Women in Public and Public Women: Controlling Street Prostitution 1887–1914

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


On a warm July evening in 1887, Elizabeth Cass, a young woman from the North who worked in London as a dressmaker’s assistant, was walking down Regent Street, window-shopping for a new pair of gloves.1 As she moved through the growing evening crowd, she was approached by a Metropolitan Police Officer, Police Constable Bowden Endacott, and told to her great dismay that she had been seen soliciting men for the purposes of prostitution, to their annoyance, and had been observed doing the same on several occasions that month. She protested: she was not doing nor had she done anything of the sort, but Endacott was not to be swayed by what was surely a familiar defence. He arrested Cass and she went quietly with him to the station, where her particulars were recorded before she was moved on to the Police Court cell to await a morning trial. Her employer, the dressmaker Mrs Bowman, posted her bail, and the next morning at the police court the magistrate Mr Newton chose not to convict her but gave her a stern warning: she was not to be doing this sort of thing again and, if she was respectable, she had no business speaking to gentlemen on Regent Street at that hour — or indeed any hour — in the first place.2


Police Officer Ordinary Citizen Regent Street Police Constable Metropolitan Police 
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  1. 7.
    Judith R. Walkowitz, ‘Going Public: Shopping, Street Harassment, and Streetwalking in Late Victorian London’, Representations 62, no. Spring (1998).Google Scholar
  2. 61.
    Jerry White, London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People (London, 2001), p. 310.Google Scholar

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© Julia Laite 2012

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  • Julia Laite

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