“This superb collection of essays brings archaeology and history together to present a deeply nuanced understanding of life in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century vice districts.”—Mara Keire, University of Oxford
“Presents a range of innovative case studies of historical sex work through the lenses of both history and archaeology. Importantly, these essays explore aspects of social life that are often hidden, either through taboos associated with the activities under examination or lack of emphasis in scholarly research.”—Deborah L. Rotman, author of The Archaeology of Gender in Historic America
This volume explores the sex trade in America from 1850 to 1920 through the perspectives of archaeologists and historians, expanding the geographic and thematic scope of research on the subject. Historical Sex Work builds on the work of previous studies in helping create an inclusive and nuanced view of social relations in United States history.
Many of these essays focus on lesser-known cities and tell the stories of people often excluded from history, including African American madams Ida Dorsey and Melvina Massey and the children of prostitutes. Contributors discuss how sex workers navigated spatial and legal landscapes, examining evidence such as the location of Hooker’s Division in Washington, D.C., and court records of prostitution-related crimes in Fargo, North Dakota. Broadening the discussion to include the roles of men in sex work, contributors write about the proprietor Tom Savage, the ways prostitution connected with ideas of masculinity, and alternative reasons men may have visited brothels, such as for treatment of venereal disease and impotence.
Focusing on the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration and including rarely investigated topics such as race, motherhood, and men, this volume deepens our understanding of the experiences of practitioners and consumers of the sex trade and shows how intersectionality affected the agency of many involved in the nation’s historical vice districts. Kristen R. Fellows is assistant professor of anthropology at North Dakota State University. Angela J. Smith, associate professor of history at North Dakota State University, is the author of Here I Stand: The Life and Legacy of John Beecher. Anna M. Munns is director of assessment at the University of Jamestown.