Prostitution is a career that many women would not choose to pursue nowadays. However, in the 19th century there were not many careers to choose from, and pursuing prostitution was considered a step forward towards women’s rights. The fact that women today can choose to pursue any career is in fact due to revolution started by women in the 19th century.  

Many of the paintings that we have studied in class portray how women felt so ashamed of their mistake, and how they were considered fallen. However in the painting Found by Dante Gabriel Rossetti I think that the young woman is not ashamed of being a prostitute. The way her lips are puckered and how she is looking the other way, gives me the impression that she is trying to free herself. I get the feeling that she does not want to be the ideal women but instead wants to be an independent woman. This idea of being an independent woman was very scandalous. As prostitution started to become more popular, women started to become independent and no longer needed to rely on a man.


Édouard Manet is another artist whom believes that prostitution was becoming a fad. In his painting Olympia, he portrays a demimondaine. The look in her eyes, the jewelry she wears, and the fact that she has a slave definitely supports the idea of women becoming independent.  

As men were not needed as much they began to feel threatened. A new act was passed in the United Kingdom called the Contagious Diseases Acts which would allow policeman to arrest any women who appeared to be a prostitute, and were required to be checked for sexual transmitted diseases. This of course oppressed woman once again.

As women continued to get oppressed they fought to get the act repealed. This act brought feminist together and together they fought for what they believed was right. The act was later repealed in 1886. Prostitution is often frowned upon; however due to it, women are now independent.  


Lipton, Eunice. Alias Olympia: A Woman’s Search for Manet’s Notorious Model & Her Own Desire. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1992. Print.

McHugh, Paul. Prostitution and Victorian Social Reform. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980.