Skip Nav
Bethenny Frankel
Come From a Place of Yes: Bethenny Frankel's Tips For Working Women
Books, Music Lessons, and 7 Other Things You Should Be Getting For Free on the Internet
4 Lessons I Learned From Starting Over Professionally

19th Century Prostitutes

Prostitutes in the 19th Century Were Power Women

They were women who embraced the scarlet letter; they were 19th century prostitutes. Many of them broke through the countless barriers that women faced back then, according to a book review on Alternet. What liberties did courtesans receive? For starters: earning high salaries, owning property, walking solo in public, and using birth control.

Madams owned huge parcels of land that women in the wild west times weren't allowed to have. Some brothel owners were so wealthy, they even paid for projects to build roads and irrigation systems. In fact, some of them were counted among the richest people in the country. Not only did they have wealth, these scarlet women had great liberties as well. In a time where women had no say against being raped by their husbands, these madams wielded guns and hired policemen to protect their employees from rowdy customers.

Interestingly enough, these jezebels of the 19th century made big strides for the civil rights movement:

It is unlikely that there were more wealthy or powerful black women in nineteenth-century America than Mary Ellen "Mammy" Pleasant and Sarah B. "Babe" Connors. Pleasant was born a slave but became one of the most influential women in early San Francisco. She operated boardinghouses in which wealthy businessmen were paired with prostitutes. With the revenue from her primary business, she invested in mining stock and made high-interest loans to the San Francisco elite. Pleasant also filed suit to desegregate the city's streetcars, making her "the mother of the civil rights movement" in California.

Looks like these women weren't just fancy pieces and were holding their own back then.

Around The Web
Join The Conversation
Janine22 Janine22 6 years
It sounds as if the brothel owners and madams were the women that had the money and power, not the prostitutes themselves. This sounds similar to the way in which pimps today benefit from their hookers earnings. One women is exploiting others for their personal wealth, not exactly empowering. However I can see that the alternatives for women to earn money of their own were basically slave labor as well.
Things That Waste Your Time at Work
Holiday Gifts For Female Co-Workers
What Is Belonging Uncertainty?
Careers For People Who Love Food
How to Respond When Asked For Salary Requirements
Working From Home Tips
Things to Consider Before Accepting a Job Offer

POPSUGAR, the #1 independent media and technology company for women. Where more than 75 million women go for original, inspirational content that feeds their passions and interests.

From Our Partners
Latest Career
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds