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arthurk
03-06-2006, 8:18 PM
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

Peter Goodey
03-06-2006, 9:46 PM
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.

arthurk
04-06-2006, 4:49 PM
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

Burrow Digger
05-06-2006, 10:07 AM
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

Wirral
05-06-2006, 12:23 PM
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.

BDNot 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"! :)

dagian
11-01-2009, 5:51 PM
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).

dagian
11-01-2009, 7:01 PM
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.

dagian
11-01-2009, 7:10 PM
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.

Peter Goodey
11-01-2009, 7:25 PM
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.

benny1982
05-03-2009, 3:28 PM
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

sheiky
17-09-2009, 5:52 PM
I unfortunately do have my Grt Grandmother who is down as Dressmaker in census and on her daughters (my grandmothers) birth certificate. But she was found to be "unsafe as a mother" my grandmother was taken away from her and put in a waifs and strays home,and never went back to her. have never found out who my grandmothers father is!

horseshoe
28-08-2013, 4:24 PM
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


NOT in my family dearie!!

horseshoe
28-08-2013, 4:31 PM
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.


Mr Goodey, you live up to your fine surname sir!, I also believe this!, 99% of these women I think were who they say they were!! especially in rural areas. Some myths come down through history and destroy families reputations and cast shame and upset on innocent members of families, I studied the first world war for a number of years and I found one or two distressed people on forums who had myths and misconceptions handed down over the years. I think most of our ancestors did the best they could in extraordinary circumstances, God bless and rest them, which will thank heavens will never experience!.

Best wishes to all your ancestors and you, the granddaughter of the Blacksmith