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Archive for the ‘law’ Category

“Come and See Pretty Pussies” – Street advertisement for a brasserie

Among the big headaches for municipal authorities of Paris in the second part of the 19th century was the appearance of the brasseries à femmes. Until then, drink and sex were generally served apart. A man looking for a drink would go to a café  and, should he feel need for female company, he’d make his choice (and an abundant choice it was!) among the streetwalkers, or he’d visit a brothel. In accordance with the law, the staff of the maisons de tolérance, was kept under a weekly medical supervision and therefore more or less free of venereal disease. However, a licence for opening a brothel was not easy to come by and, should any complaints arise, the business would be mercilessly closed by the authorities. This was not the case with public places offering alcohol. Traditionally, these employed male waiters, but in the 1860’s a few establishments appeared where drink was served by pretty women in seductive garb whose duty was to encourage the consumption of alcohol by being friendly with the patrons. This new way of serving drinks expanded rapidly not only in Paris but in all large cities across France. By the end of the century, in Paris alone, the brasseries employed between 1,500 and 2,000 waitresses. Although the interior of a brasserie might appear above reproach, most of them contained rooms for private encounters.

With the growth of the brasseries à femmes, the statistic of venereal disease shot up accordingly. Unlike registered prostitutes, waitresses were not subjected to medical control and, as there was no shame attached to entering such an establishment, many patrons, who would hesitate to be seen in a brothel, became victims of both drink and disease. Young men were the most at risk. Students and apprentices saw their future dissolve in excesses of drink to the chagrin of their parents and teachers. Patrons became attached to the girls and when a successful waitress crossed the river to “remake herself a virginity” on the opposite bank, some of her clients followed her like faithful dogs.

Serving in a brasserie was no sinecure. Twelve hours a day in the noisy and smoky atmosphere, where the women were required not only to serve, but to sit at the tables and match the patrons drink for a drink, took a heavy toll on their health. Very few lasted more than ten years.  The following is a questionnaire filled by an applicant from Marseille seeking a job in Paris:

An early brasserie poster, circa 1875

Have you already served in brasseries?

Yes, in Lyon and here.

Are you young?

I’m 24.

Pleasant?

Like a jewel.

Pretty?

See my photograph.

Flirtatious?

With art. I offer, I attract, and I hold.

Do you have a good stomach?

I have a robust constitution and if I don’t have sobriety, the virtue of a camel, by contrast I possess the stomach of an ostrich used to all kinds of drinks, even adulterated ones. I have, like many of my co-workers, begun to practice fraud and today I can drink without getting drunk. You will hear my voice, you will see my chic and you will appreciate my talent for manipulation.

She, no doubt, got the job.

Why were these women so keen to apply for a work in which their health and morals suffered an irreparable damage?  The answer, of course, is money. Morals set aside, a smart brasserie waitress made in a day the monthly wages of a factory worker.

After many protests, a law put an end to the brasseries à femmes. With the exception of the owner’s family members, no other female employees were allowed to serve in these establishments. It was also forbidden for a waitress to drink with the patrons.

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Degrees of Prostitution

Prostitutes in Paris

(more…)

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George Drysdale The Elements of social science… 1861

“The question first arises “what is a prostitute ?” To this the law answers, that it is one, who openly and with little or no distinction of persons, sells her favors for money : and who with this object endeavours to make herself publicly known as a prostitute. On the contrary, the woman, who does not court notoriety, but admits few lovers and in secret, although she receive money, cannot, and dare not, under penalty of damages for libel, be called a prostitute. This distinction is in Paris of great importance, for the police of that city exercise a surveillance over all the public prostitutes, who are obliged to enrol themselves in a registry, to receive sanitary visits &c., while they have no control over any other women. Hence the numbers, habits of life, and destiny of the prostitutes are much better known in Paris, than in any other city : and this gave M. Duchatelet facilities for gathering information, which he could have had nowhere else…”

Related posts:

Degrees of  Prostitution

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La Grisette

Saint Lazare: Women in prison

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Homage to the grisette. Statue erected in 1830

From Europe Viewed Through American Spectacles by Charles C. Fulton. Text written in 1873.

It’s a common remark among strangers in France that about every third man wears a uniform of some kind and such is almost the case here in Paris. Nearly all of these uniformed men are forbidden by law to marry, and they belong to a class who have never been taught to entertain such an idea as pertaining to their future existence.  They have always found it difficult to get food for themselves, and hence have never entertained such a preposterous undertaking as marrying and supporting a family.

These men have sisters who have always recognized themselves as belonging to a class who are never to know the relations of husband and wife. Such a thought never enters the head of a girl or a boy belonging to the poorer classes of Paris. Sometimes they succeed in drawing themselves out of their natural state of existence, and aspire to higher things, but the great mass of them have for generation found that the chief aim in life was bread and wine. They have the natural passions of ordinary men and women, and hence the grisette.

They are not taught, even by their spiritual counsellors, that there is any sin in the life they lead, and are as punctual in their church attendance as any class in Paris. Nor are they regarded as degraded, unless they fall still lower and become professional courtesans.  They are considered as fulfilling their destiny, and love and are beloved as other mortals. Sometimes these ties are permanent, but in the generality of cases they are merely for a time, and when broken a new one is formed.

Thus they pass through life, and their children, of whom they furnish the state about eighteen thousand per annum, are sometimes kept and maintained by themselves, but oftener passed over to the orphan-asylums, just as most of their mothers were passed over in their early infancy. The grisette, it will thus be seen, is a feature of Parisian society that is regarded as inevitable, and, being inevitable, those who raise themselves out of its slough are not deemed to have been tainted or tarnished in character. Those who pass through life as grisettes are not regarded as “fallen angels” but as women who are fulfilling their sad and unfortunate destiny and whose chances for heaven are quite as good as those whose lots are cast in pleasanter ways. So long as the youth lasts they live a merry life, and when this departs, they become waiting-maids. They are the unfortunate victims of kingcraft, which requires standing armies and draws the youth of the country away from the ordinary pursuits of life and happiness.

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From Europe Viewed Through American Spectacles by Charles C. Fulton. Text written in 1873.

 

At the celebrated dry-goods establishment Au Bon Marché, which is extensively patronized by Americans, a new feature has been introduced this season. It having been noticed that American gentlemen frequently get impatient whilst their wives and daughters are shopping, and sometimes hurry them off before they have obtained all they want, a well-fitted-up billiard-saloon has been provided for their amusement whilst the purchases are being made. It seems to answer the purpose well, as the gentlemen are always easy to be found when it is necessary for them to come up to the captain’s office and foot the bill.

An American lady tells us that she went to a hair-dresser’s establishment this morning to get her hair shampooed, and, asking the cost, she received the answer that it would be three francs. After the operation was finished she was presented with a bill for nine francs and upon demurring was told that three of the additional francs were for putting her hair up again, two others for the liquid used, and the fourth for the use of the combs and brush. Can any of our Yankee shampooers come up to this sharp practice?

We stopped in this morning at the horse-meat butcher’s shop to look at the meat. There were nice looking sirloin steaks, spare-rib and sirloin roasts, knuckle-joints for soup, and genuine “salt horse” in abundance. We could not have told it from beef, except that the meat was darker red. The gentleman whom we accompanied assured us that he had eaten it as an experiment, and was of the opinion that it was more tender, as a general thing, than ordinary beef. “But,” he added, “I expect you have frequently dined off of it since you have been in Paris, especially if you have taken any meals at the restaurants”. Well, perhaps we have, but “where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise”.

The Commune, during their possession of Paris, destroyed, among other things, all the official records of births and marriages. As most of them were family men and women without marriage, or unconscious of their own parentage, the object was to place all on a level of “equality” in this respect. The work of restoring the records is now in progress as all who are not recorded are regarded in the eye of the law as illegitimate. It has made brisk work for the lawyers.

The Parisians have a singular way of signalizing events in their history by the naming of streets. One of the magnificent boulevards branching off from the Grand Opera-House was named Boulevard 2nd December, the day of the Napoléon coup d’état in 1851. The name is now changed to the Boulevard 4th September, the day of the dethronement of the Emperor and the proclamation of the Republic. Should there be another Empire proclaimed, the name will doubtless be changed again to suit the date of its occurrence.

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