Prostitution and Philanthropy: Either way, you’re a whore.

Upon reading The Working Classes and the Poor: Prostitution and Philanthropy, I came to the determination that the Victorian women faced a tough decision concerning these choices. For those choosing to become prostitutes, it meant physical danger (as seen during the Jack the Ripper murders), health problem, and shaming by society. During the Victorian era, there were three levels of prostitutes according to Listverse. The first was the lowest form where she lived in a brothel and serviced whoever the Madame (the owner) ordered her to. She was given protection along with room and board, but only a small percentage of her monetary earnings. The second tier of prostitutes were those that had their own apartment and operated independently. They kept their earnings , but were without any form of protection from those that would harm them. Lastly, the highest class of prostitute were the ones who were educated and beautiful. Many of them married wealthy men and some were “kept women”; mistresses that received money, a nice place to live etc and serviced only one man. All three had one thing in common; the exchange of dignity for survival.

There was the the alternative and a path to escape life, but it too came at a price. There were homes established by charities to help women escape that particular lifestyle. If one of these “fallen women” (as prostitutes were called) were to go to a charitable house established by philanthropists, she was often met with a strict set of rules and, usually, a very religious based environment. Obviously, this would be at odds with those who rejected religion or considered themselves free thinkers. In the end, whether choosing to live as a prostitute or in one of those homes a great similarity loomed overhead: Both options would take more from the women then they’d ever give and the women would forever lose something about themselves. Either way, they’d sold their bodies or their souls.

(In case the hyperlink  doesn’t work, check out the article 10 Fascinating Facts about Prostitution in the Victorian Era at http://listverse.com/2016/05/03/10-facts-about-prostitution-in-the-victorian-era/)

 

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