Prostitution in Victorian England Essay

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Judith Walkowitz’s book Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State, deals with the social and economic impact that prostitution had on English society in the mid to late 19th century. Throughout her piece Walkowitz illustrates the plight of women who are in the prostitution field and that are working the streets throughout England. She starts with the background of most of the prostitutes in Victorian England then talks about the Contagious Disease Act in 1864 that attempted to curb the venereal diseases being spread by prostitutes. Walkowitz also discusses two specific cities in England that prostitution was a ‘social evil’, Southampton and Plymouth, where the repeal campaigns were successful. Most of the women who…show more content…
The problem with the enforcement of the act was that police could arrest and inspect any woman that they suspected of prostitution, whether they were a prostitute or not. Ordinary women were sometimes suspected to degrading inspects by authorities and were humiliated and falsely held. The act were protested by various women’s groups that claimed that the act was attempting to control women’s bodies and that the government should go after the prostitute’s clientele rather than the prostitute. Prostitution was viewed by many of England’s religious and moral as an evil in society. “By 1850 prostitution had become ‘the Great Social Evil,’ not simply an affront to morality, but a vital aspect of the social economy as well.” They believed that prostitution was affecting every aspect of society and they urged for the acts to be passed as an attempt to curb the spread of prostitution. Those who wanted the act repealed believed that they infringed on women’s basic human rights and that they were an attack by the upper class on working class women. Liberal organizations like the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, which was led by the prominent feminist Josephine Butler, openly opposed the actions of the English government by protesting and refusing to cooperate with other activist groups. Supporters of the act believed that women who were spreading disease to the future husbands of England should
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