The Dangerous Classes

"The Invasion of the Boulevard"(Clayson, 93)

Where did these women go?

These Women Were Made for Walking

"Between noon and midnight, pass by the left sidewalk of the rue du faubourg Montmartre-you see that I'm precise-you will encounter twenty;thirty;forty girls, aged between fifteen and eighteen -there are some who are twelve! hatless, decolletees, provoking, shameless, brushing up against you with an elbow or shoulder, baring your way while telling you things in the loudest voice that would make a rifleman blush. Where do they come from? It is easy to tell from thier demeanor; they walk dragging their feet, bothered by high-heeled shoes that they are not accustomed to, encumbered by corsets that they haven't worn for long. It's the riff-raff from the baals de barriere who, enticed by impunity, have descended upon Paris."

--Georges Grison, Paris horrible et Paris original (excerpts between 1865-1880)

Edouard Manet, Women Drinking Beer, 1878

Women Drinking Beer by Edouard Manet shows another view of women. This view unlike Rolla, though shows the ladies being far from acting virginal and innocent:

  • The popular hang out for street prostitutes was accurately put, on the streets outside the cafes and brasseries where one could get their choice of coffee or alcohol.
  • According to Susanna Barrows "females who did imbibe strong beverages courted social ruin and most often sank into those two spheres of the underworld: crime and prostitution."(Clayson, 103)
  • Smoking was also a big no-no for women of good repute: "Such behavior was no guarantee that a woman was for sale, but the habit did suggest an inclination toward transgressive behavior."(Clayson, 103)



These Women Were Made for Walking

Commonly called Street-Walkers, the women who sold themselves, probably had the hardest life in the bustling city of Paris. Reasons being:

  • It was a job which was morally corrupt therefore you were considered unfit for society; even menial jobs such as seamstress or waitress were out of reach for the prostitute
  • Many street ladies started out at ages 14 to 18, when their youth and beauty were at thier prime

Once these women passed a certain age, there were not many other options because 1: they were an outcast of society therefore few would hire an ex-prostitute and 2: thier beauty was gone and men considered them to be used goods


  • As you can see from the table on the left,
  • the 1830's could be deemed as the "prostitution boom" when the number of prostitutes sharply increased.
  • As noted on Policing Prostitution page, we know that prostitution itself was not illegal. Reasons why prostitutes were imprisoned were crimes against people (this was mostly thievery) and crimes against property.






(Harsin, 135)