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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

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Christian Auer

Prostitution

70. Memorial Addressed to the Mayor of Glasgow by the Glasgow Magdalene Institution, 1863

Texte intégral

1The Glasgow Magdalene Institution was founded in 1860 by a group of local professionals for the moral rehabilitation and industrial training of prostitutes. It was thought that incarcerating young women for sexual misconduct would both protect them from becoming permanent prostitutes and protect society from corruption and disease. From 1870 onwards the Glasgow Magdalene Institution was to become the cornerstone of what became to be known as the Glasgow System. The system, which was based on the close cooperation of the police forces, the Lock Hospital and the Glasgow Magdalene Institution, aimed not only at suppressing prostitution but also at reforming fallen women.

2Memorial addressed to the Mayor of Glasgow by the Glasgow Magdalene Institution, Annual Report of the Glasgow Magdalene Institution, 1863, p. 11-13 (by courtesy of the Mitchell Library, Glasgow City Council).

TO THE HONORABLE JOHN BLACKIE, JUNIOR, LORD PROVOST OF THE CITY OF GLASGOW, AND THE BAILIES OF THE SAID CITY.

THE HUMBLE MEMORIAL OF THE PRESIDENT, VICE-PRESIDENTS, AND DIRECTORS OF THE GLASGOW MAGDALENE INSTITUTION FOR THE REPRESSION OF VICE AND THE REFORMATION OF PENITENT FEMALES —
SHEWETH —

We venture to approach your Lordship and Colleagues in the Magistracy representing a Society which has been in operation for several years with the double object of Repressing prostitution and its kindred evils, and of Reforming those who have first fallen victims to it, and next have become the means of continuing and extending it.

In order not to distract your Lordship’s attention with many details, we desire to turn your Lordship’s attention especially to two matters. The manner of dealing with these we willingly leave to the care of the Magistrates themselves, though we should gladly contribute any information or advice in our power, if this were wished.

FIRST—Our attention has frequently been turned to Glasgow Fair—its uselessness at present for the purposes for which ages ago it was instituted, and the very great evils which are now connected with it. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Magistrates to limit these they seem as formidable as ever; and accordingly we press upon your Lordship the extreme desirableness of abolishing it altogether. This year we arranged with several persons of known respectability and good sense to go round the districts of the city which are chiefly affected by it, during the proper fair week, and also the week before and the week after, and to report upon them to us; and from their reports, which are lying in our hands, we beg leave to lay before your Lordship a very brief abstract, to which we appeal in confirmation of our opinion. At the Fair time it is plain that the number of prostitutes is frightfully large, probably augmented by the flocking of loose women from other places, and by the appearance on the streets of some who ply their horrible traffic only at certain times. Houses of accommodation are greatly multiplied; and yet they are unable to accomplish all that heated passions demand of them. Cases of seduction become more than usually numerous; a fact which from its nature was much less observable by our visitors than the two already mentioned, but of which there is abundant additional evidence. And as a general rule it may be affirmed that the Shows, and the Penny Reels, which abound at the time, are both demoralising in themselves, and mischievous as furnishing opportunities and advantages for demoralising those who come in contact with them.

We need scarcely say that we do not wish to see the holidays of the people abridged, or their enjoyments lessened; but it is the dregs of the community, and those who are so simple as to be entangled along with them, or who, from circumstances are shut up among them, who alone remain to take part in these silly or degrading amusements; while there is reason to think that their numbers are reinforced by a similar degraded class who rush in from the surrounding towns and villages. The people, even the common people, shun the Fair, and escape from the city. But the Fair falls at a proverbially wet season; and when the Magistrates abolish it, they might recommend a general holiday at some better time or times. And in addition to refusing permission to set up the present class of Shows, they might be able to aid at least in the establishment of cheap and pure amusements such as Concerts, and of really useful popular Museums and Collections, and of other Exhibitions which might perhaps be permanently within reach of the people. […]

IN THE SECOND PLACE—We respectfully urge upon your Lordship the enforcement of the Common Law of the land against houses of bad fame, confirmed and made more pointed as it is by our Police Law— against both them and the practice of street walking. That, in not a few cases, these evils would disappear under such treatment is proved by experience in other places, perhaps by occasional experience among ourselves. At all events much would be gained if the evildoers were deprived of their feeling of impunity and security, and were hampered in carrying out their evil intentions. […]

The practical steps, then, which we urge your Lordship to take, in such form as the Magistrates consider best, are these: —

(1.) To take measures for abolishing the Glasgow Fair as soon as possible (for anything that we see and know, we should say immediately); and at all events to abolish the Shows and Penny Reels immediately.

(2.) To remove any discouragement, direct or indirect, which may have hitherto been felt by the Police, and to leave them to their own discretion in using the powers entrusted to them by the Act in respect of those evils to which our Memorial adverts.

(3.) To take statistics simultaneously, by means of the Police, of the houses of bad fame within their bounds, and of the number of persons connected with them and report the result to your Honors.

And your Memorialists will ever pray.

(Signed)

John Henderson, President

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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