‘Down on Whores’ and ‘Living on the Earnings’: Violence, Vulnerability and the Law after 1885

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


On 3 April 1888, Emma Smith was walking home to her lodging house in George Street, Whitechapel; a matter of routine after a regular night of soliciting prostitution in the area. Smith, who was renowned for her proclivity for bar fights, was forty-five years old and widowed, with two adult children. Her work as a prostitute in the East End had been marked by violence and harassment: in mid-March she had been attacked and sexually assaulted by a group of men while soliciting, and had spent two weeks in the hospital, and earlier in the evening of 3 April she had been struck in the face by a man.1 It was no wonder, then, that, as she passed Whitechapel Church around four in the morning and noticed a group of three or four young men behind her, she crossed the street to get out of their way. The men pursued her, and at the corner of Brick Lane and Wentworth Street they beat and raped her, and forced a blunt object into her vagina, tearing her perineum. They stole her evening’s earnings and left her on the road. Smith managed to stagger back to her lodging house, bleeding heavily, and was admitted to hospital, describing her attackers as three or four youths around nineteen years of age. She slipped into a coma and died four days later.2


Romantic Partner Ordinary Citizen Metropolitan Police Prostitution Policy White Slavery 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 6.
    Hilary Kinnel, Violence and Sex Work in Britain (London, 2008).Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    Peter Baldwin, Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830–1930 (Cambridge, 1999), pp. 400–18.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Julia Laite 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Laite

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations