Ladies of Pleasure – Prostitution in 18th Century!

ladies of pleasure

18th century, London. Probably the most poised and dignified time. It was surrounded by the lords and their ladies of the Hierarchy. But the time was all fabricated and was a facade, which hid all its scandalous affairs under the documentaries. Though there is much of an ocean to learn about. Therefore, Here are some of the facts in a nutshell.

How Prostitution worked

Primarily known as “the first ever trade business” to be done. So, Prostitution was not only about females selling their self for money or sexual pleasure. It was about theft and finding keepers who would be able to keep those ladies as their Mistresses.

Prostitutes in road side

Image Source: Prostitutes in roadside

Most of the ladies who came to be known entering the business, where not always into any situation. Most of them were the 2nd generation, Irish immigrants. These ladies used to work as servants, or housemaids in bawdy and disorderly houses before they entered into the trade. At times, they were lured into entering the trade too.

London was a notorious attraction for prostitutes then. And prostitution was a fully fledged nourished trade back then. Almost one out of five women worked as “ladies of the night”. Many of them worked alone in the streets, others were rules and kept in bawdy houses, taken proper care of. So, that they can be presented to their significant partners or whoever demanded that certain lady.

The Charming Ladies

That Charm

Image Source: The Charm

Known through different synonyms, one being “Ladies of pleasure”, these women had classes and ranks. Keeping aside the street workers and poor brothels, some of the special ladies were only taken to be the special mistress of the Lords. As Masquerades were widely popular at that time in Britain, these upper-class women were taken and were secretly bid in that party itself, which was largely kept secret. Wearing masks and disguised in different costumes, they freely talked with the men. The women were demanded, they were presented at the right time to the Lords and if pleased more than enough, they were also supposed to keep as their permanent Mistresses. Now these Ladies having found their “Keeper”, their whole possession and riches were taken care of by those lords themselves. The whole idea was to find a keeper from the Hierarchical society.

Covent Garden

History of Covent

Image Source: History of Covent

London’s Covent Garden, was the prime location for the sex trade and business, starting from 16th century itself, which arose in 18th Century to its peak. Sir John Fielding, of Bow Police Court, called it “The Great Square of Venus”. For a wider peek into the knowing of how this trade worked, the night-time was the time for betterment as men came to watch Theater at night. These ladies also had different labels, as “Flash mollishers” for the lower based prostitutes, ” Spells” who stood by the theater, “Bawds” who owned the brothels and “Nuns” who were the highest of them and were to be presented to the higher men.

A directory published annually, “Harris’s list of Covent Garden Ladies” gives a deeper insight about every lady in demand at that time.

“Harlot” – TV Series

A tv series known as “Harlot” is based on the time and period when London was at its peak for the sex trade and gives us a great understanding of how women worked and how the societal norms were for these ladies.


Image Source: Harlot

No matter how poised and posh the ladies looked, once they were prompt into any disease, they were left out, either to be dead or to be starving alone, which was not suitable at all for them but was the utmost truth.

As fascinating as it sounds, the 1700s were not all about royalty and the dignitaries shown, it was much more under the quilt, all coming out in the face of society, page by page.

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