Edwardian Prostitutes: 1908-1911

Beginning in 1908, the police force in Birmingham began to take ‘mugshots’ of women arrested for prostitution in that city. They would be taken to a commercial photography studio, and their image taken to accompany the charge sheet. This helped with repeat offenders who could now be recognised, as they often gave false names on susbequent arrests. If you see how old some of these women looked compared to their actual age, it is easy to see what a hard life they led.

Edith Bird, aged just 15. She was technically a child prostitute, as the age of consent had been raised to 16.

Agnes Halker, at the age of 52. She was a brothel madam, charged with ‘Keeping a brothel’.

Anne Laurie, aged 28.

Beatrice Russell. Hard to believe she was just 21 when this photo was taken.

Vale Court was a notorious hangout for prostitutes. The young women photographed were both working in the sex trade.

Gertrude Meyers was a ‘Street prostitute’ who did not work in a brothel. She was just 29 when this was taken.

Florence Thackwell, only 16 years old.

52 thoughts on “Edwardian Prostitutes: 1908-1911

  1. (1) Edith Bird didn’t work cheep.
    (2) Agnes Halker began as a street walker.
    (3) Anne Laurie became a prostitute after failing as a hair stylist.
    (4) Beatrice Russell was never able to change her stripes.
    (5) The judge who presided over Vale Court graduated from law school vale dictorian.
    (6) Gertrude Meyers admires her “intruders.”
    (7) Florenthe Thackwell was thaid to have had a thwell time having thex in the thack.

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  2. Historical (and present day) examples of women (and sometimes men) driven by economic circumstances into prostitution are extremely sad. There, however, women (and some men) who make considerable incomes from working as escorts. Such individuals generally go under the radar as their activities take place in hotel rooms and in the homes of clients (or their own premises). The police almost always turn a blind eye to escorting unless their is evidence of underage sex work. In a free society people should be able to indulge in sex work (and clients avail themselves of such services) provided that it is consensual sex between consenting adults. I don’t want to live in a society where the authorities poke their noses into what goes on behind closed doors between consenting adults (whether money is entailed or not). There have been attempts to stop prostitution in countries such as Sweden by criminilising purchasers of sexual services whilst not criminilising prostitutes. Some claim this has worked whilst others believe it has just driven the trade further underground making the lives of sex workers less safe. I am inclined to the latter view. Best wishes. Kevin

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    1. It wasn’t an offence to use a prostitute, only to work as one. Even now, it is only an offence to “pay for sex with a prostitute subject to force and coercion”. Not much has changed in over 100 years.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. I’ve found the comments to your post here, Pete, just as revealing as the photos themselves.
    We’ve all heard Dostoevsky, “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
    I think Mandela said it better… “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

    Sad as they are being reflected in these images, change the hair style, dress style, and colorize the photo… this could very likely be ladies of any nation at any time in history.

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    1. I think the main difference is how they aged before their time, Doug. No healthcare, sexually transmitted diseases, alcoholism, and poverty. It all takes a toll.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. Of course, that’s the reality of life at the time these folks lived and reflects a desperation to survive the best way they can. Their faces reflect that struggle. I was also seeing a more ethereal recognition of things seldom changing… and yet they do.

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