Prostitution in Victorian England

1255 words 6 pages
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The act was later repealed in 1886 but not before it had a significant impact on the lives of everyone in England. Prostitution was a major social and economic factor in English society and it needed to be addressed. While some of the actions taken by the government and police against the prostitutes were sometimes unfair and harsh, the intent of the act itself was to prevent the spread of harmful venereal diseases to the male population by infected prostitutes. While the government may have the correct idea in mind to try to curb the spread of venereal diseases they should have found a better way to implement their measures. Throughout her book Walkowitz does an excellent job at giving both sides of the argument, the supporters and those who opposed the act, as well as giving statistics and perspectives from those who were working prostitutes at the time. Walkowitz also uses the two towns of Southampton and Plymouth as two examples of the way the act affected those who lived there. The repeal campaigns and those who participated in them in Plymouth and Southampton gave the movement a personal feel in Walkowitz’s book. Through first-hand accounts and stories she is able to use these two case studies for the repeal of the C.D. Act., which allows the reader to


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