Sex, War and Syndication: Organized Prostitution and the Second World War

  • Julia Laite
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


Marthe Watts, née Hucbourg, was born in 1913 in a little town beside the Argonne forest, among her father’s family; it was a town where her mother and father would probably have stayed if it had not been for the fact that Adrien Hucbourg was one of many young French men to be killed at the battle of Verdun in 1915. In 1928, her mother moved to Paris, taking Marthe with her and separating her from her maternal grandmother, who was an important source of support. A few months later, her mother had remarried, and Marthe had to cope with her new stepfather’s emotional abuse, and with her mother’s growing neglect. Shortly after the marriage, Marthe was left alone in their apartment with no money or support, having no idea where her mother and stepfather had gone or when they would return. The abandoned Marthe was forced to go out in search of both money and companionship, and was drawn to the dance hall culture of interwar Paris. Here she met men and women who suggested that she sell sex, and soon she was working as a prostitute in a provincial French brothel, just before her sixteenth birthday.1


Ordinary Citizen Moral Panic Regent Street Immigration Officer American Troop 
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  1. 68.
    Roger Davidson, Dangerous Liaisons: A Social History of Venereal Disease in Twentieth-Century Scotland, Dangerous liaisons ed. (Amsterdam, 2000), pp. 211–12.Google Scholar

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© Julia Laite 2012

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  • Julia Laite

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