman who participated in prostitution had her own reasons, and chose to involve herself in different wa ys, casually to earn a little income where needed, or more consistently as a brothel tenant. Whether or not their motivations were truly economic, the women who participated in prostitution also confronted a society that believed that respectable husbands provided for their wives and families, and respectable women did not work. The story of Dorthea Caroline Seilberge, published in 1888, demonstrated the underlying power issues between men and women in society Seilberge accused Louis Heilfink of 119 testimony detailed how Heilfink forced her to engage in prostitution and when she was unsuccessful at obtaining enough income, he beat her violently. The accused in this case promised her marriage, and Seilberge quickly found herself in a diff icult situation. In court, Se ilberge pursued charges against Heilfink for assault and kidnapping and the court agreed to continue to investigate the case. 120 This case emphasized how vulnerable women were in a society that gave them a great deal of responsibility, but no rights By promising marriage, Heilfink cloaked his plan of se xual exploitation in socially acceptable terms and lured Seilberge into an unfortunate arrangement. Cases like this one emphasized the inherent gender biases that gave relative freedom to men and severely restricted the identities of women. 118 Walkowitz, Pros titution and Victorian Society 15 17. 119 At W estminster L ouis H eilfink 37, describ ed as a T he Times March 28, 1888, 13. 120 Ibid. 13.


34 In 1907, the Times published a case that highlighted the tension faced by women who sought this type of income outside the home and the fact that they did so in a profession already stigmatized legally, socially, and sexually only complicated the situation further D uring the Mr. Frodsham alleged that Mrs. Frodsham lured him into marriage with the intent of taking advantage of him f inancially and willfully enga ging in prostitution during their marriage Mr. Frodsham argued for a divorce because his marriage was a fraud and because Mrs. Frodsham continually engaged in a life of theft, prostitution and adultery. The police testimony in this case portrayed Mrs. Frodsham as a prostitute who i ntentionally ensnared Mr. Frodsham. For exa mple, Sergeant Sindon testified, street in 1906, and on various occasions had seen her [Mrs. Frodsham] accosting men and bringing them home with 121 This type of behavior was intolerable for a woman, but the established patriarchy allowed men to consort with prostitutes without legal ramifications. Prostitution, as it appeared to the reader of the Times was an unfortunate industry that women participated in with no visible male partners. In general, t he articles published in the Times convey little detail about the men who consorted with prostitutes. Typically the articles did not mention these men, unless the man was the one suing or bearing witness against the woman, but that was typically for an additional crime, not just prostitution. 122 In fact, in many of the articles that included references to prostitut ion, the only m an who appeared in the article wa s the policeman who testified. The prosecution of prostitutes and the decisions made by the court demonstrated the societal belief that 121 The Times December 20, 1907, 3. 122 T he Times October 6, 1852, 7.


35 women should not be publicly flaunting their sexuality, even if men nee ded to use them to fulfill their sexual desires. 123 According to Jeffrey Weeks, while the latter half of the nineteenth century was known for strict morals and well consciousness: from the widespread discussions of birthrate, deathrate, life expectanc y and fertility in the statistical forays of the century to the urgent controversies over public 124 Perhaps society was so fearful of prostitutes as invaders because their existence forced Victorian society to confront issues of male and female sexuality. Prostitution represented an industry that used sex to connect the public and the private spheres, and this created a danger for the members of respectable Victorian society. According to historian Deborah E the prostitute or sexually tainted woman is linked not just with sexuality but, potentially, with the private realm of family life as well, she embodies the possibility of an invisible and uncontrollable invasion of the middle class h 125 The multitude of articles in the Times that referenced prostitution underscore d how prostitution consistently connected sexuality to the public sphere. Th e approach of the Times demonstrated how prostitution became the prominent identity of these women and society generally ignored that they were women. Society increasingly judged women in terms of their sexuality, which generated more attention on prostitutes and prostitution. 126 Specifically, in article s published about the CD Acts, the Times referred to prostitutes as, miserable creatures who were masses of rottenness and 123 Walkowitz, Prostitution in Victorian Society 15 124 Weeks, S ex, Politics and Society 19. 125 Epstein Nord, Walking the Victorian Streets 82. 126 Crimes of Outrage: Sex, Violence and Victorian Working Women 194.


36 vehicles for disease. 127 In a way, prostitutes fomented the fear of sexual licentiousness in the sexual agency of 128 Victorian society expected men to be sexual beings, but did not provide any public avenues for women to express their sexuality or eve n personality if they challenged societal expectations was demanding independent recognition and attention in the form of p rotection from both civil exploitation and state 129 Prostitution provided a public avenue for some In many ways, societal gender norms reinforced the idea that the satisfaction of male sexual d expected. 130 Certainly, there were both social risks if men were indiscreet and physical risks of venereal disease, but the articles in the Times did not discuss the participation of the men who sought the services of prostitutes The absence of men in the Times coverage reinforced the idea that only women should be held socially responsible for this industry Society protected women at home by allowing men to use women in the street to sat isfy their sexual desires. What historian Susan Kingsley Kent characterized as the the recourse of men to prostitutes and enabled them to cover up, with the help of 127 Contagious Disease Acts, The Times July 25, 187, 4. 128 Kate Gleeson Clarence Criminal Conversati ons ed. Judith Rowbotham and Kim Stevenson ( Columbus: University of Columbus Press 2005 ), 216. 129 Ibid. 217. 130 Susan Kingsley Kent, Sex and Suffrage in Britain 1860 1914 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), 61.


37 131 Male authority was so well entrenched that men could consort with prostitutes without facing the same degree of ridicule women encountered, or potentially any ridicule at all Separate standards for men and women created a climate that drove desperate women into the streets and simultaneously shunned them for their participation in a disgraceful, but pervasive industry In man y of the cases published in the Times the focus of the articles was the criminal element that these women perpetuated in society, and not the inhospitable circumstances that brought them to do so. However, in studying the unfortunate circumstances that a llowed prostitution to flourish, it is clear that their experiences as women also shaped their identities within a gender biased society. The disadvantages experienced by prostitutes had economic, social and sexual components, and they highlight the generally repressed condition of all women in Victorian soci ety 131 Kingsley Kent, Sex and Suffrage in Britain 1860 1914 64.


38 CHAPTER VI PROSTITUTION AND MARRIAGE Instead of maintaining that prostitution happened in the darkest streets far from the typical household articles about the intrusion of prostitution into marriage filled the divorce columns of the Times Prostitutio n also forced society to confront the inherent gender and power biases that brought many marriages to the breaking point. While adultery was not a new topic in 19 th century divorce cases, consorting with a prostitute or working as a p rostitute provided co mpelling gr ounds for either spouse to petition for divorce. The intrusion of prostitution into marriage brought to light gender inequality during a period when new legal and social practices already put marriage under the microscope. According to A. Jame literacy, newspapers and reading habits that encouraged a shared newspaper culture among the middle cl 132 The Times articles portrayed prostitution as the root of a significant number of divorces, and exposed the gender biases present in marriage practices during this period Some Victorians argued that prostitution was a necessary industry. Historian Susan Kingsley Kent quotes historian O.R. McGregor who explains that prostitution waywardness of men and the purity of the middle 133 This argument emphasizes how the only role for women in sex was passive; they produced children for their husbands or they were objects for men to use to satisfy their sexual desires in the 132 Hammerton, Cruelty and Companionship, 102. 133 Kingsley Kent, Sex and Suffrage in Britain 62.


39 streets. 134 If a woman sought sex outside of marr iage, she faced social ridicule and potential divorce. P rostitution was not the only option fo r women who sought sex outside of marriage, but because it was the most public representation it received the most attention in the divorce columns of the Times The passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1857 made divorce much more widely available t o the general populace, which meant increased coverage in the Times Previously, the high cost and necessary legal maneuvering required to obtain a Parliamentary divorce made them essentially unattainable for the lower classes. 135 However, the strict gend er biased burden of proof that this law placed on women meant that divorce was not readily available to anyone that wanted one and the number of successful divorce cases remained relatively small. 136 This law expanded the availability of divorce to both me n and women, but stopped short of eliminating the legally sanctioned gender barriers for women seeking divorce. Men could divorce their wives if they committed adultery, but women could only petition for a divorce if their husband committed adultery and a n additional offense like bigamy, incest, desertion or cruelty. 137 In essence, women needed extra evidence against their husbands, because Victorian marriage required greater sexual loyalty from women than from men. The discourse on marriage and divorce tha t framed the Matrimonial Causes Act demonstrated the changing ideas about the roles of men and women in marriage but was rce, only four women successfully braved 134 Kingsley K ent, Sex and Suffrage in Britain 62. 135 Lawrence Stone, Road to Divorce (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 368. 136 Hall, Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain Since 1880 11. 137 Ibid., 10.


40 138 Members of Parliament wanted debates over the Divorce Act of 1857 refl ect the inability of the majority of Victorian gentlemen to envision a form of marriage in which husband and wife met as political and 139 In many ways, this Act supported patriarchal authority in marriage and reinforced the idea of distinc t separate standards for men and women. 140 In some of the cases published in the Times the role of prostitution in divorce demonstrated gender biased ideas within marriage. To obtain a divorce, w omen needed to prove to the court that their husbands did n ot fulfill their marital duties by committing adultery, abandoning their social or economic responsibilities or committing an egregious sexual act. For example, i n May of 1860, t he courts granted Mrs. Mawdsley a divorce on the grounds of 141 According to Mrs. Mawdsley, Mr. Mawdsley abandoned her on several occasions and lashed out at her violently. In this case, when Mr. Mawdsley abandoned his wife, he did not fulfill the economic responsibility of his marriag e. The article details multiple acts of violence committed by Mr. Mawdsley against Mrs. Mawdsley and ends with the assertion that Mr. Mawdsley had a proven affair with a prostitute in 1858. 142 While we cannot know which of these facts, contributed most to burden of evidence that a women needed to support her petition for divorce. 138 Allen Horstman, Victorian Divorce Press, 1985), 24. 139 Lyndon Shanley, Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850 1895 48. 140 Ibid. 48. 141 The Times May 29, 1860, 11. 142 Ibid., 11.


41 The difficulty women had in obtaining divorce because of the additional circumstances they had to prove highli ghted the gender biases within divorce laws. In 1864, Mrs. Dickinson sought a divorce from her husband because of his consistent mistreatment and otherwise ill treating his wife. 143 The notice of their divorce also noted Mr. abandonment of his wife and cohabitation with a prostitute in Liverpool. 144 It divorce; however, once agai n, gender biased marriage laws put the burden of proof on Mrs. Dickinson. In this case, Mr. Dickinson was guilty of abandonment, cruelty and petition. However, because Mrs. Dickinson was a woman, she suffered additionally at the hands of Mr. Dickinson. If Mrs. Dickinson had been guilty of any on e of the same transgressions i.e. if she were abusive, abandoned her spouse or committed a single act of adultery Mr. Dickins on could have easily divorced her. Some of t he articles in the Times also explained how prostitution exposed the uneven power distribution within marriage For example, a wife who engaged in prostitution as a career provided her husband with an easy reason for divorce In the case of Moule v. Moule in 1862, Mr. Moule argued for a divorce because Mrs. Moule lived a life of prostitution. This case is particularly complicated because the two had unofficially separated in 1854, but a claim of possible prostitution accele rated the divorce. 145 143 Court For Divorce And Matrimonial Causes, Nov. 24 The Times Nov ember 2 5, 1864 8 144 Ibid., 8 145 The Times February 7, 1862, 11.


42 that he was away from home, and this led to Mrs. Moule article nor the court delved into any possible dee per reasons for Mrs. Moule but the court granted the divorce This case demonstrated that a husband had every right to seek to dissolve his marriage when his wife engaged in prostitution, but she did not have the same right if he consorted with a prostitute. In some divorc e cases, the key issue was actually female independence, cloaked in a discussion about prostitution. For example, in May of 1865, the Proctors divorced. Mr. Proctor was the son of a clergyman who married without his father approval His f ather was so displeased to learn that his son had married without his consent and that, furthermore, that his bride was a known prostitute in Cambridge, he immediately moved to dissolve the marriage. 146 The couple lived separately with each set of parents r espectively, but the prosecution asserted that Mr. Proctor continued to support his wife. She, however, returned to her previous profession, much to the chagrin of her husband and his clergyman father willfu contribution to her support. This case called attention to the unequal power distribution in marriages that sometimes drove women to prostitute themselves. Women who married fulfilled a social obligation, but marriage did not necessarily provide them with safety and security In 1862, the courts granted Mrs. Coni petition for divorce, because Mr. Coningworth left for America without providing her any means of support. The couple married in 1848, and lived together until 1852. They had 146 The Times May 6, 1865, 11.


43 two children, and Mr. Coningworth struggled to maintain his employmen t. He first worked as a clerk at Custom House and then in a partnership with a port merchant. The petition for divorce. 147 itten to her twice, but has neither furnished her with the means of joining him, nor contributed in any way to 148 In this case, the mention of prostitution served to illustrate the negative character of Mr. Coningworth, who subjected his wife to the indignity of his adultery with a prostitute and abandoned her quite literally. The difficult situation Mrs. Coningworth found herself in led to her petition, and highlighted the economic and social vulnerability of all married women. If husbands did not provide adequat e support, some women turned to prostitution to earn money to survive. This so called choice is complex, because without the gender biases present in marriage, these women may have not prostituted themselves willingly For example, in the case of Burdon v. Burdon, Mrs. Burdon alleged that Mr. Burdon failed in his duty as a husband and forced her into a life of prostitution. What the article described as his out of desperation to prostitute herself to provide incom e for food and basic survival Mr. Burdon also encouraged his wife to prostitute herself and she argued actively forced her by withholding food in order to secure her compliance 149 Mrs. Burdon a former domestic servant, argued for a divorce based on he profound vulnerability of some working class women during this period. There was no 147 The Times February 7, 1862 11. 148 Ibid., 11. 149 The Times June 6, 1899, 3.


44 clear resolution of this case published in the Times but the language of the article portrayed Mr. Burdon as the villain. By arranging encounters for his wife and profiting from her work, he could, according to an article published the year before, be labeled a rogue and a vagabond. 150 Seventy four years after the passage of the Vagrancy Act, the Times offered a prime example of the complexity of prostitution, especially as it c hallenged other well established institutions like marriage. The new laws about divorce and the articles published in the Times brought prostitution off the streets and into homes and ackno wledged its influence in some divorce proceedings. The foundation of the relationship between men and women in marriage was the dependence on the husband for economic and social stability. According to the law, when husbands treated their wives unf airly, and committed adultery with a prostitute, their wives could divorce them, but only if they also committed another crime (i.e. abandonment or cruelty). When a wife engaged in prostitution, she abandoned her family and her husband could easily divorc e her. The articles published in the Times highlighted the gender biased divorce law, and the power struggles between men and women within marriage. Prostitution often represented additional drama in divorce cases that highlighted the underlying hypocris y of Victorian culture. In many ways, the social ridicule faced by prostitutes was an exaggerated example of the gender biased environment that all women lived in during this period. 150 The Times October 12, 1898, 5.


45 CHAPTER VII CONCLUSION Sixty two years the Times published a case that illuminated another difficult situation created by the inferior position of women and the gender biased society that reinforced it Cases that involved prostitution, like the divorce of Mr. and Mrs. Roche, demonstrated the comp licated relationship between prostitution and other Victorian institutions like marriage. During their divorce, both Mr. and Mrs. Roche made claims of wrongdoing aga inst the other. I n fact, both spouses accused the other of committing adultery, and their competi ng claims just complicated the divorce further Mrs. Roche also claimed that the brutality of Mr. Roche drove her to prostitution in order to support herself. She testified that 151 Her neighbors testified that they were aware of the cruelty that Mrs. Roche experienced at the hands of her husband but they er took steps to put an end to it 152 After a thorough investigation, the court reserved judgment, but the jury agreed that Mr. Roche coerced Mrs. Roche, and did not prosecute her for any crime. 153 In many ways, j udgment in the Roche divorce case hinged on the agency of Mrs. Roche; whether or not she was a willing participant in prostitution. If she willingly prostituted herself, then she was guilty of a crime, but if Mr. Roche provided inadequate support for his wife, then she was not. As a married woman, Mrs. Roche was dependent on her husband for economic and social support and without it she had few options. Mrs. 151 Probate, Divorce, And Admiralty Division The Times March 10, 1905, 3. 152 Ibid., 3. 153 Ibid., 3.


46 Roche is an example of how prostitutes represented the multi faceted vulnerabilities of women during this period. Legally, socially and sexu ally, women had fewer rights than men in Victorian society. Prostitutes, who participated in a prevalent but socially unacceptable industry, highlighted these gender biases. The position of these women, as already disadvantaged by their gender and furthe r disadvantaged by their employment presents an exaggerated example of the experience of all women during this period. The articles published in the Times provide a lens through which to view how prostitution influenced the discussion of gender inequality inherent in the legal, criminal, social and domestic frameworks during the period between 1850 and 1914. The prevalence of articles about prostitution in the pages of the Times indicates that its place in society also fascinated contemporaries. Due to the ir unique position in society, prostitutes shared the plight of all women in a very public way. Unintentionally, prostitutes became the public face for much deeper societal issues of gender inequality. This is perhaps the most lasting part of their legacy, that these women challenged, by their very existence, the deeply held gender biases within society.


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51 Walkowitz, Judith R. Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Weeks, Jeffrey. Sex, Politics, and Society: the Regulat ion of Sexuality since 1800 London: Longman, 1981. Wendelin, Greta. "The Prostitute's Voice in the Public Eye: Police Tactics of Security and Discipline Within Victorian Journalism." Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 7`, no. 1 (2010): 53 69. W illiams, Kevin. Read All About It! A History of the British Newspaper New York: Routledge, 2010. NEWSPAPER ARTICLES: "Another Spinning House Case. At the Vice ." T he Times May 30, 1892, p. 7. T he Times January 12, 1860, p. 11. At Westminster, Louis Heilfink, 37, described as a." T he Times March 28, 1888, p. 13. "Boyell v. Boyell." T he Times May 31, 1875, p. 13. "Central Criminal Courts." T he Times January 11, 1850, p. 6. Contagious Disease Acts, The Times July 25, 1871, p. 4. ses, Feb. 6." T he Times February 7, 1862, p. 11.


52 "Court For Divorce And Matrimonial Causes, May 13." T he Times May 14, 1864, p. 13. "Court For Divorce And Matrimonial Causes, Nov. 24." T he Times November 25, 1864, p. 8. "Emmanuel Hospital." T he Tim es April 25, 1871, p. 12. "House Of Commons, Friday, June 21." T he Times June 22, 1872, p. 6. "House Of Commons, Wednesday, July 20." T he Times July 21, 1870, p. 6. "House Of Lords, Monday, May 30." T he Times May 31, 1881, p. 6. "Kenny v. Kenny." T he Times May 12, 1875, p. 5. Street. T he Times March 10, 1865, p. 11. "Marlborough Street. Matilda Schultz was charged." T he Times February 20, 1865, p. 11. Street. T h e Times March 17, 1865, p. 11. T he Times January 5, 1865, p. 11. "Mawdsley v. Mawdsley." T he Times May 29, 1860, p. 11.


53 "May 5." T he Times May 6, 1865, p. 11. "Metropolitan Police Commission." T he Times July 27, 1907, p. 3. "Miss Nightingale On Prison Discipline." T he Times October 11, 1873, p. 10. "Music, Dancing, And Theatre Licences." T he Times October 2, 1890, p. 9. "Our Habitual Criminals, A Gaol Chaplain." The Times August 4, 186 9, p. 4. "Police." T he Times April 4, 1850, p. 7. "Police." T he Times April 12, 1864, p. 12. "Police." T he Times April 13, 1863, p. 11. "Police." T he Times April 20, 1854, p. 11. "Police." T he Times April 23, 1862, p. 11. "Police." T he Times April 25, 1879, p. 12.


54 "Police." T he Times August 6, 1878, p. 10. "Police." T he Times August 7, 1872, p. 9. "Police." The Times August 10, 1855, p. 10. "Police." The Times August 10, 1869, p. 9. "Police." The Times December 4, 1869, p. 11. "P olice." The Times February 4, 1878, p. 12. "Police." T he Times February 5, 1850, p. 7. "Police." T he Times January 13, 1903, p. 13. "Police." T he Times January 20, 1854, p. 9. "Coleman v. Coleman." The Times January 27, 1866, p. 11. "Police." T he Times July 2, 1863, p. 13. "Police." T he Times June 30, 1853, p. 7.


55 "Police." T he Times March 28, 1850, p. 8. "Police." T he Times March 29, 1853, p. 8. "Police." T he Times May 27, 1853, p. 8. "Police." T he Times May 28, 1852, p. 7. "Police ." T he Times November 1, 1901, p. 13. "Police." T he Times November 24, 1852, p. 8. "Police." T he Times October 6, 1852, p. 7. "Police." T he Times October 8, 1872, p. 9. "Police." T he Times September 9, 1870, p. 9. "Probate, Divorce, And Admira lty Division." T he Times December 20, 1907, p. 3. "Probate, Divorce, And Admiralty Division." T he Times June 6, 1899, p. 3.


56 "Probate, Divorce, And Admiralty Division." T he Times March 10, 1905, p. 3. "Rival Licensing Bills." T he Times May 10, 1872 p. 5. "Rogues and Vagabonds. An Act to amend." T he Times October 12, 1898, p. 5. "That a husband should conceive an aversion." T he Times October 5, 1858, p. 6. "The Contagious Diseases Act." T he Times August 11, 1882, p. 5. "The Police Courts." T he Times November 12, 1906, p. 3. "The Police Courts." T he Times September 23, 1905, p. 4. "The Protection Of Young Girls." T he Times August 25, 1881, p. 9. "The Public Morality Of London." T he Times May 19, 1901, p. 12. "The Royal Commission On The Metropolitan Police." T he Times July 16, 1906, p. 11. "The Streets At Night." T he Times December 18, 1901, p. 11. "The Thames Police Magistrate, In The Matter Of An Order To Send A Girl In An Improper House To An Industrial School." T he Times F ebruary 15, 1883, p. 3


57 OTHER PRIMARY SOURCES: Acton, William, Prostitution New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1857. Barry, Alfred. "Public Morality And The Borough Council Elections." the Times October 31, 1900, p. 10. Kempe, John. "Emmanuel Hospital. the Times April 25, 1871, p. 12. the Times February 6, 1868, p. 8. M'Neill, Alexander. "Lord Brougham's Bill For Amending The Law Of Marriage." the Times May 17, 1856, p. 6.