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Prostitution

Forgotten Women Logo

A Harlot's Progress William Hogarth

Image in the public domain, used under Creative Commons

The lives of the women on this page were touched by prostitution or an accusation of prostitution. Some were prostitutes themselves, others were affected because family members were involved in prostitution. You can access their stories by clicking on the women's names below.

These women were directly impacted by the Contagious Diseases Act of 1864, which allowed for the forcible examination of women found loitering in a port or near a barracks. The jurisdiction was later extended, before the act was repealed in 1886.

Here are some resources on this topic:

Bartley, Paula Prostitution: prevention and reform in England 1860-1914 Routledge (2004)

Broglin, C G Jana Sloan Hookers, Crooks and Kooks: Part 1 Hookers Heritage Books (2007)

Finnegan, Frances Poverty and Prostitution: a study of Victorian prostitutes in York Cambridge University Press (1979)

Hartley, Jenny Charles Dickens and the House of the Fallen Women Methuen (2009)

Hemyng, B ‘Prostitution in London’, in Mayhew, H., London Labour and the London Poor: Volume IV Those Who Will Not Work; Comprising Prostitutes, Thieves, Swindlers and Beggars Dover Publications (1862)

McHugh, Paul Prostitution and Victorian Social Reform: The Campaign Against the Contagious Diseases Act Routledge (2004)

Walkowitz, Judith R. Prostitution and Victorian Society: women, class and state Cambridge University Press (1982)

Flanders, Judith Prostitution 

Joyce, Fraser Prostitution and the Nineteenth Century: in search of the ‘Great Social Evil’

Records of prostitution at the National Archives 

Revisiting Dickens: prostitution in Victorian England 

Romantic London: Harris' List of Covent Garden Ladies 

Mary Jane (Polly) Allen c.1877- from Sawtry, Huntingdonshire - Alcoholism, Lawbreaking, Prostitution, Farmfield Reformatory for Inebriate Women. 4 minute read

Sarah Ann Atkinson c.1852-? from Leeds, Yorkshire - Abandonment, Domestic Abuse, Lawbreaking, Poverty, Prostitution, Leeds Girls' Industrial School. Sarah's story is part of the document, giving details of the girls from Leeds Industrial School, for whom little could be found. 2 minute read

Mary Ann Bennett c.1868-? from Worcester, Worcestershire - Alcoholism, Illegitimacy, Lawbreaking, Poverty, Prostitution, Farmfield Reformatory for Inebriate Women. 8 minute read

Jane Northrop Fallon 1863-? from Leeds, Yorkshire - Illegitimacy, Lawbreaking, Poverty, Prostitution, Leeds Girls’ Industrial School. 8 minute read

Ellen Flynn, aka Ellen Cockling, aka Ellen Sullivan, aka Ellen Green, aka Annie Green c.1852-? from Camberwell, Surrey - Alcoholism, Lawbreaking, Prostitution, St. Joseph’s Inebriate Reformatory. 4 minute read

Jessie Franklin aka Jessie Gray aka Jessie Richardson aka Jessie Graham aka Lilian Newlands c.1870-? from Bermondsey, Surrey - Alcoholism, Lawbreaking, Mental Health, Prostitution, Sickness, Farmfield Reformatory for Inebriate Women. 8 minute read

Mary Harrison 1862-? From York, Yorkshire - Alcoholism, Lawbreaking, Prostitution, St. Joseph’s Inebriate Reformatory. 4 minute read

Louisa Mason 1868-1925 from Barkingside, Essex - Alcoholism, Illegitimacy, Lawbreaking, Mental Health, Prostitution, Farmfield Reformatory for Inebriate Women. 4 minute read

Jane Ann Reed aka Webster, later Jane Ann Stead 1851-1888 from Leeds, Yorkshire – Illegitimacy, Lawbreaking, Poverty, Prostitution, Leeds Industrial School. 4 minute read

Ellen Sampson c.1858-? from Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland - Alcoholism, Illegitimacy, Lawbreaking, Poverty, Prostitution, St. Joseph’s Inebriate Reformatory. 15 minute read

Matilda Jane Stewart, later Matilda Jane Geldard 1854-1935 from Scotland - Illegitimacy, Lawbreaking, Poverty, Prostitution, Leeds Industrial School. 10 minute read

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