Tuesday, 17 March 2015

for the first time in history , mass-market newspapers (in the Victorian era) were being created such as The Illustrated Police News which specialised in reporting on crime and criminals, using language and pictures that were far more lurid than that used in modern tabloids.Awkward encounter with a prostitute, London
  • The “Angel of the House” was not expected to perform acts that were sexually gratifying for herself or her partner.  She was expected to be a sexless ministering angel and to know nothing except what it good.  Sex, according to Victorian clergymen, was only for procreation; and therefore, they condemned any type of extramarital or non-procreative sex.  A Victorian female’s sexual appetite should have been negligible and unnatural.  Women did not have sex for pleasure, but to procreate.  Sexual excitement was viewed as dangerous to the heart and nervous system; however, sex within marriage was less dangerous due to its infrequency and familiarity.   This “angel of the house” mentality did not really extend to the lower classes; therefore, upper class gentlemen of means often sought out prostitutes for sexual gratification they could not expect from their “angels” at home. 
  • Lower class women needed a way to supplement their incomes; upper class gentlemen had expendable income – simple economics tells us that a barter system is bound to appear.

  •  Who Was the Average Victorian Age Prostitute?
    • She was an average age of 18-22, but many started much earlier at the age of 12 or earlier. 
      • Virgins were much prized for several reasons – not the least of which was hygiene – Venereal disease was rampant and a virgin was thought to be untainted
      • However, their first sexual experiences were not out of the ordinary – usually serial monogamy within their own class.
    • Most were from poor family and as many as half were orphans.
    • Their general health (outside the threat of venereal diseases) was usually better than other women of their class due to shorter hours and a higher standard of living. 
    • Most either had had or still had low wage jobs; some supported illegitimate children.
    • Typically rouged and powdered, and dressed to enhance their “assets” – some women would have lived “double lives” working in a factory for little pay during the day and working the streets at night trying to make ends meet.    For every prostitute, there was an individual path she took, but most women found themselves in “the trade” due to economic circumstances
      • Catherine ‘Skittles’ Walters (1839-1920) used her skill as a horsewoman to become the favourite
        Genteel Poverty saw some enter the trade
      • Supplementing income from other labor
      •  Some were kidnapped and forced into prostitution
      • Some had an illegitimate child, which meant she was “unhireable” for any other job
      • Very few consciously chose to enter the sex trade, but there were some…Genteel Poverty saw some enter a form of “the trade” when their entirefortunes were inherited by a distant male relative who cared nothing for them. 
        • Inheritance laws stated that woman could only inherit the money that went to her marriage with her from her father – most times that was scarcely enough to live on, let alone keep up the lifestyle to which they were accustomed. 
        • Some women discovered that their entire lives were lies when their husbands died and creditors began to knock on their doors.
        • These women found themselves with little money and no skills.  Many became mistresses and courtesans."Catherine ‘Skittles’ Walters, courtesan of Victorian London, noted horsewoman and famed for having the tightest riding-habit in Britain. (In Europe, only the Empress Elizabeth could compete with her for that.) Admirers watching her go by used to speculate on whether she had to be naked underneath." "Catherine ‘Skittles’ Walters, courtesan of Victorian London, noted horsewoman and famed for having the tightest riding-habit in Britain. (In Europe, only the Empress Elizabeth could compete with her for that.) Admirers watching her go by used to speculate on whether she had to be naked underneath."
        • Small and slender, with grey-blue eyes and chestnut hair.  
          She dressed inexpensively at first but with great taste, wearing clothing that was modest and subdued. Her riding habit was cut to so perfectly to the contours of her body that there was speculation that she wore nothing underneath it. If Cora Pearl were Versace and Vivienne Westwood, than Catherine would be more Chanel and Givenchy.
          Exceptional beauty, practical nature, and riding skills, acquired while working in a livery stable. She was also effervescent, outspoken, direct and bawdy. Her naturalness was one of her chief attributes as a courtesan, she remained affectionate and sympathetic. “She had the most capacious heart I know and must be the only whore in history to retain her heart intact,” wrote journalist Henry Labouchere.  Never once did she seek to revenge herself on her lovers after the affair was over. There would be no autobiography detailing her lovers such as the ones penned by Cora Pearl or Harriette Wilson. One of her most unusual traits was her ability to bind her lovers to her not only for the night or a for a few months but for life. One of her biographers, Henry Blyth, wrote that she possessed the quality of being loved. She also never attempted to bankrupt her lovers as did Cora Pearl and some of the other grandes horizontales of the 19th century.
        • .Since most of these women had been married, sex was not a new thing for them.  It became a way to make sure that they were cared for and could continue their lifestyles.
        • Many became the mistresses of men they had known in society when they were married.  It was all treated very discreetly, of course. But just like everywhere else, there were no secrets. 
        Cora Pearl (1835-1886) was an English prostitute who – through sheer determination,
        character and charm – transformed herself into the most expensive courtesan in Paris.
        Famous for her outrageous antics – such as dancing naked on a carpet orchids,
        or serving herself up on a silver platter for dessert – and her extravagant mode of living,
        Cora was a forerunner of today’s modern celebrity, whose every look, word and change of dress
        was noted down and circulated for the panting public.

      • Genteel Poverty was also responsible for another step on the path to prostitution.  Many women who found themselves without means to continue their middle or upper class lives turned to skilled domestic labor jobs to survive. 
      Just as everything else in Victorian England, even poverty could be broken down into class.  There were the low class poor, living in slums, fifteen in a room, etc… Then there was Genteel Poverty. It only accounts for a small percentage of the steps to prostitution, but it an element there none the same.
No one knows for certain, but there were somewhere between 8,000 and 80,000 prostitutes in London during the Victorian Age. It is generally accepted that most of these women found themselves in prostitution due to economic necessity. In 1875 the age of consent in Victorian Britain was raised from 12 to 13, but it was only after the public outrage that followed an investigative exposé into prostitution a decade later that it was raised to the current age of 16.
The words emblazoned in large print on top of the Pall Mall Gazette in the first week of July 1885 - NOTICE TO OUR READERS, followed by "A Frank Warning", set the tone for a week-long report titled The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, exposing the lurid underworld of London's child prostitutes.
It was referred to as a "veritable slave trade".

Start Quote

The story of an actual pilgrimage into a real hell...”
WT SteadInvestigative Jurnalist 1849 - 1912
The most shocking account focussed on a 13-year-old virgin, who was bought for the night by undercover journalist William Thomas Stead - posing as a client.
Her name was Eliza Armstrong. She was bought for £5 - the equivalent of around £527 today. She was taken to a midwife to "procure the certification of her virginity" who remarked - "The poor little thing… She is so small."
She was then brought to a brothel and drugged, and the paper's readers were led to believe the worst. She let out "a helpless, startled scream like the bleat of a frightened lamb", Stead wrote.
He described his undercover experience as: "The story of an actual pilgrimage into a real hell…"
He appealed directly to the upper classes - and accused them of being the main perpetrators. "If the daughters of the people must be served up as dainty morsels to minister to the passions of the rich, let them at least attain an age when they can understand the nature of the sacrifice which they are asked to make."The government was accused of neglecting "the daughters of the poor"
The press in Victorian Britain had considerable influence over public opinion.


Following Stead's exposé, the government passed a bill raising the age of consent to 16 before the week was out.
But had it not been for the help of a well-known social reformer at the time - Josephine Butler, this report would never have come to fruition.
She provided Stead with money to buy and rescue young prostitutes. She also put him in contact with a former brothel owner who found the girls whose stories ended up, in all their "shuddering horror", in the Pall Mall Gazette.
Butler had campaigned relentlessly for the rights of prostitutes but she found the government was not interested in raising the age of consent higher than 13.
"It took a scandal to change the law", says Dr Jane Jordan, who wrote a biography of Butler. "She felt it was the only way they were going to get their voices heard".
"Working class girls lived in terrible conditions and there were assumptions they would be abused by their fathers and brothers anyway. There was a lack of interest in these girls as it was not going to affect the more protected middle and upper classes."
W T SteadWilliam Stead is remembered as one of the first investigative journalists
Following publication of Stead's report, there was moral panic. There were stories of parents being stopped in the street by morality crusaders, says Will Sydney Robinson, author of a biography on Stead.
"There was a tangible change in the atmosphere, people were talking about these issues slightly like they are today."
It soon transpired that the mother of Eliza - the 13-year-old girl - had reported her missing and had been told her daughter would be a maid, not a prostitute. Stead had alleged the mother was an eager, drunken accomplice. His credibility came into question.
He was arrested for abducting a minor and spent three months in prison.
"Stead used modern methods of sensationalism, exaggeration and law-breaking to do a good thing, but there was a bitter taste from the whole thing," says Robinson.
The problem with sensationalism is that it distorts things, says historian Dr Louise Jackson from Edinburgh University.

The Gazette's report overshadowed the day-to-day exploitation that occurred in Victorian society, she adds. Sexual abuse of all kinds was taking place but it was "probably more mundane than Stead's suggestion of people being drugged, abducted and duped".
The same act clamped down on brothels, leaving many prostitutes homeless. It also contained a last minute amendment which outlawed "gross indecency" between two men - the very law that Oscar Wilde was later sent to prison for.
"It was undoubtedly a huge victory", says Jackson, "but it certainly wasn't a liberal act, it set a puritanical tone for the next 80 years, until homosexuality was finally decriminalised in 1967".
Stead continued to edit his paper while in prison and is remembered as one of the first investigate journalists. As for the young girl Eliza, she was cared for by the Salvation Army and eventually returned to her parents.
The Crimson Petal and the White is a new four-part drama produced by Origin Pictures for BBC2 that lifts the lid on the darker side of Victorian London, revealing a world seething with vitality, sexuality, ambition and emotion.
The drama is adapted from Michel Faber's novel by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and directed by award-winning Marc Munden (The Devil's Whore, The Mark Of Cain). Several locations in the capital were transformed to recreate Victorian London, including the industrial grandeur of TheCrossness Engines Trust in Abbey Wood, Bexley.
The Crimson Petal and the White tells the story of Sugar, an intelligent young prostitute who yearns for a better life away from the brothel she is attached to. Highly sought after, Sugar finds her only comfort in the secret novel she is writing in which a murderous prostitute takes revenge on her clients. However, things change for Sugar when she becomes the mistress of wealthy businessman William Rackham.
Social reformer Josephine Butler was unafraid to speak out in defence of the most dejected and despised of all women at the time - the common prostitute. She challenged the double sexual standards implicit in the 1860s Contagious Diseases Acts.
Under the acts - which were introduced to reduce the high levels of venereal diseases amongst the armed forces - any woman suspected of being a prostitute was subjected to compulsory medical examinations. Their male clients escaped any such censure.
She forced the women's movement to confront the issue, so that prostitutes could reform their lives and earn respect and dignity
  • Housing Situations- Because of the tremendous increase in population, housing was scarce and inadequate.
    • Entire families (including extended family members) lived not only under one roof, but often slept in a single room together, multiple bodies in each bed due to lack of space or sometimes just the pragmatic reason of warmth. 
    • This meant siblings and even cousins of all age ranges often slept in close proximity to one another.  There was zero privacy; they watched one another change clothes, bath, each house had its own outhouse in the backyard. 
    • Most of the poor kept whatever gardens or animals they had room for and life on a farm leaves no mysteries as to the birds and the bees. 
    • Escapism– Some of these young women gave in to the temptations offered in their own homes as a way of escapism.
      • Poverty was a tedious and terrible life and physical pleasure may have offered a moment of freedom or peace, and the risk was well worth it.
      • This suggests desperation to escape circumstances rather than moral corruption (Joyce).
    • Differing Social Customs
      • There wasn’t really the “angel of the house” mentality in the poorest levels of society.  Sex was not viewed with the same distaste as in upper class households.  It was seen more as a part of life. 
      • Carnal relations which marked a couple’s engagement were an important commitment and remained so for the working class.  The legitimization of these acts by marriage was expected; and if unfulfilled, reflected as poorly on a man for abandoning an unmarried, pregnant girl as the girl’s promiscuity reflected on her.
      • Unfortunately, many women learned too late that the traditions and expectations lower classes held one another to did not extend to their upper class contemporaries.  Working class women learned that higher class seducers did not always follow through with their promises of marriage or even promised luxuries.
    • Feminization of Poverty
      • Unfortunately, The 1834 Poor Reform Law removed all legal means for unwed mothers.  “Bastardy Clauses” denied legal or material aid for these women.  This law took away all recourse for broken engagements after consummation, rapists, extortion, etc… This law granted men more sexual license thanever before and removed from them all burden of responsibility (social and economic) for illegitimate children (Logan).
      • The resulting feminization of poverty helped set into motion “the greatest of our social evils” and prostitution and infanticide became the defining “sins” of the age. 
Seduction – Harriet Martineau said in 1870, “There is the strongest temptation to prefer luxury with infamy to hardship with unrecognized honour.”  Many women simply made the decision to make this lifestyle their chosen occupation. Sex sells – and that isn’t an invention of the 21st century.   
  • Better pay – better hours – Easier work
  • Some had suffered sexual abuse as children Promiscuity is often a result of sexual abuse, so this was an easy choice for some of them to make. 
  • Social Freedom
    • Prostitutes often lived in groups and created their own social networks. When one from the group got arrested, the others would collect enough money to bail her out.
    • They cared for one another when no one else did.
    • Prostitutes could enter places like pubs, taverns, and bars without the social stigma that a “lady” would carry.
    • Some became mistresses and courtesans
      • They were very sought after because they were more natural, less repressed, and less boring than the well-bred girls who came to London for the marriage  season
The Fate of the Prostitute
  • Reform
    • Magdalene Asylums began with the mission to rehabilitate women back into society, but as the 19th century progressed, they became ever more punitive and prison-like.  Women were required to weak the severest of clothing, participate in hard physical labor, devote themselves to long periods of prayer, and live in enforced silence.  The appearance and behavior of the “reformed” women labeled them as prostitutes just as their appearance and behavior on the streets labeled them as prostitutes.  Interestingly, the last of these closed in 1996.
    • Lock Hospitals were designed to treat venereal diseases (one of the side-effects of widespread prostitution). They later developed into rehabilitation homes for the discharged patients.  Unfortunately, the conditions in the “rescue home” weren’t much better than the Magdalene Asylums. 
    • Reform Houses – There were reform houses who broke away from the punitive practices of the Magdalene Asylums and Lock Hospitals – one of the most known was Dickens’ own Urania Cottage. Urania Cottage focused on reform with a goal of emigration to the colonies – South Africa or Australia.  There were several successes here – see Revisiting Dickens for additional info. Marriage to former clients was not unheard of.  Many would save their money in order to change occupations and settle down at some point.  This was tolerated in their communities because it was a common story. Emigration to the colonies was another hope for prostitutes.  If she were single and able to save a little money – there was passage to be bought to one of the colonies. What better place to get a fresh start.
    •  Not much is known about Catherine’s early life in Liverpool, what her childhood might have been, where or how long she might have been educated. Her father was heavy drinker, so whatever money he made probably was spent on drink. One of her lovers, Wilfred Scawen-Blunt wrote in his diaries that Catherine’s mother died when she was four and that she had been sent to a convent school from which she had run away. Nor where she first learned to ride, one of the great passions of her life. One story is that she worked for a time as a bare-back rider in a traveling circus. Perhaps she saw one as a child and fell in love with the horses and wanted to ride. The most credible story is that she had access to the local stables and that she taught herself to ride by helping out in the stables and by exercising the horses. 
      For Catherine, riding was her entry into a better world than the one she came from. While other courtesans traded on their beauty, Catherine could outride and outhunt most men. Catherine appears not to have had the Victorian female aversion to sex, which boded well for her future profession. She was selective, choosing her lovers more because she enjoyed their company than for what they could do for her. She became the mistress of George, Lord Fitzwilliam at the age of 16. He set her up in London, when the relationship ended, he made her a generous settlement of £ 300 a year and a lump sum payment of £ 2,000. By this time she was known as ‘Skittles’ probably a reference to the fact that when she was young she worked setting up skittles in a local bowling alley, the Black Jack Tavern near the docks. 
      At the age of 19, she became the mistress of Spencer Compton Cavendish, Lord Hartington nicknamed ‘Harty-Tarty.’ He was the eldest son of one of the premiere Dukes in the kingdom, the 7th Duke of Devonshire. A shy and immature young man of 26 when they met, he was to become a major figure in Liberal politics and was considered by many as Gladstone‘s natural successor. By 1859, when she was 20, she was installed in a lovely little house in Mayfair, horses with a life settlement of an annual sum of £ 500 which the family continued to pay even after Hartington‘s death in 1908. Her relationship with Hartington lasted about four years and seems to have been greatly affectionate on both sides. The greatest passion that she and Hartington shared, and the only one they were able to indulge in publicly together, was hunting. While her lover occupied himself with his duties in Parliament, Catherine had lessons with a governess.
      Catherine is also said to have worked as one of the celebrated ‘horse-breakers’ who paraded in Hyde Park from the hours of 5 to 7, where she first attracted widespread attention. In 1861, the future poet laureate Alfred Austin wrote a poem entitled ‘The Season’ which mentioned Skittles by name. When the painting "The Shrew Tamed," by Edwin Landseer was exhibited in 1861, it was assumed that she was the model for the womanin the painting, although it was also claimed that it was a woman named Annie Gilbert. Skittles had arrived!

      Her horsemanship, for which she was passionately admired for, meant that she found acceptance on the hunting field that she was denied in other social situations. Stories about her daring abound, both on and off the field. She once cleared the 18 foot water fence at the National Hunt Steeplechase, on a bet, after three other riders tried and failed. She won £ 100 for her efforts. While the men on the hunting field were accepting of her, their wives were another story. When she rode with the Quorn, the wife of the Master of the Quorn who was the Earl of Stamford, took exception to Catherine’s presence. This despite the fact that the Countess had been a gamekeeper’s daughter and possibly a circus performer. Catherine left with good grace, but she is supposed to have remarked, ‘Why does Lady Stamford give herself such airs? She’s not the Queen of our profession, I am.”

      After her relationship with Hartington ended, Catherine decided to move to Paris during the 2nd Empire of Napoleon III for a fresh start. Here she established herself as one of that select band of grandes cocottes. In Paris, rivals such as Cora Pearl, dyed their hair yellow or pink, entertained their paramours whilst lying in solid onyx bath tubs with taps of gold, and considered nakedness shameful only if one was not covered in diamonds. Catherine preferred to dress like a lady, she had a naturalness that must have seemed like a breath of fresh air in the hothouse atmosphere of Paris. “There was something special, very select and reminiscent of London and Hyde Park,” Zed wrote, When she appeared in the avenue de l’Imperatrice, driving herself with two beautiful sparkling pure-blooded horses, followed by two grooms on horseback in splendid and elegant uniform….every head turned, and all eyes were on her.”
      One of her many admirers was the young diplomat and poet Wilfred Scawen Blunt (1840-1922) who was 23 when they met. Blunt fell deeply in love with her to the point of obsession. He was not her only lover which sent him into paroxysms of jealousy. The affair ended in a public scandal when the Ambassador to Paris, Lord Crowley discovered that while Blunt had been wooing his daughter Feodore to the point of being considered her ‘unofficial‘ fiancé, he’d been off sleeping with Skittles. Despite the family’s expectations, Blunt couldn’t bring himself to propose. Blunt was dismissed from his position at the embassy. After their relationship ended, Blunt never loved another woman the way that he loved Skittles. She was the inspiration for his narrative poem ‘Esther.’ When he married, he determined to marry for money, capturing the heart of Lady Anne King-Noel, the daughter of Ada, Countess of Lovelace and the granddaughter of Lord Byron. After several years, Blunt and Skittles resumed their friendship, corresponding until her death.
      After the fall of the 2nd Empire, Skittles returned to London, where she divided her time between hunting and entertaining at her Sunday afternoon tea parties, which were attended solely by men including the future Prime Minister William Gladstone. She also had a brief affair, with Bertie, the Prince of Wales. After their liaison ended, the Prince also paid her an allowance, and whenever she was ill, he sent his own doctor to attend her. Once when he thought she was dying, he sent his private secretary to collect and destroy over 300 hundred letters that he had sent her. 
      In 1872, Skittles moved to 15 South Street, Park Lane, which was to be her residence for the rest of her life. At a certain point in the 1880’s, she took up with Alexander Horatio Baillie. Although she called herself Mrs. Baillie for a time, they were probably never married. Her final love affair was with Gerald de Saumarez, who she had first met when he was a schoolboy of 16 and she was 40. When she died at the age of 81, she left her estate to him. In her later years, she became something of a recluse. Crippled by arthritis in her later years, she died of a cerebral hemorrhage on August 5, 1920. She’s buried in the Franciscan monastery in Sussex. Her estate was worth £2764 19s. 6d at her death.

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