By Allie Remsen

Prostitution existed in England long before the Industrial Revolution, but the conditions created by the urbanization and changes in society during the 1700s-1800s caused it to become a national problem. Brothels, or Whore Houses, had always been present in urban centers throughout England, but most men and women married young and began their families without living alone in cities for long. However, the Industrial Revolution lead women to need to work in order to support their families. The huge increase in population, urban poverty, and desperation increased the demand for prostitutes and the amount of women willing to degrade themselves for money.
original cartoon about the treatment of prostitutes

family unit
  • tightly-knit network of support with the core immediate family living and often working together
  • included the extended family
  • young people remained tied to parents
  • male role: professional or labor-intensive provider
  • female role: assisted with domestic work or simply around the house
  • destruction of family structure due to the need for all members of urban families to take factory jobs
  • work is no longer hereditary and family members become very separated ➜ women couldn't rely on joining the family business and therefore turned to prostitution more than before
  • young people become more independent earlier, because they often do not work with their parents or even do the same thing ➜ without the close guidance of parents, young women were tricked into joining brothels
  • people got married later: without the support network of the extended family it took longer for young men to earn enough money to earn enough money to be able to provide for a wife and family
  • most young men (who would have already been married before) are single and unmarried but still have sexual desires ➜ increasing the demand for prostitution
  • delayed marriage often meant women fall into poverty. If a women didn't get married, there was no longer the extended family to go and live with ➜ prostitution was sometimes better than homelessness
role of women
  • assisted their family in the family work
  • did the domestic jobs in the home
  • women were educated by their mothers for domestic tasks and how to be a wife/mother
  • because they were independent early, women took jobs
  • factory jobs became available to women: factory managers often sexually abused/harassed their workers. women whose reputations were compromised (often by their employers) were “ruined” and no longer had a chance of getting married ➜ prostitution became a way to support oneself without a husband
  • women were still not widely educated, so they were limited to basic jobs ➜ prostitution required no knowledge
  • cult of domesticity becomes fashionable: only dead-end jobs become available to women, such as laundering, low-wage working, charing, and street selling
  • 50% of prostitutes in England sold sex on top of their dead-end job in an effort to provide for themselves or their families
  • most people are pious christians or catholics
  • people are no longer as pious, and it became common for men to engage in sex before marriage ➜ increase in demand for prostitution
  • smaller population
  • balance between those who live in the countryside and the city ➜ more spread out
  • huge increase in population
  • increasing amount of orphans and abandonment: children were often tricked into joining brothels and then feared running away lest their keepers report them to the police as illegal child prostitutes. The 1841 law that banned prostitution of minors actually made the children’s’ situations worse.
  • increasing demand for prostitutes as urban conditions worsen
  • huge urban migration and expanding of cities
  • increasing urban poverty and poor living condition ➜ povery and desperation lead women to turn into prostitutes
Various bills and pamphlets expressing the public embarrassment of the increasing prostitution

infected women being held at a hospital in London against their will

Works Cited

Anthropos. "The Contagious Diseases Acts." Comp. LES Selected Pamphlets. JSTOR. LSE Library, 1872. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. <>.British Museum Satires. "City Scavengers Cleansing the London Streets of Impurities!!" Cartoon. London Lives 1690-1800. London Lives, 1816. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. <>.Digital image. Web.English Mother. "An Appeal to the People of England on the Recognition and Superintendance on Prostitution by Governments." Ed. Bristol Selected Pamphlets. JSTOR. University of Bristol Library, 1869. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. <>.Mary Mallon in hospital. Digital image. The Truth about Victoriana. Lady Victorian Historian, 2008. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. <>.Select Committee. "A Bill Intituled An Act for the More Effectual Suppression of Bawdy Houses, and of Trading in Seduction and Prostitution." Comp. Hume Tracts. JSTOR. UCL Library Service, 1884. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. <>."Statistics of Prostitution." JSTOR. American Statistical Association, Sept. 1895. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. <>.