Streetwalkers, Fallen Doves, and Houses of Ill Fame: A Historical and Archaeological Discussion on Prostitution

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  • Documents (10)

  • Contradictory Food: Dining in a New York Brothel c. 1840s (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Claudia Milne. Pamela Crabtree.

    The faunal assemblages excavated from New York City’s Five Points neighborhood provided an opportunity to examine the foodways of the city’s 19th century working class.  One distinct Orange Street deposit was associated with a brothel which operated in the early 1840s and seemed to reflect the contradictory nature of this occupation.  While some food choices reflected the working class nature of the neighborhood, other finer foods, were selected for fancy feasts, to entertain guests or for...

  • The Enterprising Career of Tom Savage in Los Angeles’ Red-Light District, 1870-1909 (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only AnneMarie Kooistra.

    In 1909, the "closure" of Los Angeles’s "tenderloin" represented the influence of progressive reform ending an era of the "tacit acceptance" of municipal red-light districts nationally. Existing scholarship has focused on progressive reformers who helped launch the new policy, but there has been scant examination of the male subculture that helped transform the business of prostitution even as the era of regulation came to a close.  This paper examines Tom Savage, a saloon-owner, prize-fighter,...

  • Ghosts in the Archives: Using Archaeology to Return Life to Historical Prostitutes (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jade W Luiz.

    Studies in historical prostitution are uniquely poised to demonstrate the importance of partnership between historians and archaeologists. Sites of prostitution may be present in the historical literature; however, the transience of the women employed at these sites means that they often leave ephemeral traces in the written record. Though typically unable to illustrate individual actors within these sites, archaeology can help to reanimate the everyday lives of women in sex work. Using the...

  • Homosocial Bonding in the Brothel: Analyzing Space and Material Culture through Documents (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kristen R. Fellows.

    Brothel madams were often responsible for managing their establishments and the women who lived and worked in them. Unsurprisingly, "female boarding houses," the euphemism often used for such sites on historic maps, have typically been gendered as female spaces. On the other hand, saloons tend to be thought of as male spaces despite the presence of prostitution in most of these businesses. This paper will begin to argue that a rethinking of space and gender in regards to brothels will provide...

  • Landscapes of Desire: Mapping the Brothels of 1880s Washington, DC (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer A. Porter-Lupu.

    From 1860-1915, brothels were prominantly loaced within Washington, DC’s urban landscape. This paper focuses on brothels in 1880s Washington, examining the spatial dynamics of the main brothel neighborhood, the Hooker’s Division. I argue that experiences of Hooker’s Division brothels were shaped by the space within the city that the neighborhood occupied, and simultaneously, Washington’s sex workers contested social norms thereby changing the symbolic implications and tangible reality of the...

  • The Legal Language of Sex: Interpreting a Hierarchy of Prostitution Using the Terminology of Criminal Charges (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Anna M. Munns.

    It is generally acknowledged that there was a hierarchical structure to turn-of-the-century sex trade, with madams at the top and streetwalkers at the bottom. But what did this structure mean for the women who inhabited these roles? And how can we access all levels of the hierarchy? Police magistrate court dockets provide a valuable lens through which to analyze prostitution in Fargo, North Dakota during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Additionally, these documents speak to...

  • Melvina Massey: Fargo's Most Famous Madam (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Angela J. Smith.

    In my work as a professor and public historian, research material often unfolds from teaching. In my Spring 2013 Introduction to Museum Studies class at North Dakota State University, students conducting primary source research on early Fargo discovered a will and probate records for Melvina Massey. The records show that she was an African American and ran a brothel in Fargo for more than 20 years. The course concluded with an exhibit, "Taboo: Fargo-Moorhead, An Unmentioned History," and one of...

  • Painted Women and Patrons: Appearance and the Construction of Gender and Class Identity in the Red Light District of Ouray, Colorado. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kristin A. Gensmer. Mary Van Buren.

    Appearance-related artifacts from the Vanoli Block (5OR30), a late 19th and early 20th century sporting complex in the mining town of Ouray, Colorado, indicate that both the women working in the cribs and their patrons projected a working-class appearance.  An examination of artifacts through the lenses of performance and practice theory is supplemented with historical data regarding class, gender, and costume, and suggests that the sartorial choices made by these women and men emerged from the...

  • Sex Workers in the City: Presentation and Interaction in 19th-century Boston’s Urban Landscape (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexander D. Keim.

    Historical and archaeological analysis of sex work in the 19th-century tends to focus on what happens inside brothels. What happens when sex workers venture out into the city in the course of their daily lives? In this paper I examine the historical and archaeological evidence recovered from the mid-19th century 27-29 Endicott Street brothel located in the North End neighborhood of Boston, MA, and consider where in the urban landscape the residents of the brothel—Madame, servant, sex worker and...

  • "A WEAK MAN can now cure himself…" Exploring Sandpoint, Idaho Brothels as Alternative Venues for Treatment of "Private Diseases of Men" – and other afflictions. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mark Warner.

    Archaeological excavations of two brothels in the north Idaho town of Sandpoint resulted in the recovery of approximately 100,000 artifacts.  The artifacts told rich stories of daily life in brothels yet the materials also provided an opportunity some of the ancillary aspects of the relationship between prostitutes and the men who visit them. Specifically, this work addresses the role of prostitutes in the treatment of some "private diseases," arguing that in addition to being a locale for sex,...