Friday, August 3

Profile : Nancy

"They wore a good deal of hair, not very neatly turned up behind, and were rather untidy about the shoes and stockings. They were not exactly pretty, perhaps; but they had a great deal of colour in their faces, and looked quite stout and healthy. Being remarkably free and easy with their manners, Oliver thought them to be very nice girls indeed. Which there is no doubt they were. [Oliver Twist, p.62]"

In the first edition, Dickens writes in the introduction that 'Nancy is a prostitute,'. We don't know exactly what has led Nancy astray but was presented as a part of Fagin's gang from an early age. She was a trained thief who longs for a better life. She works at a public bar, drinks heavily, and has a side job as a prostitute even though she was Bill Sikes' girl.

"Beginning in the late 1840s, major news organisations, clergymen and single women became increasingly interested in prostitution, which came to be known as "The Great Social Evil." Although estimates of the number of prostitutes in London by the 1850s vary widely (in his landmark study, Prostitution, William Acton reported that the police estimated there were 8,600 in 1857 London alone), it is enough to say that the number of women working the streets became increasingly difficult to ignore."

"While the Magdalen Hospital had been "reforming" prostitutes since the mid-18th century, the years between 1848 and 1870 saw a veritable explosion in the number of institutions working to "reclaim" these "fallen women" from the streets and retrain them for entry into respectable society—usually for work as domestic servants."


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