Prostitutes of France
in the 19th century: In a class of Their Own
"No where are the
Nymphs of the pave to be seen in greater force than on the Boulevards.
As soon as the lamps are lit, they come pouring through the passages
and the adjacent rues, an uninterrupted stream, until past midnight.
The passages Jouffroy, Opera and Panoramas, on wet nights swarm
with these women. At the cafes on the boulevards, particularly
on the Blvd. Montmartre, the muster, always is considerable.
Only glance at one of these creatures, and you will be entrapped
in a moment unless you have the moral courage to resist."
Paris after Dark: Night Guide for Gentlemen
Lefebre, Reclining Woman, 1878
Prostitution in the 18th and
19th centuries was probably one of the most rampant morally illegal careeer that took place in France particularly
the capital, Paris. Most "careers" that chose to let
women work in the place of men came in a far second place in
comparison to the money that was made in prostitution.
Despised by everyone in society,
even their customers, prostitutes risked their lives daily to
perform the act to often times feed themselves or others: "Crime
and prostitution foisoned as starvation grew, linked to it by
a chain of cause and effect commented upon in an abundant specialist
literature." (Chevalier, page #)
And because of such a large population of the city's women chose
this career, it can be seen that prostitutes made up a class
of their own.
The police often classified prostitutes as the same as beggars;
scum on the street which simply needed to be locked up out of
sight to keep the city in order. Unfortunately, these women of
the Dangerous Class were not dangerous themselves but often fell
victim to the more extreme. A police prefect of Paris recounts,
"Though murder is met with everywhere-Society does not escape
from it, nor is any class immune-it must be allowed that certain
persons, through the very conditions of their lives, are more
exposed to it than others.
These victims are particularly:
1. Old people. 2. Prostitutes. 3. The vicious." (Morain,
The Prefect gives us several
reasons why prostitutes make good victims: they frequent "
places where they offer the greatest temptation to criminals
lurking in the shadows and awaiting the right moment to strike
at its prey. They pay with their lives for the easy way in which
they offer themselves to all. For the assassins it is only a
question of choice, and over this their tastes are strangely
different." (Morain, 3)
Dangereuses" Section(s) authored by Bridget Bauer-Slate