Selling Sex: Women, Work and Prostitution

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


Mary’s husband, a collier by the name of Davies, was killed in the early 1880s in an explosion in a coalmine in Wales, though it is unclear which one. There were some Davies among the names of the 102 men who died in the catastrophe that occurred at Pen-Y-Graig, just before Christmas in 1880, when the ventilation fans began sending explosive gases back down into the mine. It was joined by at least a dozen fatal mine explosions in Wales alone between 1879 and 1882, which killed well over 300 people.1 Neither can we say for sure how Mary, about nineteen years old at the time, felt about the death of her husband; we can only assume that it was devastating for her. Estranged from her immediate family, she went to live with a cousin in Cardiff, and it seems that it was there that she learned, probably through her cousin’s prior involvement in prostitution, that a young, bright and attractive woman could earn a fair amount of money selling sexual acts.2


Ordinary Citizen Domestic Service Sexual Exchange Police Constable Social Commentator 
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    A.L. Harvey, ‘Prostitution in Cardiff in 1908’, Archives 25, no. 103 (2000): 117–22.Google Scholar
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    G.P. Merrick, Work among the Fallen as Seen from the Prison Cell (London, n.d. [c. 1891]), pp. 22–5.Google Scholar
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    Sidney Webb, ‘The Social and Economic Causes of Vice’, in The Nation’s Morals (London, 1925), pp. 206–18.Google Scholar

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© Julia Laite 2012

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  • Julia Laite

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