Prostitution in maritime London
The port was also a major centre for shipbuilding and the making of scientific instruments. However, the port also provided services of a less respectable nature.
As we shall see, these women were often described in the prints of the time as 'privateers' or 'frigates' embarking on 'cruises' to bring home 'prizes'.
Indeed, so strong was the connection between prostitutes and maritime terminology that by about 1700, 'frigate' was naval slang for a woman.
The artist Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) was an astute observer of life on the waterfront and in the taverns of maritime London. The prostitutes in Rowlandson’s pictures are young, pretty and buxom.
They have little caps with feathers and ribbons on their heads, fancy necklaces, and they are dressed in low-cut, high-waisted dresses that emphasize their generous figures.
Rowlandson’s prostitutes are not downtrodden victims on the verge of starvation, but are charming and seemingly carefree women.
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