"Seeking and saving": the reform of prostitutes and the prevention of prostitution in Birmingham, 1860-1914
AbstractA number of attempts were made in Victorian and Edwardian Britain to reform individual prostitutes and to regulate, control and eliminate prostitution. This thesis examines a small number of groups which were committed to the reform of prostitutes and to the prevention of prostitution in Birmingham between 1860-1914. The first group, composed of Anglican men and women dedicated to reform, founded a Magdalen Asylum. Soon after, a group of middle class Nonconformist women inspired by Ellice Hopkins' vision, established an alternative to the Anglican model. It is argued that this initiative marked a small shift in the process of reform but did not alter it fundamentally for whatever the gender, religious commitment or class background of people on the governing committees of these organisations all attempted to train working class women for domestic service. Preventive work was also developed by Nonconformist women and men to augment the reform institutions. In establishing different organisations to provide a moral safety net for young women, they believed that their organisations would eliminate some of the perceived causes of prostitution: immoral behaviour, unemployment, illegitimacy, homelessness and mental deficiency. This thesis focuses on the parts played by gender, class and religion in these organisations and suggests that whereas the methods employed by the preventive groups differed from the reform groups both shared a common aim of recasting working class women into modest, industrious and subordinate individuals. This thesis argues that over-arching theories are inadequate in understanding reform and prevention and advocates an approach which is multi-dimensional. It suggests that the categorical variables of gender, class and religion, sometimes contradictory, sometimes complementary, helped shape the process of reform and prevention in Birmingham.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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