Last week I did a “review” of The Georgian Bawdy House” by Emily Brand. I continue this week. The previous post.
For next week, by the way, I am lining up an awesome post….
Pregnancy was definitely an issue for prostitutes, since it’s an issue for all fertile women who have sex. This book lists remedies that persisted among women until the advent of the birth control pill. My father, who was a resident in San Bernardino when abortion was still illegal, including in California, once told me about what women did to themselves to attempt to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I can tell you this: pick your era prior to the pill and legal abortions: self-administered toxins and poisons, mutilation, abandonment, and infanticide.
I’ve blogged here before about my copy of Mysteries of London (1834-1844) features an engraving of a young woman, come far down in life, who has just killed her newborn. I know we sometimes romanticize the Courtesan, but she, too, was at risk of pregnancy, and there were few foolproof methods of contraception.
With professional opportunities severely restricted for most women, while there was demand for sexual services, virtue continued to be overthrown. (31)
Two brothels that catered to the wealthy were Jane Goadby’s establishment and Charlotte Hayes. Notions of women leading men to their sexual doom abounded. Women did go to brothel’s in search of their husbands. The book also contains a really excellent photo of an early 19th century condom, that looks to have been put over a cylinder. This gives a much better view than the more usual laid out flat photos.
Men and women alike had to worry about venereal disease, with all the accompanying dangers of remedies that, as we know, could not possibly have been effective.
Mr. Harris’s infamous “Harris’s List” of prostitutes sold 250,000 copies.
This I hadn’t heard before: “Mother Douglas” had footmen give condoms to the men before they went upstairs.
There were women who went to brothels to indulge themselves. According to Brand, they peeped though windows and selected the gentleman of their choice. Brand says these women had to pay much more for their pleasure.
And I will leave you there, because the rest get depressing, when the discussion turns to all the ways women were punished, and the men? They weren’t.
This is an interesting, fact-filled book with a nice list of references.
Yes, depressing. Why when an editor asked me if I had any ideas for a courtesan story, I kind of choked. I’d already read some romances featuring the more fortunate courtesans, the ones who could have one wealthy and not abusive protector at a time. But I couldn’t think of a new twist and already knew too much to think that a courtesan’s life was always as sexy and glamorous as I think the editor was looking for.
Really insightful and informative post. How interesting that women had to pay more!!
What a horrid life! And to think some good women were reduced to this.