Monday, May 18, 2009

Judith K. Schafer's "Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women"

Judith Kelleher Schafer is the author of several books, including Slavery, the Civil Law, and the Supreme Court of Louisiana and Becoming Free, Remaining Free: Manumission and Enslavement in New Orleans, 1846–1862.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Brothels, Depravity and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans describes how prostitutes verbally abused each other as well as physically inflicting violence on their counterparts. Although public women lead violent lives in antebellum New Orleans, their ill treatment of each other is only one part of the story.

The book uses legal case histories and contemporary newspapers to tell the story of the sex trade in the Crescent City. It details the brutal and often harrowing lives of women and young girls who engaged in prostitution. Some watched helplessly as gangs of rowdy men smashed their furniture; some endured beatings by their customers or other public women; others were murdered. The book discusses the sexual exploitation of children, sex across the color line, and the city’s feeble attempts to suppress the trade. Brothels also profiles several infamous sex workers, including Delia Swift, alias Bridget Fury, a flaming redhead with a fondness for stabbing me, and Emily Eubanks and her daughter Elisabeth, free women of color known for assaulting white women.

Although scholars have written about New Orleans’s Storyville era, no in-depth studies on prostitution in antebellum New Orleans exist. This book offers insight into an intriguing period in the history of the “oldest profession” in the Crescent City.
Learn more about Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women at the publisher's website.

Visit Judith K. Schafer's Tulane faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue