Prostitution provide for themselves when there was very

Prostitution is said to be the world’s oldest profession. It gave women a way to provide for themselves when there was very little work for them to do. In a society where men were given all the jobs and the women were expected to stay at home and take care of their families, some women found themselves on the street offering their body to men in order to make money that they would be able to keep for themselves. This all may be true however by putting themselves on the street night after night these women became vulnerable to sexually transmitted illnesses, possible impregnation, and worse of all rape. They knew the risk but the lure of being able to support themselves was hard to just walk away from and ignore so they took the chance and would continue to go out. Even after a civil war broke out in the United States women like these didn’t take sides they simply keeps working and the war provided them with more customers since now the soldiers were away from their wives and sweethearts and needed to feel the comfort that they were given at home, well these women could provide them with the same thing and more. By spending the night with a prostitute the soldiers were risking catching one of the many sexually transmitted diseases that spread during that time. The numbers of prostitutes began to increase during the civil war as well as the number of soldiers who contracted sexually transmitted diseases. These facts lead to the question on how prostitution during the civil war lead to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases? Due to soldiers being away from their wives and girlfriends during the war they tended to find the kind of comfort and stress relief that their significant others would provide with fancy girls (prostitutes) and this interaction between the two resulted in an increase of population as well an increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.Although prostitutes appear to be the reason why there was an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases nobody seems to be talking about them. There are very few instances where soldiers write in their diaries talking about encounters that they had with a prostitute and if there were after  they became war heroes they would have most likely take the information out of the diaries in fear of being viewed negatively by the public when they had wives waiting for them at home. We do know that there was a division in Washington called the Hooker’s Division which was a neighborhood filled with brothels and low saloons. According to a worker in the Sanitary Commission, writing to his father in 1864, “the average charge is three dollars and on paydays some of the prostitutes wouldmake as much as $250 and $300.” By the amount that they make on pay days one would assume that they would have slept with an average of 83 to 100 men a week and that’s just one. A brothel would have about 15 prostitutes which would lead to about 1245 men to 1500 men visiting a week and that’s just one brothel. Many would assume that only females would venture into the profession considering at this time females had very little rights and job opportunities however males were known to work as prostitutes as well. An article was published on May 13, 1862 by the Richmond Dispatch describing how sober citizens had to “witness the imprudence and familiar vulgarity of many of the shame faced of the prostitutes of both sexes”. This shows the inclusion of males as prostitutes during that time even though there weren’t as many as females they were still present. Just like there were male prostitutes there were also black prostitutes. In 1863, one of the union soldiers that was stationed at Memphis had written back home how the black prostitutes had “felt loving towards the soldiers because they thought they were bringing them to freedom”. This shows the existence of black prostitutes in the slave states and like any other african american person during this time just wanted to be free. When Dr. William Sanger of the Venereal Disease Hospital on Blackwell’s island, New did a survey on 2,000 prostitutes he was able to find out that 80% of the women were under the age of 30 with 40% of them being less than 20. This shows that the women who found themselves most likely becoming prostitutes were young even for the standard of of the civil war times. At the follow up for his survey he found out that most of the 2,000 prostitutes had died from either sexually transmitted diseases or alcoholism. The dangers of prostitution is shown with this information as more than half of such a big sample size was already dead in just four years. By highlighting the dangers one can see how only desperate men and women would venture into this profession because they were faced with so many risks. Even though the prostitutes had provided the men with a good time when their wives and sweethearts weren’t there to do so, there was still the danger of sexually transmitted diseases that came with every encounter. During the years of the Civil War there was no penicillin to help treat the sexually transmitted diseases that were being spread around so there was limited amount of treatments and the ones that they had caused more harm than good. In a letter to his wife on February 8, 1864 J.D. Jordan wrote about his disapproval of the spread of clap and polk and how “the cases of his complaint  is numerous, especially among the officers, and by the by Company A has got one officer toillin with the Pock and one private with the Clap.” The Clap stands for Gonorrhea and the Polk stood for Syphilis which were both being spread around like a forest fire due to the prostitutes. Just in the Union Army the Surgeon General documented about 182,000 cases of venereal diseases. Of those cases 73,000 of them were treated for syphilis and the other 109,000 were treated for gonorrhea. The soldiers and prostitutes who were diagnosed with syphilis in the 1860s was salts of mercury. According to the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health, “the salts of mercury would cause neuropathies, kidney failure, and severe mouth ulcers and loss of teeth, and many patients would die of mercurial poisoning rather than from the syphilis itself”. Due to these risks the phrase “a night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury” became common. This all showed that during the time of the civil war it was common knowledge that sleeping with a prostitute could lead to the death of a person however the soldiers managed to look past that and continue to sleep with the prostitutes creating a dangerous cycle.  The outbreaks of gonorrhea and syphilis and how the treatments were only causing more harm than good caused extreme concern. These new concerns pushed “Granger to order Lieutenant Colonel George Spalding to set up a system of licensing and treating prostitutes” because they wanted the number of soldiers with gonorrhea and syphilis to decrease. On August 17, 1863 in Nashville every prostitute had to get an examination. In order to get a license in the city a prostitute needed to get a medical examination every 10 days to check if they had any diseases that could transmitted sexually. If a prostitute was to work without a license in the city they were put in jails for a month. If a prostitute failed the required examinations they had to stay in a hospital until the doctors deemed them to be cured. The requirement to be licensed in order to work brought more prostitutes into the city of Nashville because other prostitutes saw it as a way for them not to get any diseases that could cause them serious harm. However the licensing system did not last forever nor did it stop them from getting sexually transmitted diseases. The two years that the system did last 393 prostitutes were licensed and of that total 177 of them were hospitalized for having caught a sexually transmitted disease. Due to the licensing of the prostitutes the average 15 officers that were undergoing treatment for any venereal disease in the city of Nashville dropped to 1. This not only shows the connection between prostitution and the spread of venereal diseases during that time but also how a whole city managed to severely decrease the number of soldiers that were being treated for those diseases by taking better care of the prostitutes that occupied their streets.


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