10.5. Prostitutes

The male workers also had the time, energy, and money to frequent prostitutes. Quantitative and descriptive data come from a book written by a Mr. William Logan, a “City Missionary”, i.e. a Christian social worker, in his book “An Exposure from Personal Observation of Female Prostitution in London, Leeds and Rochdale and especially in the City of Glasgow” (1843).

            Mr. Logan gives his estimate of the size of the “industry” in Leeds and Glasgow (“only the third-class houses”):

Population of the city 160,000250,000
Number of houses of ill fame 175450
Number of prostitutes 7001,800
Number of visits by men, weekly 14,00036,000
Average girl’s weekly incomeShillings30 20
Payments to girls, weeklyPounds1,0501,800
Robberies, weeklyPounds1,7504,500
Spent on drink, weeklyPounds1,4003,600
Total expenses of the clients, weekPounds4,2009,900
Total expenses of the clients, yearPounds218,400514,800
Prostitutes who die each year 120300

(taken from: Logan, 1843, p. 9, p. 20)

But we must not forget the other side of the equation. Many of the women in prostitution had miserable lives. Some were prostitutes by choice, but many were workers in badly-paid jobs, or in times of reduced work possibilities, and who had to “go on the street” in order to eat.

“The police report, for the year ending December 31, 1843, states that the number of brothels in Manchester (within the police limits, containing a population of 235,139), is 330. The number of bedrooms is 722, and these contain 973 beds. The number of prostitutes living in these brothels is 701. But these numbers give a very inadequate idea of the extent of prostitution, for there is certainly a large number of females who work in factories, and also, of dress-makers, umbrella-stichers, stock, cravat, and shirt sempstresses, &c., who resort to this practice, to eke out the deficiencies of their ill-remunerated labour. If we suppose that these are only as numerous as the professed prostitutes – the result would be 1,444 – a number, which, accords very nearly with Mr. Logan’s estimate. From information, which he states he had derived from the Manchester Town Missionaries, and which was corroborated by a medical gentleman who had paid particular attention to the subject, he gives 1,500 as the number of prostitutes in Manchester, at a probable cost to our town of £470,000 per annum! (*) And, out of this number, he estimates that at least 250 are annually cut off by intemperance and disease. He affirms the average duration of a life of prostitution is not more than six years. In London, Mr. Logan thinks, there may be about 15,000 of this unfortunate class – in Liverpool, 2,000; in Hull, 300; and in Paisley, 250.”

(*) £ 7 per adult male per annum!

(Faucher, 1844, p. 42, footnote 18, added by the translator, a native of Manchester) 

“But Mr. Logan has omitted one feature, which I am convinced, is a powerful cause in extending prostitution. I mean seasons of commercial distress, when trade becomes paralysed – the mills closed – and honest labour denied an honest livelihood. During the last panic, the increase of prostitutes was enormous; and it was impossible for a resident to be ignorant that this increase was owing to the awful destitution which then existed. In seasons of prosperity, this class is contracted to the professed prostitutes, whose dress and demeanour declare all too plainly their vocation; but in seasons of distress, the homely garb and timorous deportment of a large number of females, tell, in language not to be mistaken, that the increase consists of females who are driven to walk the pavement for a livelihood.”(op. cit., p. 43, continuation of footnote 18)

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