We decided to publish a story of an account of the rise of prostitution that influenced society with the commercialization of sex beginning around the 1820’s. Through diligent research we have found old statements from wealthy men, reformers, prostitutes and many others living throughout the time of Antebellum New York. The Insider would like to present:
Destitution of Prostitution.
Sexual acts were committed to publicize sexual desire to make it seem normal to society. They would commit these acts uncaringly for the public to see. Communities throughout New York City have seen sexual propaganda, corruption amongst elite politicians, law enforcement officers, prestige gentlemen in the higher class, and scandalized many other important people. Houses of prostitution, such as, brothels were springing up around New York’s well known “sex districts” in the lower part of the Manhattan area. These areas included Five Points, The West Side, Water and Cherry Streets and The Hook. Establishments were black or white owned or ran by Madams, which would be a female in charge of the prostitution house. Other than economic gains in mind, the women involved had their own personal gains in thought. Traveling through the streets of prostitution infested areas, many questions came up. Why and how did prostitution rise so rapidly? Where did this idea for the commercialization of sex come from? Why did the residents of the local areas let it get so bad? Who is profiting from this and how does the sexual economy work? Why did the women get into the prostitution business? These are the questions that will be answered thoroughly. We will provide the upmost truth from as many angles as possible to get the real story of this “Destitution of Prostitution.”
To answer the why and how prostitution had risen so rapidly, we must realize it’s gaining of popularity. High class men were embracing the idea of fulfilling their sexual desires with no attachment. In 1850, the spread of sexual images were throughout Museums, Theaters, Saloons, Opera houses and even Broadway Theater. Mariners and longshoreman would spend nights with prostitutes whenever they were on shore and not out to sea. We spoke to a seaman and asked him why he would choose to sexually deviate with a prostitute and he replied “to chirk me up, otherwise I would leave one of my fellow shore men with a cocked hat.” Clearly he wanted to relieve frustrations of his long trips at sea, so he chose to do it that way. Married men became a target of sexual deviance and cheated on their wives. We spoke to the wife of George Winehouse, a saloon owner, and she was very upset stating that “if I ever caught my husband with one of them hookers I would have a conniption fit and he would be cold as a wagon tire.” “The ever greater transiency of urban life and the changing structure of work disrupted older traditions of courtship for young men” (pg102). Sex was being spread as a social norm among young New York males. Respect of men became undermined and challenged due to the indecency of this crude sexual immoral lifestyle. This did not suppress the young men from experimenting either. The promiscuity of the whole perception of prostitution is what drew these men to the brothels. Other important factors helped the rise of prostitution also.
The economical gain became an influence and the institution of prostitution became a solid foundation of corruption and economical power. It stayed strong because of the powerful men allowing this to stay in motion. In 1866, we asked Police Superintendent John Kennedy how many prostitutes were living in brothels and he said “there were just over 2,500 prostitutes living in 560 brothels” (pg57). He continued to ramble on about how “these women have no dignity and cannot acknowledge the corn like their not selling themselves like it was a sport or auction or something.” The police would extort the brothel owners and accept bribes. They would reason with the public about arresting the prostitutes by saying “we should protect them because they are citizens too.” It is clear to prove that police would not be policing prostitution if they were getting free sexual favors also. Plainly, the prostitution population was much higher than what the Superintendent had said. Referring to the “Estimated Number of Prostitutes in New York, 1816-1913” chart (pg58), we had seen that in 1866, the number was at 20,000 prostitutes. This is significantly higher than what the Superintendent had calculated. This shows the lack of police work and justice held throughout the city. A random citizen generally stated “The police do not meddle with such, unless they are noisy, disturb the peace, or become a public nuisance” (pg126). He also said that “he wishes that prostitution would absquatulate so the neighborhood could go across lots for the better of the community.” The politicians were just as corrupt as the police.
Charles P. Daly was a chief judge of the Court of General Sessions “considered prostitution a “necessary evil: in a growing metropolis” (pg139). He claimed “only the mudsill women would degrade themselves and pull foot after the act has committed, so why not let them do it.” The mayor was even “OK” with prostitution. Running businesses since 1852, money-hungry Amos Eno, a well known man who owned hotels, brothels and multimillion dollar businesses claimed “sex for money was the smartest thing ever thought of, hell everyone needs some lovin.” So many leaders were in favor of this institution of prostitution that it was hard to decimate. The government did little to stop the sexual exploitation. The travesties of the ring of prostitution have demoralized young women.
1840’s the estimation of prostitution was from 10,000 to 50,000 women involved. Young teenage girls were being influenced by madams to sell themselves sexually. The jobs for women were becoming harder to maintain and it was an easier route to conform to prostitution. Females would get into the life of prostitution due to lack of funds through servitude. Some jobs they had were seasonal and they needed something concrete. Some of the women were without real family support, had no real home lives, and wanted social acceptance from other females outside of family. It became a fad, a “social norm” to become a streetwalker. Young teenage girls would be seduced into the ring of prostitution by madams. Lucy Ann Brady would just conform into the lifestyle on her own by going to the theaters and sleeping with the patrons. She said “I followed my friends around and eventually ended up at the theater here on Broadway and realized the men I had been sleeping with for free will pay me if I asked of it.” Lucy was never “seduced” or “forced” into prostitution (pg 56). Many different sales techniques were introduced to sell women and “the sale of one’s virginity brought the greatest remuneration” (pg 68). A 14 year old girl named Ann Kerrigan would sell her virginity to a wine merchant and be paid to be his mistress for 2 years. She explained “I figured since my family wasn’t around to take care of me and jobs were so scarce, I would let myself be a mistress for 2 years so I can have some stability financially, 20 dollars a week for 2 years isn’t a bad pay rate considering some girls work all week for 5 dollars.” “The National Laborer estimated women’s pay at no more than 37.5 cents per day in 1836” (pg 59). Females complained of the small wages and how the cost of living was high and jobs were minimal. The end result from losing servant jobs and quitting before laid off was to sell sex. Some of the women were into prostitution strictly for the “celebrity status.” For example Julia Brown was “The Best Known Prostitute in the Antebellum America” (pg 71). By 1841 she owned a 2, 000 dollar parlor house on Leonard St. She was known as “Princess Julia” and had relations with Charles Dickens. We asked her to disclose some antiquate details of her encounter with Mr. Dickens and she replied “I actually figured he would hang one’s fiddle but his hankering over me intrigued me to give in and let him post the pony for my services.” The popularity of prostitution slowly built a thriving economy in New York.
Sex became a form of capital investment for landlords and realtors. Realtors would rent to landlords because they knew it was “guaranteed payment.” Joey Furteddi, a realtor from the Bronx travels to “The Hook” to invest in property and says “hey, it’s not like I make a hooter, the high-falutin upperclassmen love them hookers.” We were amazed at how easily he spoke of his real reasons behind purchasing property. He merely wants his hands in the pockets of the upper classmen. The prostitution crisis has really taken over the economy in Manhattan. The realtors would find the landlords and they would hire lease agents to collect rent from saloon keepers, tenants, and individual prostitutes and Mike VanBurdan, a lease agent, complains that “running around like an enforcer for the mafia has got me puckered, it’s not that they don’t post the pony, it’s the police want a piece of the cash before I bring it back to the landlord and he gets puckered at me.” On the other side of the spectrum, reformation groups and reformers try to fight the plague of prostitution.
The fight to obstruct prostitution was a struggle for reformers. Dr. William Sanger, one of the main reformers apposing prostitution found that venereal disease was contracted at least one time in a prostitute’s term of service. He found that in 1858 over “525 0f 2,000 offered “destitution” as the primary cause of their prostitution, convincing him that prostitution was mostly a function of low wages and irregular employment” (pg 59). Dr. Sanger also found that male employers would place constraint on females to force them into hunger by rejecting them a chance to work and “condemn her for maintaining a wretched existence at the price of her virtue” (pg 59). Other than Dr. Sanger other reformation groups tried to figure out the reason why prostitution stayed instituted. The New York Female Moral Reform Society created publications to survey how many madams were in control of brothels, how many women were available, the length of time the residence was in motion and one publication in 1855 argued that “the houses were “the best safeguards to the virtue of maidens, wives, and widows, who would otherwise be exposed to violence” (pg 132). The publications would be written to inform the public as well as entertain. We asked the head of the society, Laura Pickett, why she would authorize to publicize these publications for entertainment? She replied “we would put the information that was important and the entertainment part of the publication all on one stick for the readers to be in skeery and tote the word to others.” Most reformers are to spread the information throughout the communities for the public to get a good understanding of what is going on.
As the picture of prostitution becomes clearer of why it had such an economical and social impact, we realize that governmental factions would let certain things go for the means of money and slander. The females degraded their character and felt that they were in moral righteousness because societies allowed the commercialization of sexual favors for currency to become a “norm.” The acceptance of the institution of exploitation of the female sexuality and the societal allowance displays rigorous influence from the need for an economical gain in Antebellum New York.