Prostitution in the 19th and 20th Centuries Essay

Prostitution in the 19th and 20th Centuries Essay

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During the late 19th- and early 20th century, the nature of society forced the working class women of America to take advantage of any means to support themselves, including prostitution. Each woman had to decide herself which work option best supported her financially.
During this time, women had limited options as far as work was concerned. As time went on, more and more women were forced to work, because they had no husband and no other means of building up a dowry for a husband. By 1910 the wage labor force was made up of about 20% of women as young as fourteen. The wages these women earned were unbelievably low, and at times as much as 80% lower than the wages men earned. Possible job opportunities for the women included options such as a textile factory, which consisted of clothing and fabric production. In these factories, the women ran high risks to their health. More wealthy people would hire these women for domestic services such as nannies, or house servants. These jobs sometimes required the woman to live at that residence, and the women ran the constant risk of being molested by a higher-class ranking individual. Department stores were also willing to hire women. However, the set-back to this type of work was that the women were sometimes expected to purchase expensive dress up clothing that most of the time they couldn’t afford. The women were advised to “round out their meager salaries by finding a ‘”gentleman friend”’ to purchase clothing and pleasures”(Peiss, 79).
Prostitution was a reliable work engagement that many women participated in. Why did the women feel this was their best option? Several critical, attractive benefits that only prostitution offered contributed to women’s’ choice of ...


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...dle-class reform women could have reversed their movements from the women, and turned them toward the men who were putting the prostitutes in business. Those prostitutes could not have been prostitutes if it were not for the eager men paying them for it. However, perhaps a reason this was not done was because the reform women did not have the means to do something as drastic as this because they were, after all, women in a time of man control. Women did not have the same leisurely rights to do as they pleased that men had. I feel that both the reform women and the working-class prostitutes had reasonable bounds for what they fought for. I think that if women had had the rights that men did, prostitution may never have existed. Therefore, personally I blame the men for neglecting women rights, and forcing them to find other, less moral ways to support themselves.

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