What’s hotter than a non-fiction account of sex? This autobiography of a prostitute makes for pretty hot reading, even if it is a prostitute of the 1800s.
Written simply and in an approachable if somewhat defensive style, Madeleine is a well-educated seventeen-year-old girl from a respectable family, whose father has succumbed to alcoholism and abusive behavior, leaving his wife and children to care for themselves after he is dismissed from his job. With no man to protect her virtue, Madeleine secretly succumbs to her own sin. Her mother, who doesn’t know about Madeleine’s trouble, sends her to the home of one of their former servants to take up a job working in a factory. There, she becomes ill. The cause: pregnancy. She runs, and stumbles into the path of a man that gives her a hotel room, food, money and company – and syphilis. He provides for her to recover, and tells her to come back to him once she has, but in the hospital has a roommate that is on the “primrose path” and and her words and Madeleine’s pregnancy influence Madeleine, so that instead she finds her way to a brothel. Her initiation into the culture of prostitution is mesmerizing.
Madeleine insists that she has never encountered any such thing as white slavery, and in fact reading this book one feels that she is ahead of her time, punished for being a free-thinking young woman in a difficult situation.
The book is a compelling read for anyone, male or female, interested in social reform, underage sex, or the world’s oldest profession, and you can read it for free. If you’re not into digital reads, you can buy it here (I personally read the paper version, so that I could make my notes in it).
“At that period of my life I thought that my own class of women were the only empty-handed, idle-minded women in the world, but I can see them now on every hand, women who have never learned to use either hands or minds and whose sole object in life is to murder time.” – Madeleine