+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 13
  1. #1
    Famous for offering help & advice
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Cheshire
    Posts
    1,290
    Thanks
    11
    Thanked 133 Times in 114 Posts

    Default Dressmakers and Seamstresses

    A couple of times recently I've come across the suggestion that a woman described in a census as a dressmaker or seamstress might have been using this as a euphemism, since she was involved in something much less wholesome. Is there any evidence to support this idea, please?

    Arthur

  2. #2
    Reputation beyond repute
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Kent
    Posts
    14,212
    Thanks
    2
    Thanked 1,554 Times in 1,406 Posts

    Default

    Somewhere I've seen a reference which suggests that some prostitutes described themselves (or were described) as dressmakers. Unfortunately, I can't lay my hands on it at the moment.

    I rather suspect that Chinese whispers and the usual processes of urban myth have turned this observation on its head and transformed it into the claim that many people described as dressmakers were actually prostitutes.

    This is of course not the same thing at all.

    On the other hand, you could try the 1881 census which is indexed on occupation and try searching for 'prostitute' or 'common prostitute'. You'll see that many of them were in institutions of one sort or another but others who weren't didn't seem worried about calling a spade a spade.

  3. #3
    Famous for offering help & advice
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Cheshire
    Posts
    1,290
    Thanks
    11
    Thanked 133 Times in 114 Posts

    Default

    Thank you, Peter, for your helpful comments. I'd been hoping someone might come up with something contemporary rather than an unsubstantiated modern assertion.

    However, none of this can ever really answer the question for any specific girl: was she just a dressmaker, or was she a prostitute as well? Many of the ones I've found were unmarried girls living with their parents, and in general I would think they would have less need or opportunity to supplement their income with prostitution. Other living arrangements may arouse greater suspicion, but short of finding court reports etc, maybe it's something we'll never know for sure.

    Thanks again,
    Arthur

  4. #4
    Loves to help with queries.
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    209
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Thousands of women stayed with their parents - often to look after them. Many of these women never married at all. It was probably the ONLY way the elderly parents could stay OUT of the workhouses.

    Nowadays do the sons and daughters look after their parents?? No they pack them away in old folks homes (euphemistically called seniors homes) and then forget about them.

    BD
    My BURROW family from DEVON

  5. #5
    A glorious beacon of light
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    New Brighton, Wirral
    Posts
    2,980
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Burrow Digger
    Nowadays do the sons and daughters look after their parents?? No they pack them away in old folks homes (euphemistically called seniors homes) and then forget about them.

    BD
    Not all of them. At my husband's suggestion, we converted our home so that my elderly parents could live with us. Two of my best friends regularly travel long distances to support their elderly parents who still live in their own homes. Another did a 30 mile round trip twice a day to help her mother who was terminally ill, but still lived in her own home.
    It might be difficult at times, but worth every minute. Especially for me as I have a resident genealogy expert "on tap"!

  6. #6
    Starting to feel at home dagian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Germany
    Posts
    38
    Thanks
    4
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default What did they really do?

    Also been researching this topic. Most sites I have visited state the same (Definition Of Terms Used On Census Returns):

    'Dressmaker ~ the occupation of 'dressmaker' was commonly given by prostitutes.'

    It appears that the majority favour the above - still unconvinced myself. My ancestors, in the early 1800s, were Catholics (not sure if this would discount the possibility).

  7. #7
    Starting to feel at home dagian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Germany
    Posts
    38
    Thanks
    4
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Looking at the family in question - possible that Dress Maker was a euphenism.
    The male members were all either Shoe Maker, Ap Shoe Maker plus a Pauper. The females were a 20 year old Dress Maker and a 14 year old Ap Dress Maker. Obviously not a lot of money in the household.
    The 20 year old Dress Maker went from North Wales to Liverpool and then returned quickly to get married before having a child 7 months later. She was a Catholic girl and married in St Winifred's Chapel, Holywell (a famous pilgrim location) so there was obviously haste before a 'bump' appeared.

  8. #8
    Starting to feel at home dagian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Germany
    Posts
    38
    Thanks
    4
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    There was obviously great importance placed on such women marrying as quickly as possible. The penalties for 'Lewdness and Bastardy' were quite draconian, invariably sentences included Hard Labour.

  9. #9
    Reputation beyond repute
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Kent
    Posts
    14,212
    Thanks
    2
    Thanked 1,554 Times in 1,406 Posts

    Default

    You cannot assume that if most internet sources say something that it must be the truth. The same duff information circulates around and around being copied as it goes.

    The position is as I described it in message 2 above. In a small number of cases, people who were known from other sources to be prostitutes, described themselves as dressmakers.

    This does not mean that all or even many people who described themselves as dressmakers were prostitutes.

    99.9% of dressmakers were dressmakers.

  10. #10
    Famous for offering help & advice
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Norfolk
    Posts
    1,327
    Thanks
    11
    Thanked 11 Times in 11 Posts

    Default

    Hi

    I do not believe either that any female ancestors of mine who were tailoresses or dressmakers were prostitutes, and I am sceptical that girls with such occupations on censuses who were really on the game. Very few I think.

    My great grandmothers two sisters born 1894 and 1904 were dressmakers. One even made dresses for Royalty. Their mum born in 1863 was a Tailoress in the 1881 census aged 17 alongside her sister who was 13 at the time.

    Their 1813 born fathers mother Ann born 1777 was a dressmaker in the 1851 census as was her elder daughter Elizabeth born 1809. So the clothesmaking gene must run in the family here. Definately no prostitution there at all!!

    Ben

+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
Select a file: