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The Fallen Women: Were Victorian Prostitutes Really Fallen?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 9:09
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The Fallen Women: Were Victorian Prostitutes Really Fallen?

The Victorian era is notoriously known as an era of female repression: sex, drugs and rock and roll—or rather, their Victorian counterparts—were believed to be highly taboo topics of conversation, and entirely unheard of in female spheres. However, in truth, the Victorian era was the age of sexual ingenuity and an increased level of sexual freedom.

In reality, sexual license grew between the 1840s and 1860s as a way for women to become socially and economically independent. Pleasure gardens and brothels were relatively common as prostitution was a very strong way to make money when a woman was husbandless or even widowed. More interestingly, some husbands allowed their wives to take a “side job” as a prostitute to supplement the family income. Until the 1870s, it was “normal” for Victorian families to be very large—children were a sign of a strong marriage and served as an increased work force for the families. But many children also meant there were many mouths to feed. If the woman of the family worked as a prostitute, there likely would have been a very substantial increase in the family's income.

Herbert F. Tucker: A Companion to Victorian Literature and Culture.

Herbert F. Tucker: A Companion to Victorian Literature and Culture. (Public Domain)

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