This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
Dr. Sanger, a physician of New York, who has had favor' able opportunities for investigation in that city, asserts that the whole population of public women changes once in four years; in other words, that every year one-fourth of them disappears, and are replaced by fresh accessions to the fated crowd. What becomes of this fourth which in some way vanishes from the knowledge of the police ? Dr. Sanger does not hesitate to say that most of them die. Our study of the subject leads us to doubt this. The majority either move to other cities, are imprisoned, become private mistresses or wives, or escape to a life of honest labor.
It may astonish some to hear us say that they become wives. But this is not very unusual. Sometimes they marry much above their original station in life. We positively know that out of one class which graduated at a leading Eastern college not many years since with less than a hundred members, three have married women whom they knew to be prostitutes. Scions of some of the most respected families in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston have committed the same folly. The results of such alliances are of course disastrous without exception.
Though this disposition of the majority we believe to be true, yet a large minority do die. If one considers for a moment the irregularities, excesses, and exposures to which they are subjected, he cannot doubt this. Many of them are constantly diseased with venereal maladies; they often drink to intoxication; they are exposed to inclement weather with insufficient clothing; they are frequently injured in brutal brothel fights; they are neglected when sick. Their chance of life must necessarily be greatly lessened.
But this, though serious enough, is by no means the worst effect. It is the almost hopeless moral death of the prostitute which is the darkest result of her mode of life. The woman who once loses her virtue can never recover her self respect; but she, who for money has prostituted her body as a trade, seems to lose hold of all moral principle, and even natural affection. She consorts by necessity and preference with thieves, gamblers, and the vilest classes of men. She rarely makes the effort to rid herself from the jaws of death, even when assistance is offered. The ancient heathen wrote over the doors of brothels: Hic habitat voluptas, Here pleasure dwelleth; but the Christian knows that a far truer inscription were that which Dante says is written over the gates of hell: -
"Leave every hope, ye who enter here."
It is this utter demoralization which invests with such difficulty every attempt to redeem these creatures. And we must look it squarely in the face in all our schemes for reform.
The most striking exhibition of their unnatural debase-ment is the almost entire lack of maternal feeling in these women. Their avocation by its constant excitement pre-vents conception as a rule, and this is a beneficent law of nature. For the wretched offspring of such mothers could hope for nothing but misery. When born, the infants are usually sent to a foundling hospital, or to a " baby farming" establishment, or killed outright. The latter does but anticipate a fate almost certain at the hospital. The infant Mortality on Ward's Island, New York, is over 90 per cent. very nearly all die. And the result is the same in Boston, Philadelphia, London, and Paris. The causes, in most instances, are hereditary syphilis and neglect.