Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Dress Lodger

Dress lodgers were prostitutes who were kept in permanent 'debt' to a madam/pimp for the cost of a dress which the procurer 'loaned' to them, often their only garment, without which they could not leave the house - a form of sex slavery. They were sent out on the streets to pick up men, and carefully watched, in case they ran.

‘Mrs. Barrett had two dress lodgers (who gave up their infamous earnings to her) when I resided with her. Mrs. Barrett used to say to them at night, “Come, girls, the sooner you get out, the more chance you will have.” Mrs. Barrett had all the money they produced; if they were backward to go out, she would threaten them, and sometimes beat them. She would call 3l. 10s. a bad week’s work; a great number of boys under the age of 15 would come to the house, mostly on Sunday evenings. They were encouraged to do so. About the latter end of last December one of her dress lodgers left, and the same night Mrs. Barnett told me to get my bonnet and shawl and accompany her and Mrs. Phillips, her aunt, who keeps a house of the same description, over London-bridge. Near the Town-hall we met Charlotte Waller. We went out to look for honest girls. Mrs. Barnett said, ‘My dear, where are you going?’ She said she was looking for her father, and had travelled 112 miles, and could not find her parent. Mrs. Barrett said she hoped she was a good girl, that I was her servant, and that she wanted another to nurse her children and inquired if she would go home with her. The girl appeared surprised, but after a little consideration went along with us. When we got home, the girl appeared astonished at the house, and Phillips and Barnett talked together in the Hebrew language. I was then told to take her up stairs to bed, and by my mistress’s order I brought her clothes down, and the next morning took up a light dress, which she at first refused to wear, as she said she was in mourning; but on my telling her my mistress never allowed her servants to wear their own clothes, she consented. She had some money about her, which I took to my mistress, by her order. The girl had a bundle when we met her, which Barnett took, and I don’t know what came of it. The girl appeared surprised that she was not set out to work. The next night Barnett took her out, and they returned with a stout gentleman, between whom and Mrs. Barnett some conversation took place. Liquor was sent for, and Charlotte Waller was forced to drink; she was then sent up stairs ... I heard a shriek and went up stairs; the stout man was there with Miss Waller, who said ‘You are a witness to my murder’. My mistress called me down and scolded me, saying that I had no business there. The man went away out at the back door. After this Miss Waller was compelled to receive the visits of some man every night. Mr. Barnett was always watching her. I thought, if she was a virtuous girl, she was a great fool. On the following Sunday she was ill, and could not go out. Mrs. Barnett got her a bottle of physic, and brought home some boys. Waller was forced to go out afterwards but walked with great difficulty. On Tuesday, she said she would not go out any longer, she would sit on the steps of a door and die, before she would pursue such a horrible course of life any longer. Mrs. Barnett abused her, and she said she should not skulk there again, although she was very ill, and people remarked, ‘God help the poor creature, where did she come from?’ When she could scarcely move about, Mrs. Barnett used to abuse her dreadfully. Waller was a quiet inoffensive girl. I knew that Phillips and Barnett had agreed to divide her earnings, because they were both together when she was picked up and decoyed to Coburg-street. She often lamented her situation to me. She was sent to the hospital and died there.’

11 March 1835 Times

1 comment:

  1. I'm stunned. I naively thought this just went on in Chicago and the likes.