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  #1  
Old 01-08-2017, 05:53 AM
Mary_Jane_Kelly Mary_Jane_Kelly is offline
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Default Victorian Street Prostitutes

Hey everyone

Im not entirely sure if this is the right section for this thread but it kind of falls under the "What was it like in Whitechapel?" bit.

There was an estimated 80,000 prostitutes working in Victorian London and it was said you saw them openly plying their trade in almost every street.

But how did they easily distinguish between a street woman and just a woman on the street back then? Would it be through revealing clothing (such as the prostitutes from the film 'From Hell') or would it be from subtle signals like red shawls or handkerchiefs (for instance all the ripper victims had something like a red shawl, scarf or handkerchiefs so is there something in this myth?).

Iv added some photos of photos of what I think could be east end prostitutes or if not actual ones a more realistic view of what they look like. It might be similar to what the victims of the ripper would have looked like.

Please let me know your thoughts and if you have a photograph to share please do.


PS: this will also help us who want authentic victorian tart costumes for halloween!
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Old 01-08-2017, 05:59 AM
Mary_Jane_Kelly Mary_Jane_Kelly is offline
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this is another photo i found, notice the striped stockings like annie chapmans, i wonder if elaborate stockings were another sign of their 'availability'? And what about the use of makeup? we know this was a sign of prostitutes but its hard to tell if the women in the pictures are powdered and rouged?
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Last edited by Mary_Jane_Kelly : 01-08-2017 at 06:02 AM.
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  #3  
Old 01-08-2017, 08:48 AM
Kattrup Kattrup is offline
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Hi


From photos of Copenhagen prostitutes of the same era, there's no discernible difference in clothing, no visual markers. I believe the same holds true for London.

For the street walkers, the identification would mainly be in their behaviour and solicitation, I think. Probably not very different from today - single women approaching men on the street late at night, using some kind of recognised phrase to open up negotiations - "Hi honey, looking for company?"

Wearing a "uniform" on the street, on the other hand, would lead to police repercussions.


Witness statements from the cases never directly mention women identified as prostitutes, they just say "A man and a woman" or similar.

From the Stride-inquest:
Quote:
[Coroner] Do low women frequent Berner-street? - I have seen men and women standing about and talking to each other in Fairclough-street.
[Coroner] But have you observed them nearer the club? - No.
[Coroner] Or in the club yard? - I did once, at eleven o'clock at night, about a year ago. They were chatting near the gates. That is the only time I have noticed such a thing, nor have I heard of it.
From the Nichols-inquest:
Quote:
The Coroner: Are there any women about there?
Witness: Oh! I know nothing about them, I don't like 'em.
The Coroner: I did not ask you whether you like them; I ask you whether there were any about that night.
Witness: I did not see any.
The Coroner: Not in Whitechapel-road?
Witness: Oh, yes, there, of all sorts and sizes; its a rough neighbourhood, I can tell you.

Last edited by Kattrup : 01-08-2017 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 01-08-2017, 09:50 AM
Pcdunn Pcdunn is offline
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I thought I read somewhere that one signal if a woman was less than respectable was if she was bareheaded, that is, wearing no hat when out in public. (Remember someone saying that Mary Kelly generally did not wear a hat?)
If this is true, Kattrup, most of the women in your sample pictures are not prostitutes.

I think the women seen in the first photo are neighborhood women, taking the opportunity to get out of their cramped, stuffy tenements and simply visiting with each other.
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  #5  
Old 01-08-2017, 03:15 PM
Mary_Jane_Kelly Mary_Jane_Kelly is offline
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Hey Kattrup, do you have a photo of these Copenhagen prostitutes for reference? There are some mugshots of prostitutes from around the time, but for the most part they seem to have more 'fancy' clothing than the average poor woman (big feather hats, fur stoles and such) and could quite possibly have been wearing some makeup (a little powder and rouge would be almost undetectable in these black and white photographs but easily seen in person).

Yes Pcdunn, bare heads seems in public to be considered 'low class' at that time for a woman, (such as Mary Kelly) but i dont think it was really a huge factor in the east end as there seems to have been lots of bare heads in the photographs of women around that time, but their hair is usually pinned up in buns. Having hair down and loose, not pinned up, would have been a sure way of 'advertising' themselves on the streets but would this have been considered too indecent in those times? Most of the ripper victims (except Mary Kelly) were wearing bonnets at the time of their death and Polly is witnessed to have said she would make her doss money quickly because she had got a new bonnet the same night.

Are you referring to the pic of the women on Dorset St? Im guessing any women around this street could have been prostitutes as it was known (and had been for years) one of the major prostitute areas in the east end, filled with cheap doss houses and pubs.

Last edited by Mary_Jane_Kelly : 01-08-2017 at 03:38 PM.
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Old 01-09-2017, 10:10 AM
jason_c jason_c is offline
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I have read with interest the replies so far. I would guess the general public could tell streetwalkers partly by their clothes and partly by their behaviour. I assume most prostitutes behaved relatively demurely when required and relatively "badly" when required. Behaviour on a Sunday afternoon would be rather different to their behaviour on a Saturday night as the pubs closed.
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Old 01-09-2017, 03:26 PM
Kattrup Kattrup is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mary_Jane_Kelly View Post
Hey Kattrup, do you have a photo of these Copenhagen prostitutes for reference? There are some mugshots of prostitutes from around the time, but for the most part they seem to have more 'fancy' clothing than the average poor woman (big feather hats, fur stoles and such) and could quite possibly have been wearing some makeup (a little powder and rouge would be almost undetectable in these black and white photographs but easily seen in person).
The situation in Copenhagen was that 1874-1906 prostitution was semilegal, provided the woman was registered and underwent regular medical examination.

I believe a similar system was in effect in England with the Contagious Diseases Act.

Therefore, the photos of prostitutes at the time were not regular mugshots, taken after an arrest, but rather staged portraits of the women, who of course aimed to present themselves as well as possible. The clothes and hair etc. seen in the "official" photographs of brothel-based prostitutes cannot therefore be compared to the streetwalkers' attire, i.e. the preponderance of photos showing opulent and stylish prostitutes are a direct result of the womens' own self-advertising. (Duedahl et al, Forbrydelsens ansigt, 2013, pages 154-165).

A gallery of Copenhagen examples can be seen here: https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/kultur/his...ets-koebenhavn


And the Danish National Archives have put up a police phto albumdated 1880, with 242 photos of women either registered as prostitutes or suspected of being prostitutes. It's available here. (there's a slew of blank pages, but it picks up again around page 30).

Last edited by Kattrup : 01-09-2017 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 01-09-2017, 04:56 PM
Mary_Jane_Kelly Mary_Jane_Kelly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kattrup View Post
The situation in Copenhagen was that 1874-1906 prostitution was semilegal, provided the woman was registered and underwent regular medical examination.

I believe a similar system was in effect in England with the Contagious Diseases Act.

Therefore, the photos of prostitutes at the time were not regular mugshots, taken after an arrest, but rather staged portraits of the women, who of course aimed to present themselves as well as possible. The clothes and hair etc. seen in the "official" photographs of brothel-based prostitutes cannot therefore be compared to the streetwalkers' attire, i.e. the preponderance of photos showing opulent and stylish prostitutes are a direct result of the womens' own self-advertising. (Duedahl et al, Forbrydelsens ansigt, 2013, pages 154-165).

A gallery of Copenhagen examples can be seen here: https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/kultur/his...ets-koebenhavn


And the Danish National Archives have put up a police phto albumdated 1880, with 242 photos of women either registered as prostitutes or suspected of being prostitutes. It's available here. (there's a slew of blank pages, but it picks up again around page 30).


Iv added some mugshots of some prostitutes arrested for drunk and disorderly (from early 1900s in Birmingham, I believe). Although its a little later than the 1880s the fashion had not changed a whole lot. I think this is a closer representation of the kind of prostitutes in Jack the rippers Whitechapel.
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Old 01-11-2017, 06:20 AM
Michael W Richards Michael W Richards is offline
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I would tend to lean towards the time of day as a measurement of what women would be soliciting at the time rather than looking for wardrobe indications. This was the era of the ankle length skirt as we know, as shown in the case of Liz Stride in particular, so women need not have been dressed provocatively to have been street working women.

The key to me is the timing.....I would be inclined towards a belief that after midnight any women walking alone might be thought to have been soliciting.....as perhaps again in the case of Liz Stride,... but Unfortunates, (not "prostitutes" per se, but women forced by circumstances to sell themselves on occasion), would also be on the streets at night and wearing whatever they owned. Or maybe all they owned, like it seems Kate was wearing.
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:47 AM
Mary_Jane_Kelly Mary_Jane_Kelly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael W Richards View Post
I would tend to lean towards the time of day as a measurement of what women would be soliciting at the time rather than looking for wardrobe indications.
Yes time of day and location would have been a factor but I doubt every single woman out after dark would be viewed as a prostitute. We even have witnesses from women at the ripper inquests that not only prostitutes worked through the night or would have reason to be out at night.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael W Richards View Post
This was the era of the ankle length skirt as we know, as shown in the case of Liz Stride in particular, so women need not have been dressed provocatively to have been street working women.
Not necessarily, the Victorian view of 'whorish' attire would be completely different to how we think today. Prostitutes were recognizable by their clothing, we know this from accounts of the time (Victorian Underworld - Henry Mayhew, ect). Maybe not all dressed for 'business' but it seems alot did. Expessially the ones who made their living entirely from prostitution (like Mary Kelly). Even Mrs. Maxwell (I believe) said she 'owned nothing of the such' regarding to Mary's clothing.
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