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Prostitution

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Prostitution: Prevention and Reform in England, is the first comprehensive overview of attempts to eradicate prostitution from English society, including discussion of early attempts at reform and prevention through to the campaigns of the social purists. Prostitution looks in depth at the various reform institutions which were set up to house prostitutes, analysing the motives of the reformers as well as daily life within these penitentiaries.


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  • Attitudes to sexuality and prostitution;

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The motivations of some of the women involved with social purity campaigns in Birmingham could be attributed to the community-driven view regarding moral reform proposed by George Dawson, an advocate of municipal socialism. Nonconformist men like Joseph Chamberlain led Birmingham in municipal renovations, taking over local gas and water works and alleviating the cramped living conditions of the working-class. Often the wives of these men, with time and money to commit to causes such as Mrs.

Prostitution, considered by many to be a moral sin, was an unsettling deviation from the traditional Christian view of sex for marriage and procreation.

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Hand-selecting first time offenders, Mrs. Mary Rogers housed and educated these women who carried out unpaid laundry-work. Following a prison-like regime, daily structure was considered fundamental to the realisation of social reform.

The work of the Birmingham Ladies Association, and the Ladies Association as a national entity, mirrors the concern felt by members of Victorian society as a whole. Countless attempts were made to find the root cause of prostitution in order to carry out both preventative and reformative work. New legislation such as the Poor Law Amendment Act also cut relief for the poorest in society and, coupled with a traditional working-class expectation to contribute to family earnings, prostitution proved a profitable, yet unpleasant, way of living.

The consistently offending girls may have been viewed as promiscuous and capable of influencing others. Prostitutes were perhaps labelled on a rigid binary as either victims of mental incapacity or as propagators of the moral disease. Some social reformers, both male and female, opposed apportioning all blame for prostitution upon the women in question. Responsibility for the rise in prostitution could equally be placed on men, and the more lenient social attitudes towards their sexual practices.


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