The University of Wisconsin Press

Women's Studies / Women's Literature / Literature & Criticism / Popular Culture


Girls Who Went Wrong
Prostitutes in American Fiction, 1885–1917
Laura Hapke

Popular Press

The period 1885 to 1917 saw thousands of American crusaders working hard to "save the fallen women," but little on the part of American social protest writers.

In this first work on the subject, Laura Hapke examines how writers attempted to turn an outcast into a heroine in a literature otherwise known for its puritanical attitude toward the fallen woman. She focuses on how these authors (all male) expressed late-Victorian conflicts about female sexuality. If, as they all maintained, women have an innate preference for chastity, how could they account for the prostitute? Was she a sinner, suggesting the potential waywardness of all women? Or, if she was a victim, what of her "depravity"?

Hapke reevaluates Crane's famous Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, discusses neglected prostitution fiction by authors Joaquin Miller, Edgar Fawcett, and Harold Frederic, and surveys Progressive white slave novels. She draws on a number of period sources, among them urban guidebooks and medical treatises, to place the fiction in its cultural context.

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cover by Gary Dumm is a garishly colored engraving of a prostitute beckoning a gentleman up a staircase while a policeman watches from underneath


LC: 89-085815 PS
224 pp.   6 x 9  
7 b/w illus.
ISBN-10: 0-87972-474-9
ISBN-13: 978-0-87972-474-0
Paper $16.95 t
ISBN-10: 0-87972-473-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-87972-473-3
Cloth $39.95 t

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Updated November 11, 2009

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