(un)fallen woman

where better to consider the politics of citizenship, letters and bodies than in an 1858 letter written to The Times newspaper by a prostitute that didn’t want saving?

It’s an amazing read… here’s but a small sampling:

Hurling big figures at us, it is said that there are 80,000 of us in London alone—which is a monstrous falsehood—and of those 80,000, poor hardworking sewing girls, sewing women, are numbered in by thousands, and called indiscriminately prostitutes; writing, preaching, speechifying, that they have lost their virtue too.
It is a cruel calumny to call them in mass prostitutes; and, as for their virtue, they lose it as one loses his watch who is robbed by the highway thief. Their virtue is the watch, and society is the thief. These poor women toiling on starvation wages, while penury, misery, and famine clutch them by the throat and say, ‘Render up your body or die’.

Maybe it’s time to read, once more, the “fallen women” poems of Augusta Webster, Mathilde Blind, Dora Greenwell and Christina Rossetti.

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