Tolerated Evil

Prostitution in the Kingdom of Poland in the Nineteenth Century

by Jolanta Sikorska-Kulesza (Author) Jan Burzyński (Revision)
Monographs 356 Pages

Table Of Content

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List of abbreviations

AGAD Central Archives of Historical Records

ALR General State Laws for the Prussian States

Am.A Augustów City Records

Am.L Lublin City Records

Am.Ł Łódź City Records

Am.S Suwałki City Records

APCz State Archive in Częstochowa

APK State Archive in Kielce

APL State Archive in Lublin

APŁ State Archive in Łódź

APS State Archive in Suwałki

APW State Archive in Warsaw

CWPL Central Authorities of the November Uprising

DP KP Journal of Laws of the Kingdom of Poland

KGL Chancellery of the Governor of Lublin Gubernia

KKGP Code of Criminal and Corrective Penalties

KL-P Medical-and-Police Committee

KRSW Government Commission for Internal Affairs

KRW Government War Commission

KWK Committee of the Kalisz Voivodeship

L Medical (Department)

LVIA Lithuanian State Historical Archives

MMCz Magistrate of Częstochowa City

RGIA Russian State Historical Archives

RGKiel. Kielce Gubernia Authorities

RGL Lublin Gubernia Authorities

RGOSz Principal Welfare Council of Hospitals

RGP Piotrków Gubernia Authorities

RGW Warsaw Gubernia Authorities

ULGW Medical Office of the Warsaw Gubernia

WL Medical Department

WP Police Department

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Relevant literature portrays the 19th century as a period of an unprecedented development of prostitution. Brothel houses and streetwalkers were an integral part of capitalist urban landscape. According to contemporaneous observers of social life, women rendering paid sexual services in European metropolises such as London, Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg were counted by the thousand, or even hundreds of thousand, and were regularly availed of by married and single men.2 While such estimates and beliefs are likely to have been exaggerated, and research proves prostitution to have been developing relatively well in any and all periods (naturally, in proportion to the surrounding reality of life), the statement regarding its expansion in the 19th century seems justified. No previous epoch had produced such favourable circumstances for the evolution of this sector of the market. The pervasive and swift urbanisation and industrialisation of 19th-century Europe led to an equally rapid increase in the numbers of poor and destitute city dwellers, including an army of women with no means of sustenance, who were, so to speak, doomed to become prostitutes. On the other hand, the same economic processes and their social consequences, such as urban and overseas migration, the gender imbalance among immigrants, as well as certain cultural phenomena (especially the different norms of sexual behaviour applied to women and men) generated a higher demand for commercial sex and increased the number of potential customers.

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Sources indicate that the world of 19th-century prostitution was very diverse. Aside from heterosexual services (the organisation of which appears to have been changing at an unprecedented pace), there existed an entirely illegal – but nevertheless organised – market of child and homosexual prostitution. There were brothels for every budget. Their owners made efforts to cater to even the most refined – or the most licentious – tastes. Luxurious, “specialist” establishments for the most affluent and most demanding customers3 coexisted with houses which hardly met any basic standards, frequented by soldiers who had to queue up for a chance to satisfy their sexual drives. Since the final quarter of the 19th century, brothels began to be replaced by so-called meeting houses and entertainment venues open at night, where sexual services were offered in chambres separées. The poorest prostitutes searched for customers in the streets. In the course of the century, the business sphere related to prostitution gained veritably capitalist momentum, moving from local to global trade, conducted in the form of organised international trafficking of women to be used as prostitutes.

Another thereby unseen phenomenon related to prostitution was the State’s and the society’s interest in the issue. The connection between paid sexual services and the growing incidence of syphilis and other venereal diseases meant that the topic of prostitution was discussed not only in medical textbooks (as it had been since the 17th century), but also in state offices, which led to the widespread introduction of a system of regimentation of prostitution. Previously only implemented on a very small scale, the system involved subjecting prostitutes and establishments to specific forms of supervision carried out by police-and-medical authorities established for that very purpose. Since the first half of the 19th century, prostitutes had become subjects of academic study.4 The bodies, minds, and personal histories of women who plied the flesh trade started to be ←10 | 11→analysed by medical doctors (venereologists and hygienists) and, with the development of new disciplines of science, also by anthropologists, criminologists, psychologists, sociologists and historians. Increasingly often, the results of this research, published in books and specialist journals, were popularised by periodicals aimed at the general reader. What could be observed was a certain ennoblement of the issue in public discourse. The culmination of this process came at the turn of the century, when the matter was no longer discussed only in connection with public health concerns, but also in the context of the sources of marginalisation of women, their social and legal standing, and the fight against prostitution. Socialist thinkers and activists such as Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and August Bebel pointed to the connection between prostitution and the development and evolution of social and economic organisation. In the 1870s, the growing significance ascribed to prostitution as a factor in social life led to the emergence of an international movement to combat the phenomenon, known as abolitionism. At the same time, prostitution, human trafficking and the status of prostitution started to be used (especially by members of the suffragette movement) as an opening point for discussing other pressing matters.

The frequency with which women of ill repute were depicted in literature and visual arts had also increased. They became the protagonists of novels by Honore Balzac, Alexandre Dumas Fils, Emile Zola, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and many other 19th-century authors,5 and appeared on paintings and sketches by such outstanding artists as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Eduard Manet and Edgar Degas.6 The subject of prostitution was included in cinematography since its ←11 | 12→early beginnings.7 Another factor that made the issue popular was the growing interest in human sexuality and the fascination with eroticism observable in the 19th century.

The above-mentioned processes were also present in the territory of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which was divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia following the partitions of Poland. As with many countries and regions of Europe, a system of regimentation of prostitution was introduced in all these administrative regions (though not simultaneously). The present publication presents the development and operation of the system in one part of the former Polish territory, namely the Kingdom of Poland, since its proclamation in 1815 to the year 1915, when it ceased to be managed by Russian administration.8 This one-hundred-year period brought fundamental changes in the political status of the Kingdom. Initially a semi-sovereign country dependent on Russia, but with its own constitution, parliament, central administration and army, the Kingdom gradually lost its autonomous institutions after two failed military insurrections (1830–1831 and 1863–1864) and as a result of the policy of unification implemented by Russia. In the 1870s it was turned into a province of the Russian Empire, entirely subordinate to the central authorities in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and governed with the help of a well-developed network of police forces. The official name of the region was changed to the Vistula Land (Privislinsky Kray). Consequently, while the first normative solutions and executive action concerning prostitution in the Kingdom of Poland were decided on by Polish officials in Warsaw, in time laws and regulations began to be imposed directly by Russia. The Polish society regained a small degree of agency (making postulates, establishing organisations) following the democratic transformations that took place in Russia in 1905–1907. The development of prostitution itself was, in turn, influenced by the demographic, social and economic changes observable in the Kingdom. The second half of the 19th century brought a wave of intense urbanisation and industrialisation. The emancipation reform of 1864 led to an increased number of rural residents migrating to cities and industrial centres, and moving beyond the borders of the Kingdom. In 1816 the Kingdom of Poland (127.3 thousand square kilometres) had a population of 3.3 million ←12 | 13→people; at the beginning of the 20th century that number had increased to over 12.1 million.

The first two chapters of this book, essential in fulfilling its academic aim, present the approach taken by the Kingdom’s authorities (both Polish and Russian) with regard to prostitution in the course of the 19th century. Chapter 1 focuses on the creation of the system of regimentation, which the Kingdom had inherited from the Prussian administrative organs governing Warsaw in 1797–1807. It describes the process of implementing rules for the legal operation of brothel houses and prostitutes plying their trade independently, the emergence of regulations and the institutions of police, administrative and medical supervision over women. It also explains, as much as the modest source base allows, the motives behind the decisions taken by the authorities, as well as their standpoint and views on the matter. Chapter 2 offers an overview and an evaluation of the factual efficacy of the system (to the extent that is possible), both in large urban centres and in small towns throughout the entire analysed period. It traces the conditions in which medical supervision over prostitution was carried out and the results it produced, the organisation of medical examinations and the treatment of prostitutes introduced to protect the population from sexually transmitted diseases. For a system of regimentation to be effective, measures needed to be taken to combat illegal prostitution – such as tracking women suspected of engaging in paid sex and avoiding examination, and persecuting the organisers of illegal prostitution and human trafficking. The gathered source material, mainly records of police investigations, was used as the basis to present the profile of women apprehended for illegal prostitution throughout the decades. A detailed analysis of legal prostitution in the Kingdom of Poland – its scale, geographical distribution, the social and demographic background of prostitutes and brothel owners was presented in Chapter 3, based on the relatively substantial amount of statistical data acquired in the Kingdom in 1889, summarised and published by the Statistics Department of the Ministry of the Interior in St. Petersburg.

The final chapter in the book presents the local public opinion regarding the system of tolerated prostitution and its supervision. The analysis of relevant sources revealed a fascinating, diverse discussion on the topic, held – mainly in the press – by members of various social and professional groups, reformers and social activists, at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. It reflected not only the thitherto unexpressed attitude towards the relations between prostitution and the State persisting in the society outside the circle of officials. Questions as to the justifiability of maintaining a system of regimentation were used as an excuse to reveal the public’s views on prostitution itself, on its sources and on the aid offered to its victims. The issue of prostitution also became the starting ←13 | 14→point for a broader debate on the moral condition of the society and the family, the gender relations, the need for changing social norms and realities. The discourse surrounding prostitution at the time was inherently connected with various phenomena in political, social and economic life, as well as in the mentality, culture and science of the day. Describing it within the context of the numerous transformations that took place at the turn of the centuries would require more detailed and more focused research. The present book only presents the central themes in this dispute and outlines the key issues.

Due to the publication’s focus on the operation of the regimentation system in the entire territory of the Kingdom of Poland throughout the analysed period, not all of the issues traditionally tackled in analyses of prostitution shall be discussed in the same amount of detail. It should be noted that prostitution in Warsaw, although considered at length in the present work, is not analysed proportionately to its significance stemming from the scale and structure of paid sexual services rendered in the capital, or to the quantity of existing source material, which would suffice as the basis for an up-to-date monograph on the capital of the Kingdom.9 The historiography of prostitution all over the world mainly comprises works focusing on specific urban centres.

The present book describes the operation of the regimentation system primarily on the basis of official records produced by the local and central administrative bodies responsible for supervising prostitution. The query encompassed the archives of voivodeship committees and gubernia authorities10 (medical and military-and-police departments; medical-and-police committees11), medical offices, municipal authorities and the police bodies that answered to ←14 | 15→them, and the Office of the Chief Police Inspector in Warsaw. Research was conducted in the archives of central offices of the Kingdom and Russia, i.a. the Government Commission for Internal Affairs,12 managing matters of public health; the Principal Welfare Council of Hospitals (1832–1870);13 the Office of the General Governor of Warsaw; the Office of the Chief Inspector of Healthcare in St. Petersburg; and the Russian State Duma’s Committee for the Kingdom of Poland.14 The archives of the Medical Council (1809–1867), very relevant to the issue, are no longer available. This gap in source material is partially filled by the monograph Rada Lekarska Księstwa Warszawskiego i Królestwa Polskiego (1809–1867) written by physician Franciszek Giedroyć and based on the archives of this institution (which the author extensively quotes).15 Irreparable damage was also done by the loss of nearly all records from the city of Warsaw (destroyed during the Second World War), which would have been crucial in the reconstruction of the image of prostitution in the capital and the mechanisms through which women were dragged into the world of the flesh trade. The missing archives include those of Warsaw’s Medical-and-Police Committee at the Office of the Chief Police Inspector (which probably included records of the inspector working at the Medical Office in Warsaw in 1843–1866), managing all issues related to prostitution in the city since 1867. Only a number of printed reports from the Committee’s activity in several years have survived.

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The quantity of available sources pertaining to a given region does not necessarily correspond to the scale of prostitution within its borders. It is now difficult to ascertain to what extent the size of specific collections of records results from the actual scale of prostitution and the supervision thereof, and not from the history of the archives (or institutional documentation)16. With regard to the first half of the 19th century (before 1860s), existing records on “harlots” and the steps taken against “venereal women” come from Kalisz (1820s and 1830s; Committee of the Kalisz Voivodeship), Augustów Voivodeship (1840s and 1850s; the Magistrate of Suwałki City) and, in a much smaller number, from Piotrków (Piotrków City Records) and Radom (Radom’s Medical Office).17 Data from the second half of the 19th century – or, more precisely, from the 1880s onwards – has survived in nearly all regions of the Kingdom. The largest collection pertains to the Lublin Gubernia, excepting the city of Lublin (Lublin Gubernia Authorities), hence the slight overrepresentation of references to this region, especially in the part describing medical supervision. Slightly less data comes from the Kielce Gubernia (Kielce Gubernia Authorities), less still from the Piotrków region (Piotrków Gubernia Authorities, Łódź City Records, the Magistrate of Częstochowa City), the Warsaw region (Warsaw Gubernia Authorities), the Kalisz region (Kalisz Gubernia Authorities) and the Łomża region (Łomża Gubernia Authorities). The material offered insight into the more provincial part of the Kingdom of Poland – smaller towns and, to some extent, the countryside, from which many prostitutes had originally come. The society of the Kingdom of Poland was largely agrarian, with enclaves of industrial urban communities in Warsaw, Łódź, and the Dąbrowa Coal Basin. Relatively large-scale prostitution only developed in those provincial, gubernia (voivodeship) and district capitals that housed large military garrisons, yet sexual services were offered everywhere, most frequently by women from the countryside. For them, ←16 | 17→prostitution was a temporary occupation taken up outside the season of work in the fields.

The nature of the interest a given office had in prostitution determined the type of documentation it produced. Thus, existing sources consist primarily of reporting correspondence (accounts of medical supervision of prostitutes, reports and transcripts from meetings of various committees established to supervise prostitution) and are almost exclusively limited to numerical data and general prescriptions. Exceptions to this rule include information regarding brothel houses (licences, requests from citizens asking the authorities to intervene). Reports from a given region and period are sometimes inconsistent; it is difficult to ascertain whether this results from the small scale of the problem, the inefficacy of administration, or the loss of records. Regardless of the underlying causes, this incongruity makes it impossible to take full advantage of the benefits of such sources – namely their homogeneity and the (theoretically) large quantity. Moreover, the numbers cited by the police and the various committees may sometimes seem questionable. The full spectrum of prostitution is not easily discernible from the records, which is why historians are forced to reconstruct the image from tiny craps of information, often second-hand in nature. Official documents are, for instance, entirely devoid of information on the most affluent prostitutes. The State showed no interest in mistresses and kept women, as they had protectors, did not come into conflict with the law, and sometimes enjoyed a rather ambivalent social status. In the words of one contemporary, they had “the sad privilege of sinning with impunity”. Thus, even a relatively sizable local documentation usually reveals only a fraction of the world of prostitution. For this very reason, the present publication often (perhaps excessively) presents specific cases of individual people registered by the offices and known by name. More than any other source, these cases offer insight into the lives of real people, shortening the distance between historians and the subjects of their study of the past. Another type of officially generated source material are statistics, such as the publication on prostitution in the Russian Empire in 1889, and the general census of 1897 which included prostitutes on the list of occupations.

The above-mentioned sources are not the only archival material relevant to the subject. The query conducted for the present publication did not, for instance, include court files, as they are incomplete. Moreover, the case documentation in lower courts (where prostitutes were usually tried) contains very little information. Such sources would not present a reliable picture of police supervision over prostitution, yet could contain interesting supplementary data ←17 | 18→of sociological nature. Any scholar wishing to tackle this issue must, however, brace themselves for searching through files that had not been prepared to facilitate research queries.

Additional information to complete the image emerging from archival material was acquired from printed legal acts, periodicals, published monographs, memoirs and the belles-lettres. It must, however, be noted that prostitution is not an easy topic to study, not only due to the scarce documentation (the taboo nature of the phenomenon and its categorisation as a crime), but also because the credibility of statements is difficult to verify. Many of them are riddled with unfounded beliefs, exaggeration and judgment.

Even diaries, whose main advantage as a source is the presence of everyday life topics, fail to be of use in the study of 19th-century prostitution in Polish territory. Few memoirs from the period disclose any information on the author’s sexual life. This aspect of existence tended to be politely overlooked.18 In such circumstances, the moral dilemmas faced by young Stefan Żeromski (who later became an acclaimed author) in connection with a visit to a brothel can hardly be regarded as representative for his entire generation.19 Nevertheless, it should be added that the presence of such sources – produced in massive quantities since the 19th century – makes it impossible to conduct a fully exhaustive archival query, which in this case becomes rather random. From the 1870s ←18 | 19→onwards, prostitutes started to appear as characters in social-problem novels (Adolf Dygasiński, Bolesław Prus).20 Many writers of the early 20th century (e.g. Stefan Żeromski, Gabriela Zapolska)21 tackled the issue of fallen women and prostitution with clear educational and ideological agendas in mind. For this reason, their works constitute as valuable a source as the press of the day, given their potential to influence readers.

The largest quantity of data to reconstruct the discourse pertaining to prostitution and its tolerated form comes from newspapers and periodicals. Apart from specialist publications, most notably those issued by medical and hygienist institutions (e.g. Zdrowie, published by the Warsaw Association of Hygiene), which discussed the links between prostitution and venereal disease, the ongoing medical supervision and prostitution itself, the subject was most often breached in women’s press of various ilk, as well as in periodicals focusing on culture and the society, especially those on the liberal or leftist side of the spectrum. The query for this publication encompassed all issues of over a dozen weekly magazines published in Warsaw, and random issues of daily press. Two early 20th-century periodicals issued in Galicia were also included due to their chosen subject matter – Czystość (1905–1909; focused on the fight against prostitution) and Nowe Słowo (1902–1907; the first feminist periodical).

The international body of work presenting the history of prostitution in various time periods is vast. A number of synthetic publications on the topic appeared as early as in the 19th century, setting the standard for a genre that was continued (with considerable success) in the 20th century, this time intended for the general reader – history through the ages, from Biblical stories of harlotry, the Antiquity (this part usually discussed alleged regulations instituted by Solon) to the author’s own decade. Such works contain much factographic and anecdotal information, offered with a pinch of moralising. Although far from meeting modern expectations, they nevertheless prove valuable to historians of prostitution, as texts that shaped the image of prostitution and the attitude ←19 | 20→towards it. Existing sources also include numerous monographs focusing on prostitution in selected countries and cities.22

Academic interest in prostitution grew significantly in the 20th century, especially since the 1960s. The impressive oeuvre of works on the issue was partially synthesised in bibliographies of studies of prostitution, published in the 1970s and 1990s.23 Most of the reasons behind the popularity of the topic (aside from the apparently unwavering reader interest) are associated with the development of social history, which started to tackle such issues as the history of family life, the status of women, gender relations and social outcasts. The study of human sexuality as a social phenomenon (pioneered by Michel Foucault) has also been rapidly evolving. These trends appeared both in European and in American historiography and became more prominent in the 1970s, with the development of feminist studies, the interest in homoerotic relations and homosexual prostitution, and the issue of AIDS (which was compared to the threat of syphilis in the 19th century). New directions in the study of prostitution involved the analysis of police and administrative records. Ordinary streetwalkers and nameless prostitutes replaced courtesans as the central characters in relevant historiography. Apart from describing the social reality of brothel houses, scholars started to focus on the prerequisite conditions for the phenomenon, the channels ←20 | 21→of marginalisation of women and the popularity of prostitution among men, as well as on State and municipal policy towards paid sex.

Although historical research into prostitution encompassed nearly all eras from the Antiquity and the Middle Ages24 to modernity, the focus on the period of 1800–1920 (for which the source material is the most sizable) is clearly apparent.25 Current studies pertain not only to France26 and other European countries,27 but also to prostitution in ←21 | 22→China,28 North29 and South America,30 and the Arabic world. As a still present phenomenon, prostitution has also become the subject of study for sociologists, psychologists, sexologists and lawyers around the globe.

The achievements of Polish historiography seem rather modest in this respect, not only in comparison with research conducted in other parts of the world, but also with other fields of social study. No synthetic work on the history of prostitution was written in the 19th century.31 This being said, the pan-European trend for studying prostitutes and prostitution observable among physicians and lawyers led to the publication of the extremely valuable works by Antoni Rolle,32 ←22 | 23→Franciszek Giedroyć (doctors of medicine) and Jan Maurycy Kamiński33 (a barrister), which described the contemporary situation and now constitute a source of useful data. All three of the mentioned authors took up the issue of prostitution motivated by their scholarly ambitions and social concerns. The first to do so was Józef Antoni Rolle, a doctor from Kamieniec Podolski (present-day Ukraine), whose publications appeared in medical specialist press in all three parts of partitioned Poland. Rolle wrote about venereal diseases and paid sex as early as in the 1850s and 60s, not only out of social-activist sentiments, but also due to the fact that he had come into contact with the issue relatively early, during his long stay in Paris, where it was hotly debated at the time. He was the first historian and analyst of contemporary prostitution who asked questions that went beyond the medical and anecdotal aspects of the phenomenon, and developed an adequately broad plan for combating prostitution. However, his contemporary research (including the first and – thus far – the only article on prostitution in the countryside, published in a medical periodical in Warsaw34) focused only on Podolia, and his historical study – on pre-partitioned Poland.

Invaluable information for any historian delving into the issue of 19th-century prostitution in the Kingdom of Poland is found in the works the Warsaw-based venereologist and regimentationist Franciszek Giedroyć. As the head doctor of the St. Lazarus hospital, which treated prostitutes, and a physician at its outpatient clinic, Giedroyć had an extensive knowledge of the topic in question. His works are objective and based on reliable sources, a substantial portion of which is no longer available to scholars.35

Doctor Jan Macko, in turn, wrote about prostitution from the perspective of an opponent of the system of regimentation. Macko was a physician and an abolitionist activist working in Interwar Poland.36 His book, published in 1927 and ←23 | 24→presenting all aspects of prostitution and debauchery (legal, medical, ethical and hygienist) includes a rather superficial historical overview of the issue (40 pages covering the period between the Antiquity and contemporary times) riddled with mistakes, which are particularly jarring if they pertain to Polish territory. The interwar period also saw the publication of the first and thus far the only history of prostitution in 19th-century Warsaw, by Wacław Zaleski.37 Despite its poor research methodology and anecdotal nature, the work remains a source of information on Warsaw’s prostitution, especially in the final 25 years of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century, as few official records from the period have survived.

In post-war Poland, the history of prostitution in Polish territory was not a topic favoured by scholars.38 Thus far (2004) no academic has made it into their main subject of study. The findings made in this respect – though unquestionably valuable and based on reliable sources – are the result of broader studies of human sexuality (Adam Krawiec’s book on the sexual behaviours of mediaeval Poles and their contemporaneous views on the issue39) or of urban squalor and women’s activity in the 17th – 18th century (the works of Andrzej Karpiński, a historian of the modern period).40 A synthetic history of prostitution around the world (including Warsaw) intended for the general reader was written by Marek Karpiński.41

Historiographic works focusing on prostitution in Polish territory in the 19th-century are even more scarce. They include one chapter in Małgorzata Karpińska’s book about crime in Warsaw in the period of the Kingdom of ←24 | 25→Poland42 and a single article on prostitution in Cracow at the turn of the 20th century, written by Michał Baczkowski.43 The issue of prostitutes in Warsaw was briefly discussed in Stanisław Milewski’s popular-science publication describing crime in Warsaw on the basis of contemporaneous press articles. It offers little new information regarding the topic.44 Anna Pawłowska’s publication from the 1980s presents the attitude towards prostitution as one of the socio-ethical problems of the early 20th century, as displayed in the first Polish-language feminist periodicals.45

Since the year 2004, when the first edition of The Tolerated Evil was published, many Polish historians (especially from the younger generation) have shown interest in and began research on various aspects associated with prostitution in Polish territory in the 19th century.46 This development certainly gave the author of the present book a sense of satisfaction (as she had, to some extent, acted as a trailblazer) yet it came mostly as a result of the development of Polish social history, with such sub-disciplines as the history of women, crime and the outskirts of society, social pathologies, the history of sexuality (sexual education), and the social history of medicine. Another factor that affects the choice of historical research are existing phenomena spotlighted by the media, such as human trafficking.

The majority of the several dozen works that appeared in 2004–2019 focuses on the opinions of social activists (e.g. Zofia Daszyńska-Golińska), or recapitulates the discussion regarding prostitution held in the press in the late ←25 | 26→19th and early 20th century – in one or two periodicals representing the views of a specific professional group (e.g. physicians, educators) or ideological circle (feminists, conservatives).47 Press articles and, to an even greater extent, literary texts provide as much insight into prostitution, as they do on the society and its problems (e.g. family).48 The issue was analysed in particular detail by Aneta Bołdyrew, a historian of education and upbringing, who wrote many publications discussing social pathologies in the Kingdom of Poland in the last 50 years of its existence. She was the first to touch on the issue of underage prostitutes; her book also presents the concepts for preventing prostitution and the educational-prophylactic and resocialisation initiatives directed at “fallen women” or those in danger of turning to prostitution.49

International trade in women from Polish territory is another widely discussed topic related to prostitution whose analyses, in a sense, pertain more to constructed narratives than to reality. An edited compendium of relevant sources (press articles) from 1873–1938 was compiled (and preceded by a sizable foreword) by lawyer Radosław Antonow, most likely to provide historical context for modern legal studies on human trafficking.50 The most comprehensive analysis of the issue, based on an archival query conducted all over the world and ample knowledge of relevant literature (an exhaustive overview of the current state of research) was presented by Aleksandra Jakubczak.51 The work confirms the ←26 | 27→lack of reliable descriptions of this type of criminal activity. The (rather understandable) nonexistence of tangible evidence for the crime, juxtaposed with the huge scale of the problem – as perceived by contemporaneous social activists and observers of social life – led Jakubczak to believe that the issue should be regarded in terms of a myth and the paradigm of the so-called moral panic. Thus, she questions the scale and, consequently, the social significance of the phenomenon.52 The interest in 19th-century trade in women is also related to another developing branch of historical studies in Poland, namely research into the history of Jews in Polish territory and the role they were believed (justly or not) to have played in human trafficking.53 In an earlier work, Aleksandra Jakubczak tackled the issue of the so-called pogrom of pimps that took place in Warsaw during the 1905 revolution, presenting it from the perspective of the Jewish press and literature. Jakubczak offers an overview and an analysis of all opinions regarding the sources of the pogrom.54 Since a systematic query in the archives of Russian offices is still impossible to conduct, the motivation of the authorities must remain conjectural and interpretative.

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Noteworthy publications on relevant topics include Aleksander Gotowicz’s article focusing on prostitution and venereal disease in the industrial Piotrków Gubernia, based on the known portion of the annual Medical Department reports of the Russian Ministry of the Interior, the first general census in the Russian Empire (1897) and local press articles.55

The issue of prostitution and the people involved in it is also mentioned briefly in many publications pertaining to domestic service, sexual education, and moral reform movements.56

Most importantly, however, prostitution in Polish territory was recently described in an excellent monograph by an American historian Keely Stauter-Halsted. Intended to provide information on all regions of pre-partition Poland (though it offers very little data on the part under Prussian administration and the lands incorporated into Russia, the so-called Western Kray or Western gubernias), the book concentrates on the final decades of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, when the phenomenon reached its peak and was widely commented, disproportionately to the threat it posed (hence the concept of moral panic).57

Many topics related to prostitution have already been studied; successive works provide more information, detail and insight on issues defined earlier, also offering new interpretations. Existing research presents prostitution in Polish territory mainly as a medical concern (a threat to the health of individuals, the nation and the society) and a socio-economic problem (pathology, poverty, the status of women), yet this is merely one of its many facets.

* * *

The vocabulary of prostitution was rich and varied in any and all periods58 and ←28 | 29→languages.59 As far as Polish is concerned, neutral terms such as dziewczyna and dziewka (girl, wench) coexisted with ones with a clear pejorative connotation, from kurtyzana (courtesan),60 kobieta lekkich obyczajów (woman of loose morals), dama z półświatka (lady of the demimonde), kobieta publiczna (public woman), nierządnica publiczna (public harlot), and kobieta nierządna (harlot woman), kobieta rozwiązła (loose woman), kobieta upadła (fallen woman), rozpustnica (debauched woman) nierządnica (harlot),61 prostytutka (prostitute),62 ladacznica (trollop),63 dziwka (slut),64 to the very vulgar kurwa (whore).65 Prostitutes were also described with many telling/semantically transparent names derived e.g. from their legal status (kobiety tolerowane, tolerantki – tolerated ←29 | 30→women, kontrolne – controlees, biletowe – ticket ladies, książkowe, księżniczki – book ladies, from the medical record books they carried; the latter term is a play on words and also means ‘princesses’), their place of residence and/or employment (burdelówki – brothelettes, rogówki – cornerettes, wilczyce – she-wolves; homeless or vagrant prostitutes were called gabineciarki – cabinet ladies, szambrseparatystkii, separatystki – separatists), their working hours and behaviour (damulki nocy – damsels of the night, nocne nietoperze – nocturnal bats, ćmy nocne – nocturnal moths), their material status (półkoszulkowe – half-shirts, trzygroszowe – three dimes; in the late 18th century also damy powozowe – carriage ladies, chustkowe – scarf ladies, kapeluszowe – hat ladies). Some terms revealed the speaker’s attitude towards the legal and social status of prostitutes. Abolitionists called them “white slaves” or “living goods”.66 Other appellations had a literary provenance (kamelia, nana, demimondówka) or were directly borrowed from other languages (gryzetka). Stanisław Milewski found even more names with various etymology: aksamitki – velvets, mamzelki, nimfy – nymphs, grandesy, sylfidki – sylphs, czarnoszyjki – black necks.67

Language drew a clear line between a prostitute offering herself to one or a handful of chosen clients (kokota – cocotte, dama kameliowa – lady of the camellias, kamelia – camellia, metresa – mistress, utrzymanka – kept woman; the dictionary also provides such synonyms as nałożnica, kawalerka, wygodnica, miłośnica) and a woman available to all, common and overt, submissive to anyone who requests it – i.e. kobieta publiczna – public woman, nierządnica publiczna – public harlot (the dictionary contains such synonyms as wszetecznica, ladacznica, jawnogrzesznica, prostytutka).68

Nineteenth-century officials usually wrote of “prostitutes” (prostytutki) and “harlots” (nierządnice), yet the press, careful not to offend the sensibilities of the readers, mainly used euphemism, archaisms or historical terms. Thus, articles mentioned “these ladies”, “these madams”, “women of bad life”, “women of easy life”, “bawds” or hetairai. Words denoting a house of prostitution (zamtuz, ←30 | 31→lupanar) were similarly mediaeval (or early-modern) in origin; unlike the term burdel (brothel) which carried vulgar connotations.

Terminology reflects the great diversity of the world of prostitution, with upscale prostitutes, kept women and mistresses of the bourgeoisie at the top, and common streetwalkers and cheap brothel employees at the very bottom, debased and disdained by all. The only denominators common for the entire spectrum were: (a) rendering sexual services for material gain, and (b) being held in contempt for engaging in such activity. Obvious as it may seem, it should be emphasised that social scorn was the strongest in the case of those prostitutes that occupied the lowest positions in the hierarchy of harlotry.

Delimiting the phenomenon of prostitution and defining the criteria for categorising specific individuals as prostitutes poses a considerable problem for researchers.69 The greatest contributions to developing a universal definition were made by scholars specialising in medicine (sexology), legal studies (criminology), and sociology.70 They questioned each of the fundamental elements of the classical Roman definition, formulated at the turn of the 2nd and the 3rd centuries by the jurist Ulpian. It includes: the plurality of clients, the lack of choice, and the charging of fees. The form of these fees was discussed, as were the motives behind the actions of individuals rendering sexual services, the content of the service itself, the number of customers and the possibilities for choosing clients, emotional state, frequency, etc. The story of these efforts demonstrates the understandable variability or modification of at least some of the criteria, and the connection between definitions and the existing moral standards – a liberal ←31 | 32→or restrictive attitude towards prostitution or, more broadly, sexual behaviour. The array of practices that were condemned and intuitively categorised as prostitution underwent gradual changes that reflected the shifts in the social acceptance of sexual and extramarital relations. In a sense, it was proportionate to the level of acquiescence for extramarital sex. A negative moral assessment of pre- and extramarital congress affected the colloquial definition of prostitution. Certain academic difficulties also arise from the delicate nature of the subject and the complexity of sexual relations. Some elements of these relations regarded as specific to prostitution, e.g. the connection between sex and money (or any other form of material gain) may sometimes be observed in situations that would never be labelled as such activity.

What historians find significant are the behaviours which would earn a woman the stigma of a prostitute in the eyes of her contemporaries. The same words did not always reflect the same reality, especially since no definition of prostitution existed in the law. Terms carried a different meaning, depending on what individuals or social groups were using them, and the women to which they referred. Some used the label of “harlot” for women who did not conform to the existing norms by acting casually towards men, others made a distinction between individuals who supported themselves by rendering sexual services and treated this as a trade, and individuals who simply led an uninhibited sexual life, sometimes with multiple partners, between extramarital sexual relations or promiscuity, and sexual contact that constituted a source of income for one of the people involved.71 Similarly, not everyone considered a “fallen woman” to be synonymous with a “prostitute”. Professional discourse (e.g. medical) sought to narrow down the understanding of the term harlotry (i.e. debauchery and prostitution) to only mean the latter as a profession. This trend was facilitated by the existing regimentation system, which involved the registration of women who rendered sexual services for a fee.72 To what extent was this opinion common, given that authors writing about prostitution saw it fit to underscore this difference? Józef ←32 | 33→Antoni Rolle emphasised that a sinful woman was not yet a harlot.73 In the 1860s, lawyer Jan Maurycy Kamiński noted: “A true prostitute, according to us, is one who offers herself without choice or desire (sine delectu), without any love, even in the worst meaning of the term. As soon as the matter involves a degree of choice, selecting a person for who they are, then, bizarre, odd and strange as the reasons for this choice may be, a woman might be immodest, coquettish or lewd, yet she will not be a prostitute”.74 Franciszek Giedroyć mentioned the term “harlotry”, which used to be regarded as the opposite of marital love (“illegitimate children give evidence of the widespread nature of harlotry”75), and presented free love as the antithesis of spousal affection. As he wrote in the introduction to his book on prostitution, “although satisfaction of carnal desires outside of the marital bed is perceived as harlotry, and the woman participating therein as a ‘harlot’, such a view cannot and should not be deemed rational according to our present understanding, and a woman faithful to her lover, albeit not joined with him in matrimony blessed by the Church, is by no means a prostitute”.76 Other 19th-century definitions were considerably more restrictive, e.g. regarding any sustained extramarital relations to be a sufficient condition for labelling a woman as a prostitute, “even if such relations are aimed only at sensual pleasures, not a desire for profit” (Albert Neisser).77 Similar views were expressed in the 1920s by the Polish abolitionist Jan Macko, who defined prostitution as any “incidental extramarital sexual intercourse (…) relying not on natural sexual selection, but on a consensual contract, under which one person offers themselves to another, for the purpose of momentarily satisfying sexual desires”.78

The definition of prostitution was an objective of an ideological battle; language served as an instrument of repression, meant to trigger the mechanisms of self-control and self-limitation. It was also a means of a moral evaluation of women’s behaviour.

* * *

While working on this book, I enjoyed the support of my colleagues from the Institute of History at the University of Warsaw. I owe particular gratitude to ←33 | 34→my late mentor Professor Ireneusz Ihnatowicz. The initial plan, discussed with Professor Ihnatowicz, was to make this work a study of the sexuality of Poles. Ultimately, however, it evolved into a book on only one aspect of it, and only indirectly pertaining to social norms. The encouragement of Professor Anna Żarnowska proved very valuable.79 I am also grateful to the Lanckoronski Foundation in Brzezie, for granting me a foreign scholarship which allowed me to familiarise myself with more recent publications on the subject. While I was in the process of gathering materials and writing this book, many people offered me their help and kindness. My nearest and dearest showed understanding and patience, for which I am wholeheartedly grateful.

1 The present work is a translated version of my post-doctoral dissertation, published in the Polish language in 2004. It was the first academic monograph based on archival sources that tackled the subject of prostitution in Polish territory in the 19th century. The English-language edition presents updated information on the recent research pertaining to 19th-century prostitution (in the Introduction) and a list of relevant publications issued after 2004 (the final section of Bibliography). The main body of the work was only supplemented with small additions considered of use to foreign audiences, e.g. explaining certain historical circumstances; errors noted in the original were corrected (Chart 2 in Chapter 2). The translation and publication of the present work was made possible owing to a grant issued by the National Programme for the Development of Humanities in Poland.

2 Adolf Rząśnicki, for instance, offered the following numbers: 250 000 prostitutes in London, 100 000 in Paris, 50 000 in Berlin, 35 000 in St. Petersburg. Adolf Rząśnicki, W sprawie prostytucji (Vilnius: Nakład Wiedzy, 1911), p. 4.

3 In 1998, one of such establishments, Les Belles-Paules in Blondel St. in Paris, which enjoyed considerable popularity in the first decades of the 20th century, was put on the list of French cultural heritage sites. The officially stated reasons for this decision referred to the artistic value of the interior decoration and sanitary equipment installed in its bathrooms. See: Krzysztof Rutkowski, “Raptularz końca wieku. Zły sen”, Rzeczypospolita, no. 155 (1998), pp. 4–5.

4 The pride of place among these publications goes to the outstanding study of Parisian prostitution, written by hygienist Alexandre Parent-Duchâtelet. It established a standard for writing about prostitution which was later followed all over Europe. The scope of research and the innovative methodology used in the publication was widely admired. Alexandre Jean-Baptiste Parent-Duchâtelet, De la prostitution dans la ville de Paris (Paris: J. – B. Baillière et Fils, 1836).

5 For more on prostitution in 19th-century literature see e.g.: Jack Lewis Culross, The Prostitute and the Image of Prostitution in Victorian Fiction, (Ann Arbor: Lousiana State University, 1970); Nancy McCombs, Earthspirit, Victim, or Whore? The Prostitute in German Literature, 1880–1925 (New York: Peter Lang, 1986); Tom Winnifrith, Fallen Women in the Nineteenth-Century Novel (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994); Charles Bernheimer, Figures of III Repute, Representing Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge Mass.-London: Harvard University Press, 1989); George Siegel, “The Fallen Women in Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature”, Harvard Slavic Studies, Vol. 5 (1970), pp. 81–107.

6 For more on prostitution in 19th-century art see e.g.: Hollis Clayson, Painted Love, Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era (New Haven-London: Yale University Press, 1991); Edward Farell Marsicano, The Femme Fatale Myth: Sources and Manifestations in Selected Visual Media 1880–1920 (Ann Arbor: Emory University, 1983); Emmanuel Pernoud, Bordel en peinture. L’art contre Le goût (Paris: Adam Biro, 2001).

7 James Robert Parish, Prostitution in Hollywood Films. Plots, Critiques, Casts and Credits for 389 Theatrical and Made-for-Television Releases, (North Carolina-London: McFarland & Co Inc., 1992).

8 The Kingdom of Poland was established during the Viennese Congress and encompassed the lands of the Duchy of Warsaw (1807–1813), a part of the territory split between Russia, Prussia and Austria.

9 Out of necessity, this lacuna is filled by material from popular science publications: Wacław Zaleski, Z dziejów prostytucji w Warszawie (Warsaw: Druk. Policyjna, 1923); Stanisław Milewski, Ciemne sprawy dawnych warszawiaków (Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1982). In the 1790s, the author of a guide of the capital’s houses of ill repute still proudly stated: “May the world know that Warsaw’s famous for; famous for providing the best sort of whore”. [Antoni Kossakowski], “Suplement ‘Przewodnikowi [Warszawskiemu]’ przez innego autora wydany w tymże roku 1779, in: “Oświeceniowe ‘Przewodniki’ po warszawskich domach rozkoszy”, ed. Edmund Rabowicz, Zeszyty Naukowe Wydziału Humanistycznego, Dodatek do Prac Historyczno-Literackich no. 8–9, (1985), p. 67.

10 Initially, the Kingdom of Poland was divided into voivodeships administered by voivodeship committees. In 1837 they were replaced with gubernias managed by gubernia authorities.

11 Only in Suwałki were the records of the Medical-and-Police Committee (6 units) made into a separate fond (LVIA, Vilnius, fond 1080).

12 Hereinafter abbreviated to ‘KRSW’, irrespective of the name the Commission bore at a given period, as these changed several times since 1815 and the disestablishment of the institution in 1868. Annual reports of the Commission’s activity proved very valuable, as they pertained e.g. to health and the moral condition, and to municipal projects undertaken by Warsaw which included information on the city’s revenue from legal prostitution.

13 Earlier called the Main Council for Hospital Supervision (1817–1832). The collection comes from the period of 1832–1870, and comprises the records of special institutional field councils and files taken out of the KRSW documentation. The central archive was destroyed in 1944.

14 When the query for the present publication was being conducted, the RGIA (invoking technical reasons) had long ceased to grant access to the archives of the Medical Department of the Ministry of the Interior, which was instrumental in introducing regulations pertaining to prostitution in Russia, and since the 1860s also in the Kingdom of Poland.

15 Franciszek Giedroyć, Rada Lekarska Księstwa Warszawskiego i Królestwa Polskiego (1809–1867) (Warsaw: Władysław Łazarski, 1913). Giedroyć also had access to the archives of the Warsaw magistrate and KRSW records pertaining to prostitution.

16 After a time, officials could declare the amassed documentation to be worthless. The collection of the Suwałki Gubernia Authorities contains a folder entitled “On the reports delivered on syphilitic patients in the Suwałki Gubernia 8th Feb. 1877 – 25th May 1878”, bearing the following note: “The files themselves were sold [files were sold e.g. to be turned into tow fibre – J.S.-K.], excluding circular no. 1139 and the register”. As a side note, this testifies to the exemplary attitude of the local registrars. (LVIA, Vilnius, f. 1009, ap. 4, b. 101, front page of the case folder).

17 The records pertaining to prostitution in the Mazovian Voivodeship may be extant; it is uncertain as most of the archives of the Mazovian Voivodeship Committee held in AGAD are still inaccessible.

18 An exception to this rule is found in the diary of Leon Sergeyevich Baykov, surviving in a Polish translation heavily abbreviated by the publisher. Baykov was an official for special tasks working under Nikolai Novosilcov, who doubled as his drinking companion. As the publisher of the Polish edition explains, he wrote “day after day, records of all of his physical activities, without exception, mentioning his food and excess, his most brutal misbehaviour and his yielding to urges, feats of prowess and secret impotence of his body worn by age (…) and debauchery, and also the course of secret diseases from which he suffered – he wrote about everything”. He did not shy away from “deeply personal matters, of such kind as no other memoir would even consider to leave a trace of”. Only the wish to present Baykov as “the perfect incarnation and impersonation of moral corruption, demonism and cynicism of a bureaucrat from Novosilcov’s entourage” saved some of his more salacious passages from the strict censorship of its editor Aleksander Kraushar; Leon Bajkow, Z kartek pamiętnika rękopiśmiennego (1824–1829) przez Alkara, ed. Aleksander Kraushar, 2nd edition (Cracow: druk W. L. Anczyca i Sp., 1913), pp. 4, 5, 13.

19 Especially since, in this particular case, we cannot exclude the possibility of self-stylisation (even though the text was not intended for publication) to pose as a modern – i.e. internally conflicted – protagonist. Jerzy Kądziela, “Wstęp”, in: Stefan Żeromski, Dzienniki (Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków: 1961), pp. VIII–IX, L.

20 Ewa Ihnatowicz regards the presentation and analysis of prostitution offered in social-problem novels of the 1870s and 1880s as rather superficial. “Positivist writers stopped short of reconstructing social mechanisms, contenting themselves with describing external circumstances, the personalities and psychological processes affecting individuals”; Ewa Ihnatowicz, “Miasto kryminalne?”, in: Miasto-Kultura-Literatura-XIX wiek, ed. Jan Data (Gdańsk: Wydawnictwo Gdańskie, 1993), pp. 114, 116.

21 Jadwiga Zacharska, O kobiecie w literaturze przełomu XIX i XX wieku (Białystok: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu w Białymstoku, 2000), pp. 139–159 (chapter: “Prostytutka – kobieta uwiedziona czy wyzwolona?”).

22 In France, Great Britain or Germany the number of such publications reached several hundred. Golosenko established that 431 works on prostitution were published in Russia in 1861–1917; Igor. A. Golosenko, Rossiyskaya sotsiologiya prostitutsii (1861–1917) (Sankt-Petersburg: Filial Instituta Sotsiologii RAN 1997), p. 8 Chart 1. Other countries with such publications include Italy (Giovanni Gozzoli, La prostituzione in Italia, Rome 1886), Switzerland (Alexandre Guillot, La lutte contre l’exploitation et la réglamentation du vice à Géneve jusqua’au 22 mars 1896 (Geneva: Ed. Eggimann, 1889), Belgium (Louis Fiaux, La prostitution en Belgique, Paris: aux Bureaux du Progrés Médical, Veuve Fabé, G. Carré, 1892), Austria (Josef Schrank, Die Prostitution in Wien (Vienna: self-published, 1886)), Sweden (Otto M. Westerberg, Prostitutionens Reglementering (Stockholm: i kommission hos A. V. Carlsson, 1890)) and Portugal (Francisco Ignacio do Santos Cruz, Da Prostitução na Cidade de Lisboa (Lisboa: Typ. Lisbonense 1841).

23 Vern L. Bullough, Margaret Deacon, Barett Elcano, Bonnie Bullough (eds.), A Bibliography of Prostitution (New York: Garland, 1977) (comprises 6494 entries) and its continuation: Vern L. Bullough, Lilli Sentz (eds.) Prostitution: A Guide to Sources 1960–1990 (New York: Garland 1992) (1965 entries); Biswanath Joardar, Prostitution: A Bibliographical Synthesis (New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1983); Stanley D. Nash, Prostitution in Great Britain 1485–1901. An Annotated Bibliography (London: Scarecrow Press, 1994).

24 For instance the publication (also translated into Polish): Jacques Rossiaud, La prostitution médiévale (Paris: Flammarion, 1988).

25 See: Timothy J. Gilfoyle, “Prostitutes in the Archives: Problems and Possibilities in Documenting the History of Sexuality”, American Archivist, no. 57 (1994), p. 518.

26 Most notably the numerous works of Alain Corbin, particularly Les Filles de noce. Misère sexuelle et prostitution au XIX siècle (Paris: Flammarion, 1978; reprinted in 1982) and Jean-Marc Berlière, La police des moeurs sous la IIIe République (Paris: Seuil, 1992); Jaques Solé, L’age d’or de la prostitution. De 1870 à nos jours (Paris: Hachette Littérature, 1994); Simone Delattre, Les Douze Heures Noires. La nuit à Paris au XIXe siècle (Paris: Albin Michel, 2000).

27 To offer some examples, Great Britain – Trevor Fischer, Prostitution and the Victorians (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997); Leslie Hall, Sex, Gender and social Change in Britain since 1880 (London: Macmillan Press, 2000); Scotland – Linda Mahood, The Magdalenes: Prostitution in the Nineteenth Century (London: Routledge, 1990); Germany – Sybilla Kraft, Zucht und Unzucht. Prostitution und Sittenpolizei im München der Jahrhundertwende (Munich: Hugendubel, 1996); Sabine Kienitz, Sexualität, Macht und Moral: Prostitution und Geschlechter-beziehungen Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts in Würtemberg. Ein Beitrag zur Mentalitätsgeschichte (Berlin: Akademie, 1995); Denmark – M. Bøge Pedersen, Den reglementerende prostitution i København fra 1874 til 1906 (Copenhagen: Museum Tuscalumnus Forlag, 2000); Italy – Mary Gibson, Prostitution and the State in Italy 1860–1915 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999, 1st edition 1986); Portugal – Maria Isabel Viegas Liberato, Sexo, ciência, poder e exclusão social, a tolerância da prostituição en Portugal 1841–1926 (Lisbon: Livros do Brasil, 2002); Spain – Rafael Carrasco (ed.), La prostitution en Espagne de l’époque des rois catholiques à la IIe republique (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1994); Francisco Núñez Roldán, Mujeres públicas: Historia de la prostitución en España (Historia de la España sorprendente) (Madrid: Temas de Hoy, 1995); Russia – Laura Bernstein, Sonia’s Daughters: Prostitutes and their Regulation in Imperial Russia (Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: University of California Press, 1995); N. B. Lebina, M. V. Shkarovskiy, Prostitutsiya v Peterburge (40-e gg. XX v. – 40-e gg. XX v.) (Moscow: 1994); Igor S. Kon, Seksualnaya kultura v Rossii: klubnichka na beryozkhe, Moscow: Institut Etnologii i Antropologii RAN 1997; Igor S. Kon, “Sexuality and politics in Russia”, in: Sexual Cultures in Europe. National histories, ed. Franz X. Eder, Lesley A. Hall, Gert Hekma (Manchester-New York: Manchester university Press, 1999); Natalja L. Pushkarova, Chastnaya zhizn’ russkoy zhenshchiny v doindustryal’noy Rossii X – nachalo XIX v: nevesta, zhena, lyubovnitsa, Moscow: Ladomir 1997.

28 For instance: Christian Henriot, Belles de Shanghai. Prostitution et Sexualite en Chine aux XIXe-XXe siècles (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 1997).

29 Examples of works published in the 1990s: Marylin Wood Hill, Their Sister’s Keepers: Prostitution in New York City 1830–1870 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Benson Tong, Unsubmissive Women. Chinese Prostitutes in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco (Norman-London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994); Larry Whiteaker, Seduction, Prostitution, and Moral Reform in New York, 1830–1860 (New York-London: Routledge, 1997).

30 Luis Carlos Soares, Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro, (London: University of London, Institute of Latin American Studies, 1988); Donna J. Guy, Sex and Danger in Buenos Aires. Prostitution, Family, and Nation in Argentina (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991); Anna Maria Atondo Rodriguez, El amor venal y la condición femenina en el México colonial (Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1992); Magali Engel, Meretrizes e Doutores: saber médico e prostituição no Rio de Janeiro (1840–1890) (São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1989); Álvaro Góngora Escobedo, La prostitución en Santiago, 1813–1931 (Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 1999) Aída Martínez; Pablo Rodríguez, Placer, dinero y pecado: historia de la prostitución en Colombia (Bogota: Aguilar, 2002).

31 Józef Lubecki’s Historia prostytucji w starożytności i wśród Kościoła chrześcijańskiego (written in 1878), focusing on prostitution in the Antiquity, may have been intended as the beginning of such a project, yet the author was perhaps discouraged by the problems with distribution and bookshops refusing to sell the publication. The work is not mentioned in Estreicher’s bibliography. See: Maria Brykalska, Aleksander Świętochowski. Biografia (Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1987), Vol. 1, p. 232.

32 For an overview of his works on the issue of prostitution and his achievements in the field see: Jolanta Sikorska-Kulesza, “Prostytucja w XIX wieku na Podolu w świetle badań Józefa Apolinarego Rollego”, Przegląd Wschodni, Vol. V, issue. 3 (19) (1998), pp. 435–452.

33 Jan Maurycy Kamiński, O prostytucji (Warsaw: A. Pajewski, 1875), 2nd edition.

34 Józef A. Rolle, “Materyały do topografii i higieny Podola (Prostytucja)”, Przegląd Lekarski, no. 38, 39, 40 (1869).

35 His most important works were: Franciszek Giedroyć, Prostytutki jako źródło chorób wenerycznych w Warszawie (w ciągu ostatnich lat kilku) (Warsaw: Drukarnia Maryi Ziemkiewiczowej, 1892); idem, Rys historyczny szpitala św. Łazarza w Warszawie (Warsaw: Drukarnia Kowalewskiego, 1897); idem, Rada Lekarska Księstwa Warszawskiego i Królestwa Polskiego (1809–1867) (Warsaw: Władysław Łazarski, 1913).

36 Jan Macko, Prostytucja. Nierząd – handel “żywym towarem” – pornografia ze stanowiska historii, etyki, higieny i prawa (Warsaw: nakł. Polskiego Komitetu Walki z Handlem Kobietami i Dziećmi, 1927); idem, Nierząd jako choroba społeczna (Warsaw: nakł. Polskiego Komitetu Walki z Handlem Kobietami i Dziećmi, 1938).

37 Zaleski, Z dziejów; Wacław Zaleski, Prostytucja powojenna w Warszawie (Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Pracowników Księgarskich, 1927).

38 In the 1980s, historian of modernity Zbigniew Kuchowicz called attention to the biological aspects of history, including prostitution in the programme of research. See: Zbigniew Kuchowicz, O biologiczny wymiar historii. Książka propozycji (Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1985), pp. 194–197.

39 Adam Krawiec, Seksualność w średniowiecznej Polsce (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 2000).

40 Andrzej Karpiński, “Prostytucja w dużych miastach polskich w XVI i XVII w. (Kraków, Lublin, Poznań, Warszawa)”, Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej, no. 2 (1988), pp. 277–302; idem, Pauperes. O mieszkańcach Warszawy XVI i XVII wieku (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1983); idem, Kobieta w mieście polskim w drugiej połowie XVI i w XVII wieku (Warsaw: Instytut Historii PAN, 1995).

41 Marek Karpiński, Najstarszy zawód świata. Historia prostytucji (London: Lemur, 1997).

42 Małgorzata Karpińska, Złodzieje, agenci, policyjni strażnicy… Przestępstwa pospolite w Warszawie 1815–1830. (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo DiG, 1999). Karpińska analysed reports from an agent of secret police.

43 Michał Baczkowski, “Prostytucja w Krakowie na Przełomie XIX i XX w.”, Studia Historyczne, Vol. 43, no. 4, 2000, pp. 595–598.

44 Stanisław Milewski, Ciemne sprawy dawnych warszawiaków (Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1982).

45 Anna Pawłowska, “Kwestie etyczno-obyczajowe w prasie kobiecej przełomu XIX i XX wieku (na łamach ‘Steru’ i ‘Nowego Słowa’)”, Studia Historyczne, year 30, issue 4 (1987), pp. 571–588. Other works providing a broad context for prostitution as a social issue (and the related venereal diseases) include the following publication on the history of the eugenic movement in Poland – Magdalena Gawin, Rasa i nowoczesność. Historia polskiego ruchu eugenicznego (1880–1952) (Warsaw: Neriton, 2003).

46 And in other time periods, esp. Interwar Poland. See: Paweł Rzewuski, Warszawa – miasto grzechu. Prostytucja w II RP (Cracow: Promohistoria, 2014), idem, Grzechy “Paryża Północy” mroczne życie przedwojennej Warszawy (Cracow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2019).

47 See works by Aneta Bołdyrew, Daria Domarańczyk, Ewelina Maria Kostrzewska and Hanna Kurowska published in: Miłość sprzedajna, ed. Bożena Płonka-Syroka, Kaja Marchel, Andrzej Syroka (Wrocław: Arboretum, 2014). The full titles of these and other relevant publications may be found in the final section of the Bibliography.

48 See: Lena Magnone, “Prostytutka: niezbędny członek (pozytywistycznej) rodziny?” in: Polska dramatyczna. 2, Dramat i dramatyzacje w XVIII i XIX wieku, ed. Małgorzata Sugiera (Cracow: Księgarnia Akademicka, 2014), pp. 143–174.

49 Aneta Bołdyrew, Społeczeństwo Królestwa Polskiego wobec patologii społecznych w latach 1864–1914 (Łódź: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, 2016), Chapter IV “Prostytucja jako przedmiot dyskusji społecznej i działań opiekuńczo-wychowawczych”, pp. 145–204. The various measures intended to prevent women’s prostitution in interwar Poland were described in: Piotr Gołdyn, Pogarda dla zawodu. Litość dla człowieka. Społeczno-edukacyjne formy działalności wobec kobiet zagrożonych prostytucją w Polsce (1918–1939) (Kalisz: Kaliskie Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk, 2013).

50 Radosław Antonów (ed.), Drogi hańby. Piśmiennictwo polskie przełomu XIX i XX wieku o handlu “żywym towarem.” (Wrocław: Wydział Prawa, Administracji i Ekonomii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, 2013).

51 The book was submitted for publication at Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego and will appear in 2020. I extend my thanks to its author for providing me with the manuscript.

52 For more in the problems of methodological research of the realities of the trade in women see: Jolanta Sikorska-Kulesza, “Handel kobietami z ziem polskich na przełomie XIX i XX wieku”, in: O kobietach. Szkice i studia. Wiek XIX i XX, ed. J. Hoff (Rzeszów: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Rzeszowskiego 2011). The fact that no traders or their prospective victims were ever apprehended in the Polish state, newly re-established after the First World War, is rather telling, given that there were official forces tasked with the prevention of human trafficking, as indicated by my own research query in the archives of the Polish Committee for the Prevention of the Trade in Women and Children (Polski Komitet Walki z Handlem Kobietami i Dziećmi) at the Central Archives of Modern Records in Warsaw; see also: Katarzyna Stańczak-Wiślicz, “Czarny mit Galicji: prostytucja i handel ‘żywym towarem’ jako element paniki moralnej”, in: Galicja: mozaika nie tylko narodowa, tom studiów, ed. Urszula Jakubowska, Vol. 4 (Warsaw: Instytut Badań Literackich PAN, 2017), pp. 197–204.

53 The MA thesis of Aleksandra Jakubczak completed in 2016 at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, entitled “Jews` Participation in White Slavery and Prostitution as was reflected in Hebrew Press Between the Years 1800 and 1914”; for a later period see: Piotr Gołdyn, “Jewish Associations for Protection of Woman in Poland in Years 1918–1939”, Studia Judaica: biuletyn Polskiego Towarzystwa Studiów Żydowskich, no, 2, year. 9 (2006), pp. 311–322.

54 Aleksandra Jakubczak, “ ‘Pogrom alfonsów’ w Warszawie 1905 roku w świetle prasy żydowskiej”, Studia Judaica” 18 (2015), 2 (36), pp. 339–357. Jakubczak’s MA thesis on the crackdown on brothel houses in 1905, entitled “Pogrom domów publicznych w Warszawie w 1905 roku”, was completed in 2017 at the Institute of History of the University of Warsaw.

55 Aleksander Gotowicz, “Przyczynek do historii prostytucji oraz chorób wenerycznych w guberni piotrkowskiej na przełomie XIX i XX wieku”, In Gremium: studia nad historią, kulturą i polityką, Vol. 6 (2012), pp. 87–108. Gotowicz also quotes court records, thereby corroborating their informative potential with regard to prostitution.

56 For instance: Alicja Urbanik-Kopeć, Instrukcja nadużycia. Służące w XIX-wiecznych polskich domach (Katowice: Sonia Draga, 2019); Jerzy Franke, “Czystość” (1905–1909) Augustyna Wróblewskiego albo iluzja etycznej krucjaty (Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 2013).

57 Keely Stauter-Halsted, The devil’s chain. Prostitution and social control in partitioned Poland (Ithaca – London: Cornell University Press, 2015). For more relevant articles by the same author see: the final section of the Bibliography.

58 In late-mediaeval Polish, the Latin term meretrix (trollop, denoting any woman whose behaviour was deemed questionable) was translated elegantly as zła dziewka (“a bad wench”) and colloquially as kurwa (the word did not carry the clear vulgar connotation it does today) and numerous diminutives of the term, e.g. kurwiczka, kurewka, kurwiszcze, kurwię, or gamratka, paniduszka. After: Krawiec, Seksualność, pp. 215, 222. Terms used in the 17th and 18th century included: małpa (monkey), wszetecznica (public woman), skortyzanka, przychodka, miejska dziewka (city wench).

59 In French, for instance, the renowned hygienist Parent-Duchâtelet (whom the historian Alain Corbin described as a veritable Linnaeus of prostitution) distinguished between prostitutes registered by the police (filles soumise, filles en carte), who worked in brothels (filles de maison, filles à numéro), and those not bound to such houses, seeking out clients on their own (filles isolée). Filles insoumises remained outside police supervision and engaged in illegal prostitution (prostitution clandestine). Aside from these technical terms, the French language offers a wide array of appellations for prostitutes, i.a. venale (salable woman), raccrocheuse (street wench), putain (whore), entretenue (kept woman), demimonde, lorette (woman of loose morals), cocotte. See: Corbin, Les Filles, pp. 19, 190–192, 200–203; idem, “Commercial Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century France: A System of Images and Regulations”, Representations, Vol. 14, Spring 1986, pp. 210–211.

60 Jan Karłowicz, Adam Kryński, Władysław Niedźwiedzki, Słownik języka polskiego (Warsaw: nakł. prenumeratorów, Kasa im. Mianowskiego, 1902), Vol. 2, p. 646.

61 Samuel Bogumił Linde, Słownik języka polskiego (Lvov: Zakład Narodowy Imienia Ossolińskich, 1857), 2nd edition, p. 334; Karłowicz et al., Słownik, Warsaw 1904, Vol. 3, p. 333.

62 Karłowicz et al., Słownik, Warsaw 1908, Vol. 4, p. 1027. The dictionary derives the term from the word prostytuta (from the Latin prostitutus), which it defines as a contemptible person of low moral standing, mercantile.

63 Karłowicz et al., Słownik, Warsaw 1902, Vol. 2, p. 674; Linde, Słownik, Lvov 1855, Vol. 2, p. 579.

64 Karłowicz et al., Słownik, Warsaw 1900, Vol. 1, p. 662.

65 Linde, Słownik, Lvov 1855, p. 556; Karłowicz et al., Słownik, Warsaw 1902, Vol. 2, p. 646. This term also functions in the Polish language as a very strong swear word.

66 A different (more amiable or perhaps simply ironic) attitude towards prostitutes was shown e.g. by the famous 18th-century diarist Jędrzej Kitowicz (the author of Opis obyczajów za panowania Augusta III), who called them dobrodziejki (kind ladies).

67 Milewski, Ciemne sprawy, pp. 69–99.

68 In colloquial 19th-century Polish, the words nierządnica (harlot, debauched woman) and prostytutka (prostitute) were used interchangeably. In the legal jargon, however, nierząd (debauchery) was a broader term, which encompassed prostitution (public debauchery), adultery, incest, bigamy and homosexuality.

69 An overview of the definitions presented by many classical publications on the history of prostitution published in the first decades of the 20th century (e.g. by Flexner in 1919, Bloch in 1912, Fischer in 1925) is found in: Magdalena Jasińska, Proces społecznego wykolejenia młodocianych dziewcząt (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Prawnicze, 1967), pp. 5–9, Małgorzata Kowalczyk-Jamnicka, Społeczno-kulturowe uwarunkowania prostytucji w Polsce (Bydgoszcz: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna, 1998), pp. 8–14. See also: Gail Pheterson, The Prostitution Prism (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1996), pp. 27–29, 30–36.

70 Wilhelm Bernsdorf, “Soziologie der Prostitution”, in: Die Sexualität des Menschen. Handbuch der medizinischen Sexualforschung, ed. Hans Giese (Stuttgart: Enke, 1968), pp. 191–248; Leszek Lernell, “Przestępczość seksualna”, in: Seksuologia społeczna, ed. Kazimierz Imieliński (Warsaw: PWN, 1974), p. 424; Kazimierz Imieliński, Seksuologia kulturowa (Warsaw: PWN, 1980), pp. 56–57; idem, Manowce seksu. Prostytucja (Łódź: Res Polona, 1990); Brunon Hołyst, Kryminologia (Warsaw: PWN, 1979), p. 169; Michał Antoniszyn, Andrzej Marek, Prostytucja w świetle badań kryminalistycznych (Warsaw: Włocławskie Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1985), pp. 6–12.

71 O reglamentatsii prostitutsii i abolitsionizme, Rostov upon Don, 1907, p. 1.

72 Changes in the understanding and definitions of the term “prostitution” could have been influenced by police regulations (and the attempted implementation thereof) to extend medical supervision over women from the lower classes and professional groups from which many prostitutes had been recruited (e.g. domestic servants, factory workers).

73 Rolle, “Materyały”, Przegląd Lekarski, no. 38 (1869). Rolle invokes the French legal definition formulated in 1790, which delineated the premise of prostitution as frequent sexual contacts with various individuals.

74 Kamiński, O prostytucji, p. 106.

75 Giedroyć, Prostytutki, p. 12.

76 Giedroyć, Prostytutki, p. 14.

77 After: Jasińska, Proces, p. 4.

78 Macko, Prostytucja, p. 44.

79 Professor Anna Żarnowska (1931–2007) initiated research on the socio-cultural history of women in Polish territory in the 19th and 20th century. These efforts resulted in a multi-volume series of studies edited by herself and Professor Andrzej Szwarc.

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Chapter 1 THE STATE VERSUS PROSTITUTION: Rules, regulations and means of control

1. Between tolerance and repression – prostitution in early modern Poland

The earliest records of prostitution in Polish territory come from the 14th and the 15th centuries, though the profession had indubitably been practiced earlier. Traces of its “systematised, fully shaped form” may be found in sources, which mention organised brothels “subject to certain forms of control executed by municipal authorities”.80 In mid-15th century, city brothels, called zamtuz, i.e. ‘a public house’ from the Middle-Low-German samt-hūs, were usually supervised by municipal headsmen,81 and operated legally not only in the capital city of Cracow and other large urban centres, but also in smaller towns (e.g. Pyzdry, Pobiedziska, Busko), and even in the countryside.82

Research conducted by Adam Krawiec and Andrzej Karpiński (pertaining to the 15th century and the 16th–17th centuries respectively) presents prostitution as a phenomenon whose actual scale is now difficult to establish due to the nature and state of the existing sources,83 but which may nonetheless be recognised as elaborately and fully structured in terms of its whereabouts, legal status, and the degree of the occupation’s professionalisation. The largest urban centres – Cracow, Warsaw, Lvov, Poznań and Lublin – already had all forms of prostitution known in later centuries. Aside from brothels operating with no ←35 | 36→legal impediment to their trade, there were also covert practices undertaken by women on their own or in illegal houses, inns and taverns. Paid sexual services were offered in cities, in villages and by the roads, by professional prostitutes and many women venturing into such practices on a provisional and occasional basis.84 Despite the Church’s condemnation of prostitution and the incontestable severity of the law regarding extramarital relations (such as adultery), municipal authorities did not take a clear stand on the issue. In practice, consent was given to prostitution taking place in legal supervised brothels; outside of them, it was usually treated as a transgression against morals.85 The authorities exerted some unspecified level of control over brothels and even profited from prostitution.86 At the most, they made sporadic attempts at curbing the scale of the phenomenon by imposing high taxes on prostitutes or forbidding them from renting any property in the city.87

At times, individuals practicing prostitution outside of the houses designated by the magistrates were punished by flogging or even expulsion from the city. The degree of repression against women resorting to prostitution was nonetheless relatively low. Practices such as stripping prostitutes naked and leaving them in cages for all to see, mentioned in earlier sources quoted by 19th-century historians, may have expressed the attitude towards such women, but were not intended as punishment (at least not always) for harlotry alone; these means were employed if charges of prostitution went alongside other misdeeds – felonies and behaviour which were either scandalising or dangerous to the society, e.g. prostitution done by women infected with sexually transmitted diseases.88 Since the beginning of the 16th century, the increasingly strict moral standards of the reformation and counter-reformation caused more and more voices to ←36 | 37→speak against tolerating prostitution.89 However, the attempts at curbing the phenomenon were still very weak, while repressive attitudes coexisted with leniency. Prostitutes were only ostracised in a more severe manner in difficult times, for instance during epidemics of contagious diseases. Houses of ill repute were then closed, while prostitutes were driven out of cities or forced to perform dangerous tasks (e.g. burying plague victims). However, it is important to add that they were not the only, or even the most numerous social group treated in such a manner.90

The inconsistent legal standpoint presented towards prostitution did not, however, extend to procuration and pandering. The punishment for any of the latter was severe – from public flogging and mutilation of the body to banishment or even death. As in other cases, however, the actual practice diverged greatly from the letter of the law.91

Our knowledge of commercial sexual practices in 18th-century Poland is much more fragmented. However, conditions for its development seemed favourable, at least in Warsaw. In the latter half of the century the population of the city spiked (ca. 100 thousand inhabitants in 1792). At the time, Warsaw was a bustling centre of politics, trade and culture; its streets traversed not only by permanent residents, but also by many seasonal visitors in need of entertainment – members of the nobility, merchants and foreigners.92 Narrative sources quoted by academic and popular publications point to a rapid development of prostitution in the capital city. Evidence may, for instance, be found in Jędrzej Kitowicz’s work, describing the situation in the mid-18th century.93 Foreign authors writing in the early 1790s, in turn, painted a picture of debauchery and moral decay, of ←37 | 38→prostitution and rampant venereal disease.94 There were also voices expressing a libertine attitude towards sexual life, such as In praise of the brothel [Pochwała bordelu] by Stanisław Kostka Potocki.95 From a historian’s perspective, particularly valuable details regarding the world of Warsaw’s prostitution (in the context of health, morals and social interactions) may be found in two rhyming guidebooks96 from the 1770, which contained advice and information for enthusiasts of paid sexual services not familiar with the Warsaw scene.97 These exceptional texts, almost sensational in their linguistic and substantive aspect, were discovered and published in 1985 by Edmund Rabowicz, who also ascribed their authorship.98 They were popularised due to Marek Karpiński’s book on the history of prostitution.99

The authorities responsible for order in the capital city were prone to turn a blind eye to prostitution – as usual, the will and activity of specific individuals played a prominent role. According to Wacław Zaleski, an expert on the ←38 | 39→history of prostitution in Warsaw, a crusade against harlots was declared in the 1740s by the Grand Marshal of the Crown Franciszek Bieliński, who strove to bring Warsaw to heel by ordering all procurers to be punished and all women of ill repute to be taken off the streets and directed to houses of labour.100 The very same tactics is described in the mentioned guidebooks, and so the information recounted by the royal surgeon Leopold Lafontaine and the memoir writer Fryderyk Schultz, who claimed that prostitution in Warsaw was not in any way controlled by the police or the government, does not seem accurate at all.101

However, no separate legal regulations on the phenomenon were written in the entire period of the first Republic’s existence. It was only the poorer prostitutes that could fall victim to actions aimed at purifying cities (e.g. those pertaining to vagrancy). The legislation of Inner regulation for free cities in the Commonwealth [Urządzenie wewnętrzne miast wolnych Rzeczypospolitej] dated 24th June 1791, which listed brothels among the institutions under the supervision of the magistrate, was only sanctioning the factual situation.102

On the other hand, since the mid-18th century the Republic of Poland had been undergoing a wave of transformations, leading to the emergence of a modern administration which, as exemplified by the history of other countries, tended to extend control and regulation over increasingly large areas of private life; as well as to the defining and commencement of new administrative duties in the realm of healthcare and sanitation (medical police).103 It must be noted that such changes created an environment that was conducive to including prostitution in the State’s sphere of interest and defining its status, as was the case in many other countries.

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2. The first regulation of prostitution – Warsaw 1802

Important changes in the status of prostitution occurred after the fall of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and were the first to arrive in the territory taken by Prussia. After the partition, the first occupiers and masters of Warsaw legalised prostitution on certain conditions, issued in Berlin with the date of 16th November 1802.104 In the Polish language they were publicised as: An ordinance forestalling the ensnaring of young girls into licentiousness in bordellos, or otherwise for money, nonetheless containing regulations towards halting the venereal plague in Warsaw [Ordynacya zabiegająca uwodzeniu młodych dziewcząt do życia nierządnego w bordelach, lub innym sposobem za pieniądze, nie mniey przepisy na zatamowanie zarazy weneryczney w Warszawie obejmująca].105

The legislator declared to “decisively put an end to beguiling [procuration] and the very harmful consequences of the overwhelming spread of the venereal plaque”.106 The new authorities regarded the medical threat as a matter of concern due to the presence of their army – at the time, one in five residents of Warsaw was a Prussian soldier. In 1796–1806, the garrison in Warsaw annually housed 8–10 thousand soldiers, while the city had a little over 60 thousand inhabitants (1799).107 Aside from the military, the capital of Southern Prussia108 also had to accommodate ca. 1000 newly arrived officials.109 Thus, regulating the practice of prostitution was in the Prussians’ own interest. The impulse behind specific regulations, and later the ordinance itself, came mainly from Friedrich Georg Caspar von Tilly, who held the post of the president of Warsaw since 1799 and ←40 | 41→had previously been the commander of one of the infantry regiments stationed in the city.110

A broader context for this normalisation may be found in many other undertakings initiated by the occupier. The new Prussian administration organised many aspects of life in Warsaw according to its own models and laws (e.g. establishing medical police, passing many regulatory and sanitary laws).111 German-speaking countries handled the matter of public prostitution with varying degrees of severity – from absolute bans, through factual tolerance to full legalisation. The General State Laws for the Prussian States (Allgemeines Landrecht für die Königlich Preussischen Staaten; hereinafter: ALR) from 1794 allowed prostitution practices to be conducted solely in brothel houses (ALR art. 999) subject to state supervision and medical control (e.g. in 1780 Berlin had ca. 100 such houses and 700–900 prostitutes).112 The collection of regulations on prostitution in Warsaw (and probably Poznań as well)113 was derived from these legislative acts and elaborated on the articles of the codex introduced in Polish territory in 1797.

What the Prussian legislators saw as the most reliable means of maintaining control over prostitution was limiting the practice to brothel houses. The ordinance reads: “First and foremost, let it serve as a rule that women lending their bodies out for the lewd craft ought to remain in houses designated for such practices, under the supervision of the police, as well as under the supervision of a proprietor or proptrietess, so as the governance over them could be executed ←41 | 42→easily and conveniently” (art. 1).114 However articles 21 and 23 allowed for the possibility of legal prostitution being practiced outside the houses,115 provided that the women wishing to engage in it applied for a permit and followed the regulations specified in the Ordinance.116 Such a solution offered a degree of hope that at least some of the prostitutes who did not wish to work in brothel houses would voluntarily submit themselves to state supervision, and thus to medical control. It may have also been dictated by the wish to provide a more discreet setting for using the service of prostitutes.

Thus, the Prussian administration of Warsaw introduced a system of licensing prostitution.117 Henceforth, running a brothel (“establishing a household of harlots”) required a relevant permit. The proprietor could acquire it free of charge for the period of six months (along with a written list of duties and the text of the Ordinance), after having specified the location of the planned ←42 | 43→house and introducing the prostitutes that would work there.118 The supervision of prostitution, from issuing permits for practicing the craft to exacting punishment for infringement of regulations, was within the competence of the Directorate of Police, which was a part of the municipal authorities. The police, in turn, mainly exercised supervision through the owners of brothel houses, who bore responsibility for the conduct of prostitutes and were charged with ensuring order and the safety of their clients.119 Frequent brawls and non-compliance with regulations could cost them their license. As many as six of the nine articles specifying the appropriate punishment pertained to brothel owners; one referred to panderers, one to landlords renting out property, and two to prostitutes themselves. Penalising proprietors aside, the effectiveness of the system was also ensured by the introduction of rewards for informers (art. 19, 29).

The Ordinance reflected the reproachful attitude the authorities held towards procuration. The most severe punishment (prohibition of managing a brothel house, six to ten years’ imprisonment, flogging and public display, art. 26) was reserved for practices of employing girls brought into the trade “by treachery or violent conduct”.120 Professional procuration was punishable by two to three years of forced labour, and flogging followed by expulsion from the city (art. 25); the punishment for occasional procuration was six to twelve months in a correctional institution or a house of public labour, whereas employing underage girls (also as servants) was penalised with two years of work in a correctional institution (art. 10).121

The remaining penalties and punishments pertained to illegal prostitution.122 The Ordinance specified that “harlots roaming the streets in the dark shall not be ←43 | 44→tolerated”. In practice, the possibility of direct police action was limited due to the small number and the relative inefficiency of its personnel, even though Wacław Zalewski writes that the police was fierce in combating illicit prostitution.123

According to the same historian, the Prussian government was the first to impose taxation on the brothel houses of Warsaw and established fixed rates for the services rendered there (with lower fees for soldiers).124 This fiscal angle is, however, absent from the Ordinance. The only mentioned fees – payable by proprietors and prostitutes working outside of brothel houses – were meant for the hospital of St. Lazarus to finance the treatment of women who had fallen ill. The medical care “from the contributions of the licensed harlots” was to be free of charge (art. 14).

The Prussian regulations were motivated by the wish to control the prostitution market, to have decisive impact on the scale of the phenomenon, and to remove it from the public eye so that it did not disturb the peace of ordinary citizens.125 One should also emphasise the clear intention to prevent the demoralisation of young girls and understanding the circumstances that led to that. In hindsight, however, what proved the most important was the introduction of compulsory medical examination and treatment of prostitutes, even thought the Ordinance was very vague in describing these procedures, and did not elaborate on article 1002 of the ALR in any significant manner. It decreed that brothel houses be brought under strict and constant medical supervision, which led to a shift in the perception of prostitution in Warsaw, so characteristic for the 19th century. It began to be regarded mainly as a medical problem.126 Hiding a disease or choosing private treatment made prostitutes and proprietors liable to one of the more severe punishments – three months in a correctional institution ←44 | 45→(six for repeated offense), with the additional measures of flogging before and after the period of custody.127 Should the prostitute infect anyone or display clear symptoms of disease that would preclude ignorance of her condition, she could be sentenced to one year of imprisonment. The legislation provided for informing harlots (also in writing) of the relevant symptoms in women and men, so that they could recognise them on themselves (art. 11 b, 12) and not allow any sexual contact with a diseased client (art. 11 c).128

Prussians did attempt to – at least as far as declarations were concerned – provide protection for prostitutes working in brothel houses. “Since experience teaches us that many house proprietors treat the girls they manage with much harshness and keep strict control over them,” the Ordinance provided prostitutes with the possibility to file a complaint to the police officer who was to visit the brothel regularly for that purpose. It was promised that, should a prostitute be willing to abandon her profession, “the Police Directorate would provide immediate and brave assistance in this endeavour and shield her from any difficulty” (art. 21). The legislation stated expressly that any debt towards the proprietor could not serve as a valid reason for keeping a woman against her will (art. 21). These provisions were based on ALR articles 1020 and 1021, yet it is dubitable whether they were actually implemented.

The Prussian ordinance defined the boundaries of acceptable prostitution and the rules for its control in Warsaw, which remained principally unchanged until the First World War. Licensing and supervising brothel houses, registering prostitutes, compulsory medical examination and treatment, the regulations for employment and dismissal – all these aspects formed a system of state control. Similar strategies implemented through the regulation of prostitution were adopted in the late 18th and early 19th century in many different countries, partially due to the increase of the scale of prostitution.

3. The realm of projects and provisions (1815–1843)

The earlier division into overt and covert prostitution continued to exist in the Duchy of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Poland. Until 1818 it was grounded in ←45 | 46→administrative and civil laws, since the Prussian legislation on carnal misdemeanor regarding common prostitution was still in use in an unchanged form. The territories annexed to the Duchy of Warsaw in 1809 were, in turn, using the Austrian penal code (1803), which considered prostitution a serious offence against morals and penalised propagating and profiting from such activities.129 In 1818 both regulations were replaced by the Kodex karzący dla Królestwa Polskiego [Criminal code for the Kingdom of Poland].130 The first Polish penal code did not mention prostitution, even though ten out of the twelve specified transgressions against morals pertained to sexual behaviour. It was a significant deviation from the original, i.e. the Austrian criminal legislation of 1803.131 Thus, if one was to seek foreign influence over Polish laws, the source to be indicated as the closest would be the French Code pènal from 1810, which only mentioned prostitution in the entry on protecting persons under 21 years of age against procuration and the facilitation of depravity.132 The codex condemned forcing individuals into prostitution, yet instituted very weak penalties, as the intended punishment for “seducing an innocent unto public harlotry” was three to twelve months of imprisonment, while the charges could only be laid by the legal guardians of the victim (art. 449, 450, 453).

Zaleski writes that until Ivan Paskiewicz took the post of viceroy (which he held in 1832–1856), Warsaw had no “strict principles of supervision” over prostitution save for police directives against illegal harlotry. Although no indication for the existence of comprehensive regulations may indeed be found in the sources, it is certain that the system of state control was still in place. Prostitution was allowed to be practiced in licensed brothel houses which had to conform to certain regulations;133 registered women of ill repute were obliged to undergo medical control and treatment; illegal prostitution was fought against, as evidenced by reports from the office of agent Henryk Mackrott of Grand Duke ←46 | 47→Konstantin’s secret police.134 According to Małgorzata Karpińska’s research, in 1821–1830 Mackrott reported 82 instances of breaking police regulations pertaining to brothel houses. In 41.5 % cases the offence was breaking the ban on selling liquor, 32.9 % pertained to opening after the permitted hour, and 25.6 % to lodging soldiers overnight.135 Karpińska established that in the period in question there were at least 39 licensed houses (between 1821 and 1830 the numbers were as follows: 2, 15, 15, 16, 25, 20, 9, 7, 4, 3),136 and least 22 illegal ones.137 The number of legally registered prostitutes grew: in 1819 it was 148, 192 in 1822, 252 in 1824; in 1825 it was already smaller (215) and decreased to 200 in 1826.138

Supreme authority over prostitution in the capital city was held by the president of the Municipal Office, as the head of the department of police (including medical police). A decree by the Minister of the Interior issued on 31st May 1816, which defined the authority of the president in detail, mentioned “paying heed” to houses of lewd women through “earlier police arrangements on the matter”.139 It is therefore probable that Prussian regulations remained in force. However, after the November Uprising the city lost its control over prostitution. After 1833 the office of the vice-president (after 1839 called the Chief Police Inspector, pol. oberpolicmajester), which was to supervise it as the head of executive police, became fully independent of the president of the city.140

The status of prostitutes living outside of brothels is not entirely clear. According to 19th-century authors “at the time [before 1843 – J.S.-K.], prostitution was ←47 | 48→only tolerated in houses of ill repute and prohibited to women living individually, that is alone,” which was seen as the main reason for the development of covert practices, since “it is understandable [that] having no wish to be in brothel houses, they preferred to engage in harlotry in secret”.141 On the other hand, however, if it is true that the KRSW regulation against covert prostitution issued in 1820 ordered “the unrelenting,” i.e. those who did not wish to abandon their profession, to be registered “for further control, so that they would conform to general regulations on taxation and inspection,”142 some form of legalisation of individual prostitution must have existed. Perhaps in places that did not have any brothels the police was willing to tolerate independent prostitutes in the city.

Licensed brothels probably existed outside of Warsaw as well. For instance, an excerpt from the register of records of the police department of the Committee of the Kalisz Voivodeship (the records themselves have not survived) point to a legal brothel having operated in Kalisz in the second decade of the 19th century.143 The first evidence for medical control of prostitutes in the Kalisz and Lublin Voivodeships also comes from the same period.144

Indication for the authorities’ interest in prostitution may be found in the drafts of police and sanitary regulations detailing the operation of brothel houses, the fight against illegal harlotry and the inspection of prostitutes. In the first three decades of the 19th century alone, at least five such bills were drafted, and two were passed as law. In 1809, a project of organising medical police including a chapter on the organisation of brothel houses was filed at the General Medical Council (established as the academic medical department of the Ministry of the Interior, which supervised the health service in the Duchy of Warsaw since 1809) by doctor Józef Kulpiński, the inspector of the main infirmary in Lublin.145 Further drafts were produced in the period of the Kingdom ←48 | 49→of Poland. Jan Stummer, the chief medical officer of the Polish army, the head of the health department at the Government War Commission (hereinafter: KRW) and a member of the Medical Council (formerly the General Medical Council at the KRSW) in 1821 presented the Warsaw Magistrate with regulations, pertaining in part to medical examination and in part to brothel houses. The office deemed these insufficient and put forward their own proposal (1824), which was nonetheless shelved.146 In 1825 the KRSW and the KRW tasked the mentioned Stummer with “drafting new or tightening and perfecting existing police regulations in the country regarding the prevention of the spread of the venereal disease”.147 Stummer completed this assignment, yet as before, his project was never implemented.

The subject was taken up again during Paskiewicz’s term of office. Late in 1833, a committee of military doctors established by the governor and led by military physician Bazyli Chołodowicz, general of the regular army, developed a project of “regulations on the intended measures towards halting the progress of venereal disease in Warsaw”.148 These only concerned the search for prostitutes suspected of carrying a disease, who were to be hunted by the police and the military. With regard to legal prostitution, it was suggested that the secret police should follow the example of foreign cities in paying more attention to the management of brothels with respect to prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Giedroyć states that these regulations, made slightly more lenient by Paskiewicz, were in force until 1843, even though they were initially regarded as temporary. Their implementation, especially the supervision over hospitals, was safeguarded by “the Committee for the prevention of the spread of contagious diseases”. It was the first of many Warsaw committees aimed at combating sexually transmitted diseases. In the 1860s and 1870s, such institutions also started to appear in other ←49 | 50→cities of the Kingdom of Poland. Paskiewicz appointed the head doctor of the hospitals in the Kingdom of Poland to lead the committee; the other members were a military doctor, an official of the municipal police, and since 1838 also a medical inspector of the city of Warsaw and the head doctor in the hospital of St. Lazarus.149

As far as the scarce source material seems to suggest, what these drafts had in common was the issue of the threat of venereal disease and the pressure exerted by the military on the civil authorities in connection with this problem. The change of focus as compared to the period of Prussian administration was very distinct – this time it was about ensuring frequent control of the prostitutes’ health, as is apparent even from the titles of the legislative acts. All the known authors of the drafts were military doctors, while the regulations from the years 1825 and 1833 were developed directly in connection with the alarming news of the soaring numbers of infected soldiers. In the 1830s, prostitution seemed to influence the general state of health in the army.150 In the spring of 1821 governor Józef Zajączek filed a relevant report by the KRW to the KRSW, which prompted the latter institution to issue a directive declaring the need for organising medical examinations and treatment for prostitutes throughout the country. Similarly, in 1824 and 1825 Zajączek passed the complaints from the KRW regarding the inefficient means of control over women of ill repute.151

The pressure was not eased even at the time of the November Uprising (1830–1831). Early in 1831, the high command of the Polish army demanded that the administration exert more energy in combating illegal prostitution and controlling the health condition of the women.152 In the Kalisz Voivodeship, as women willing to render sexual services were drawn towards military garrisons and camps of enlisted volunteers, the Citizens’ Council of Kalisz became concerned about the combat readiness of their insurgent forces. It therefore appealed to the Voivodeship Commission to apply the existing regulations, demanding that the numbers of women subject to observation and examination be expanded.153 After the failed insurrection, similar problems were reported by commanders of ←50 | 51→the Russian forces stationed in Warsaw and throughout the Kingdom.154 With the Polish army disbanded, they were the main source of pressure upon the authorities, demanding decisive action in terms of regulation and healthcare. In their eyes, the administration was the one to blame for the increase in the percentage of infected soldiers, since it did not prevent illegal prostitution with due diligence. The army was therefore the driving force behind the State’s standard-setting efforts with regard to the conditions under which prostitution was to be tolerated and the repressions pertaining to its illegal aspect.

There is no doubt that the military and the police was interested in prostitution mainly due to its role in the spread of venereal disease. In Europe, the history of sexually transmitted diseases stretches back to the late 15th century, when an epidemic of syphilis broke out among the mercenary armies of Charles VIII that had taken Naples. Returning home, the soldiers spread the disease across the continent.155 Since the very beginning, the illness was associated with prostitutes. As one Warsaw-based doctor from the 1840s put it, harlots were “beings that, so to speak, served as guides for the plague”.156 Venereal diseases had always been perceived as a grave threat, especially given the fact that no differentiation between them existed (the unitarist theory) and until the 1830 any disease attacking the genitals was considered syphilitic in nature.157 Speaking at ←51 | 52→a meeting of the Warsaw Medical Society in 1843, Ludwik Grabowski described the consequences of venereal diseases in terms of “the calamities they bring to humankind” and “advancing ruin”. As he stated, “due to the persistence with which the venereal disease resists eradication, and the disaster it spells for the society, it may be regarded as more harmful than human plagues, even the miasmas”. The disease was said to “debase generations”; Grabowski quoted foreign sources stating that “the very best, the very wealth of nations resting in the youth is perpetually corroded away by the virulent venereal poison”.158

The threat caused by the permanent consequences of venereal diseases that damaged the body and were transmitted to the next generation had long been identified by doctors (though without the note of panic characteristic for the late 19th and early 20th century), who pointed to the need for adequate measures to be taken by the state authorities.159

An increase in the number of patients among the poor and the military was noted in the Kingdom of Poland in the 1820s and 1830s, yet no accurate estimates for the 1st half of the 19th century may be presented due to the lack of sufficient data and the low percentage of patients that were hospitalised. The ←52 | 53→hospital of St. Lazarus in Warsaw, which offered treatment for venereal diseases, admitted more and more patients (1813 in 1833, 2039 in 1837, 2517 in 1838, and 3978 in 1840); in the 1840s it could treat ca. 400 individuals at a time.160 However, the increasing numbers of hospitalised individuals do not necessarily point to a growing percentage of the “syphilitically ill” among the society. It is apparent that the growing numbers correspond to the development of the hospital, the management of medical care, and the actions taken by the police and healthcare to identify infected individuals. The social and professional status of hospitalised women, who constituted 70% of the patients, indicates that they were brought to the institution by force, mainly following police arrest.161 On the other hand, the abovementioned proposed bills and the organisation of inpatient care for people infected with venereal diseases in the 1820s provide clear evidence that the illness evoked a sense of danger. Objectively speaking, the harsh and unsanitary conditions in which the poor lived were conducive to the spread of the disease, as was the work-related migration of people, the development of new forms of production (bringing great numbers of men and women together), and billeting soldiers with private citizens. In the eyes of a contemporaneous doctor specialising in the issue, venereal diseases constituted a genuine epidemiological problem in the 19th century. “The real dread they caused was justified both by their great dissemination and the grave consequences for the body,” especially since “they usually afflicted young people and had a negative impact on the health of the family”.162

The existence of the threat or the awareness thereof does not, however, fully explain the proactive attitude the authorities displayed in creating regulations related to prostitution. Especially in the early 19th century, extending the medical aspects of rules and restrictions appears to have been systemic in nature and stemmed from the State’s involvement in the development of sufficient structures of medical care, as well as from the growing status of medicine, which exerted an ever-larger influence over public opinion and the authorities’ decisions. From the second half of the 18th century onwards, the attitude towards the issue of health represented by European states and societies underwent a breakthrough ←53 | 54→change, resulting in the emergence of the idea of public health preservation encompassing the entire society. Health started to be regarded in terms of state economy and politics. Preventive activities and the treatment of diseases became institutionalised (the emergence of medical universities, hospitals, the positions of official doctors); the principles of the health propagation and preservation movement (the so-called hygenism) were established. The generation of the French Enlightenment contributed to the recognition of every citizen’s right to health, as well as to the formulation of the concept of state responsibility for providing physical welfare.163 The previously existing system of healthcare, based on philanthropy and religious institutions, proved insufficient confronted with the standards set by the elite of the age and the scale of factual medical problems Europe had to face due to the growing urbanisation, migration to cities, the development of industry, and the growth of the working class population and all its negative consequences. The State needed to assume new responsibilities and take long-term action.164 Since the very beginning, protecting citizens from contagious diseases was among the principal tasks of the “medical police”.165

For a time, the poor organisation of medical care allowed doctors to believe that the problem with combating venereal disease lay not in the gaps in knowledge regarding aetiology and treatment, but in the number of doctors and hospitals, as well as in the principles of healthcare. In other words, they saw the situation as resulting from “centuries of neglect”.166 The Europe of the first half of the 19th century was fairly optimistic towards the possibility of eradicating venereal disease.167 The threat was estimated as less serious than in the previous centuries; ←54 | 55→the disease did not take forms as severe as the ones described in earlier periods, while medicine had what was thought to be effective means of treatment.168

Thus, the efforts towards the organisation of sanitation and healthcare in the Kingdom (begun in the Duchy of Warsaw)169 also included a program of combating contagious diseases. The fight with venereal disease was mainly understood as exercising control over prostitution. The most important regulations in the 19th-century Kingdom, introduced in 1843, were the result of expanding art. 15 and 62 of the legislation on civil and medical government in the Kingdom of Poland (1838; ultimately approved on 16/28 April 1840) and working on the reorganisation of police-and-medical services in Warsaw.170 In 1841, Paskiewicz established a new Committee. The Chief Police Inspector in Warsaw, the Principal Healthcare Inspector, the President of the Welfare Council of St. Lazarus Hospital and the Warsaw Civil Governor were tasked with reviewing sanitary and police regulations thitherto used in the Kingdom and familiarising themselves with the regulations in force in other large European cities in order to design effective means of supervising prostitution in Warsaw.171 Therefore, the committee drew not only from the expertise of the Warsaw police accumulated since the times of Prussian administration, but also from the experience of governing bodies in other countries. They may have sent delegates abroad to examine the solutions used there.172 The country that created a highly praised ←55 | 56→system of tolerated prostitution was France. The principles of regulation, set during the rule of the Consulate, were copied and adapted in many different countries.173 Paris not only attracted tourists and newcomers wishing to entertain themselves in brothels, but also held the attention of the police, searching for policy models and solutions for the problem of prostitution.

The reformers from Warsaw could also consult a wide array of academic literary sources on the connection between prostitution and venereal disease.174 The title of the greatest European authority on the subject of prostitution was then held by the French doctor and scholar Alexandre Parent-Duchâtelet, “son théoricien, mais son apôtre, on pourrait presque dire son chantre, le plus prestigieux.”175 The detailed study176 of the socio-anthropological and socio-hygienical aspects of prostitution in Paris, published in 1836, was highly instrumental in the justification of the policy of tolerance towards prostitution in Europe. As a theoretician and practitioner of social hygiene studying the relations between living conditions and illness,177 Parent-Duchâtelet was interested in commercial sex and its influence over the physical health of the society. He was a proponent of isolating prostitutes in brothel houses and subjecting them to rigorous medical control. According to Corbin, he was also motivated by an unconscious fear of the prostitutes’ impact on the destruction of the upper classes’ lifestyle.178

A similar connection, based on conjecture rather than source material, may be identified between the activity of the Committee in Warsaw and similar ←56 | 57→work being done in the early 1840s at the Medical Department of the Ministry of the Interior in St. Petersburg.179 Even if only the 1843 legislation is considered, Warsaw was the first city in the Russian Empire to have introduced separate regulations regarding prostitution. The history of legalised public prostitution in Russia only began in the summer of 1843, with the establishment of the Medical Police Committee in St. Petersburg and the registration of first prostitutes (podnadzornye).180 Regulations for brothel owners in St. Petersburg and Moscow came into force in 1844 (Riga followed as the third, in 1854).181 Laura Bernstein regards the introduction of regulations in Russia as yet another manifestation of the bureaucratisation of public life, so characteristic for Nikolai I’s rule, and an indication of the extraordinary activity and ambition of the Minister of the Interior, Lev Perovski, who was the driving force behind many reforms in the police and medical programmes imitating French models (in this case police des moeurs), and not as a response to real social problems, as it was the case in France or England.182

By the end of 1841, the “police-and-medical regulations for the prevention of venereal disease” were finally ready. In January 1842 they were introduced for a trial period of one year.183 The text of the legislation has not survived, yet it ←57 | 58→could not have been very different from the final version ratified by the viceroy on 18th/30th January 1843.184 They were the culmination of all previous efforts and experience with regard to the normalisation of the sex trade in the Kingdom of Poland.

In principle, the new regulations applied in Warsaw did not differ from the previous ones, combining anti-venereal preventive measures (precluding infection, early-stage detection) with the supervision of prostitutes. The mainstays of the system, i.e. state restrictions over the market, sequestration of prostitutes in brothel houses, compulsory medical examination and hospitalisation of the infected women, were reinforced further by the expansion of rules pertaining to medical surveillance, hospital treatment and registration of prostitutes (the Ordinance had 31 articles, the Regulations included 122). The content of the legislation directly corresponds to its unambiguous name.185 Roughly three quarters of its articles dealt with the medical aspect of regimentation, specifying whom the examination would encompass, who would “perform them and administer treatment, what punishment are set for evading examination and treatment, etc.” The regulations on the functioning of brothel houses (36 in total) also became more specific. Many pertained to combating illegal prostitution. These shall be described in detail in Chapters 2 and 3 of the present work; for the time being it must only be noted that changes which (in hindsight) proved the most significant included allowing prostitutes to ply their trade legally outside of brothel houses. It was, naturally, conditional to official registration. The legalisation of individual prostitution was expected to limit illegal sexual trade; the authorities assumed that some of the women who did not want to surrender themselves to the regime of brothel owners would nonetheless agree to medical and police control. Registration of women rendering paid sexual services on their own account was also instituted in St. Petersburg in 1852, although the initial regulations in ←58 | 59→that city did not provide for any tolerance for prostitution outside of brothel houses.186

Thenceforth, the structures of legal prostitution comprised women hired in brothels of various categories, along with those who were formally independent and plied their trade on their own (“harlots living separately,” Rus. odinochky), hereinafter called independent prostitutes.

Once again, the Regulations sanctioned the profession of a “harlot,” which appeared in alphabetical registers of citizens’ occupations between “teachers” and the category of “unstable lifestyle”.187

The tasks related to supervising prostitution were assigned to various medical, police and military organisations in Warsaw. The highest organ of medical aspect of police authority was the Chief Police Inspector in Warsaw, in charge of the executive police,188 and the Chief Medical Inspector of Healthcare, whose responsibilities included matters of the medical police in the Kingdom.189 They operated through a team190 established for this very purpose at the Medical Office in Warsaw191 and the police and medical institutions subordinate to them. ←59 | 60→The team comprised members chosen by the military governor of Warsaw – the commissioner of police, an assistant and three superintendents – and by the KRSW – two doctors and a secretary for record keeping (art. 48, 121). The commissioner cooperated with the inspector in charge of the Medical Office in Warsaw and attended the meetings of that institution, having the decisive vote in any matters entrusted to it, yet reported directly to the Chief Inspector of Police (art. 48). He was to report any shortcomings in task completion to his superior or to the Chief Medical Inspector of Healthcare.

All key decisions regarding brothels and prostitutes in the capital, such as the opening, relocation or closing of brothels, as well as adding women to the list of licensed prostitutes – had to bear the signature of the Chief Police Inspector. The commissioner was to inform him of each and every unregistered prostitute the apparatus managed to trace.

According to the historian Andrzej Szczypiorski, the Chief Police Inspector’s authority over prostitution “was an instrument of influence, carefully crafted and employed by the police and intelligence to control social mood and the attitudes towards the occupying authorities.”192 This was probably the case. However, police control over prostitution was an element of all 19th-century systems of regimentation based in administrative law. Memoir authors and later historians describing prostitution in Warsaw also blamed the Russian authorities for allowing the trade to flourish in the city, for the freedom it factually enjoyed and, consequently, for the decline of morals among the youth. They saw it as deliberate action aimed at demoralising Poles and distracting them from political matters.193 The police turned a blind eye to violations and was willing to cover them up, if it meant receiving sufficient remuneration from the interested parties. The subject of corruption among the Warsaw police and the practices of using regimentation rules for personal gain was tackled by Wacław Zaleski.194

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The Principal Healthcare Inspector was responsible for the medical aspect of supervision. He received (or ought to receive) a monthly statistic report by the Medical Office in Warsaw regarding the state of research “with added insight on how to improve this branch of service,” as well as an annual analysis of the influence medical service had on the state of venereal disease incidence in the capital (Art. 42). Officials specified in the Regulations met at his office on a quarterly basis to discuss effective measures of implementing the existing laws, introducing new ones and eradicating irregularities.195 As with the Chief Police Inspector, the Healthcare Inspector was to be informed of any identified prostitute and any newly opened brothel house.

The commissioner’s broad spectrum of duties could only be managed with the collective efforts of different organisations, and if the number of prostitutes was relatively small. His competences included controlling – personally, if possible – the licensed brothels, medical examinations (“if possible, assisting inspection”), tracking illicit sex workers (independently of the local police), preventing prostitutes from entering the military camp near Warsaw, ensuring order on the streets after nightfall, arresting vagrant women accosting passers-by, as well as receiving fees from independent prostitutes (art. 48, sections 1–12). The authorities also expected the person who held the office to be proactive in suggesting future measures.

The Medical Office kept the register of prostitutes and other women subject to medical examination, organised and supervised checkups, worked on decisions regarding brothel houses and prostitutes (art. 75), supervised the collection of fees, and extended a kind of care over women in brothel houses, all in cooperation with the police, as well as military and administrative authorities. Controlling the work of doctors and midwives was a task assigned to the Office Inspector. In terms of attitude and organisation, the system was rooted in the 18th century notion of the medical police combining medical objectives with maintaining order.

Other institutions cooperating with the Medical Office were: the Police Bureau, the Office of Servant Control, the Department of Police and Judiciary, the Police Court, the Warsaw Department of Police, district commissioners, city governors, military governors, barracks supervisors, the clerical office of the ←61 | 62→military hospital and the head doctor of the St. Lazarus hospital, as well as the Magistrate (if only to collect money for the budget).

In order to ensure effective control over prostitution and “monitor the extermination of venereal disease,” a system of data circulation and reciprocal control was created. It included reports, notices, statements and proposals.196

The new regulations introduced in Warsaw were soon used as the basis for similar laws for other cities in the Kingdom. The KRSW compiled an excerpt from the Warsaw regulations entitled “Police and medical regulations for the prevention of the spread of venereal disease in the Gubernia seats of the Kingdom of Poland” and composed “An explanation of the principles under which the establishment of public houses could be allowed in Gubernia seats, should such a need be recognised.”197 The Committee, most likely acting upon the request of the governor of Płock “regarding certain rules, or the conditions under which houses of public women could be established in the city of Płock”. In the first half of April 1843 the mentioned documents were sent to city governors, advising the application of the rule in other cities as well, “according to their needs.”

The “supreme direction for this aspect of service” was invariably set by civil governors or the members of the local government designated by them. The activity of the police and doctors was, in turn, directed by municipal authorities. The regulations stipulated quarterly discussions on the matter, held by the senior garrison doctor, the local regiment’s staff doctor, the district doctor, and the chief of medicine at the hospital managing the treatment of the venereally ill. The talks were to be held at the magistrate. It should be remembered that preventive action against sexually transmitted disease was within the competence of Medical Offices.198

Although the 1843 regulations for gubernia seats included two categories of tolerable prostitution, they precluded the simultaneous existence of the two within a single city. It was assumed that “should the magistrate, considering the population of the city, feel compelled to tolerate a certain number of independent women of ill repute,” it may only do so in cities that had no brothel house, be it existing or planned.

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Given the fragmentary nature of the existing records, it is impossible to ascertain whether these regulations were actually implemented, and to what extent. In Piotrków and Łódź for instance, in 1878 (the earliest records) brothel houses operated without any regulations of organisation or control;199 the records in Lublin quoted the 1843 laws even at the beginning of the 20th century.200

On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the local administration did exercise some form of control over prostitution on their own turf, most probably since the 1820s, following the KRSW’s guidelines on the examination and treatment of venerealy ill women.201 From 1841 onwards, the parts of annual reports written to the KRSW by gubernia authorities describing the state of morals in any given area mentioned data on the numbers of public women “known to the police” (which probably means ones engaged in legal prostitution, whether in a brothel or not), while the statement of individuals detained by the police included a section listing women arrested for illicit prostitution. In 1841 the police of the Kingdom of Poland “knew of” 823 prostitutes (chart 1) and detained 4427 illicit ones.

Chart 1. The number of prostitutes in the Kingdom of Poland in 1841 by gubernia (districts with no registered public women were not included)

Gubernia, district Number of prostitutes
Mazovia Gubernia 412
Warsaw city 401
Warsaw district     8
Gostynin district     3
Lublin Gubernia 125
Zamość district   47
Lublin district   30
Hrubieszów district   23
Krasnystaw district   14
Lublin city   11
Podlasie Gubernia   73
Radzymin district   48
Kalwaria district   25
Suwałki city   16
Łomża district   15
Augustów district   13
Kalisz Gubernia   59
Kalisz city   44
Piotrków district   15
Kielce Gubernia   57
Olkusz district   44
Kielce city   10
Miechów district     3
Sandomierz Gubernia   28
Siedlce city   10
Siedlce district     9
Biała Podlaska district     6
Augustów Gubernia   69
Radom district   26
Sandomierz district     2
Płock Gubernia     -
Total   823
Source: AGAD, KRSW, j.a. 6994, k. 328, 386, 437, 481, 592, 668.

Nearly a half of all public women listed in 1841 (401 out of 823) resided in Warsaw. The fact is justifiable given the insurmountable gap in the size and multi-functionality of the city separating the capital from other urban centres in the Kingdom. By the early 1840s Warsaw had already recovered from the loss in population it sustained in the November Uprising and its aftermath; in 1841 the city had over 140 thousand permanent residents202 and tens of thousands seasonal inhabitants, the numbers of whom were steadily growing. The city was also gradually regaining its economic significance and developing in terms of territory and urban structure. The consensus, especially among visitors, was that ←63 | 64→ ←64 | 65→in Paskiewicz’s time the capital exuded an air of frivolity and mirth – “lechery and cards [are] currently the main elements of our capital’s life.”203 The social makeup of the wealthier end of the client base of Warsaw prostitutes probably comprised the increasingly numerous cadre of officials (already partially composed of Russians), the military (40–50 thousand men in the Russian garrison in the capital and its suburbs),204 merchants coming to trade at markets, and landowners (some of them from the western borderlands of the Empire) who spent the winter in the capital. These groups sought to entertain themselves not only by attending theatres, balls and social gatherings, but also by visiting brothels and the residences of “harlots known far and wide in the city.”205 The less affluent could “practice the sins of insobriety and licentiousness, so condemned by the bourgeois morality” in liquor-and-beer gardens, inns,206 and brothels of the lowest category, while the poorest looked for sexual experiences in the streets.

Warsaw attracted prostitutes from the entire region; the proximity of the large urban centre explains the absence of paid women in other districts of the Mazovian Gubernia. A similar concentration of prostitutes in the principal centre of entertainment in a given administrative region was observed in Kalisz (74.5 % prostitutes in the gubernia), which the statistic identifies as the second largest centre of sex trade in the Kingdom. Dubbed “little Warsaw,” Kalisz did not boast any licensed brothel house at the time, but nonetheless had 44 “women known for harlotry” (almost ten times fewer than Warsaw; yet the population of Kalisz in 1841 was more than ten times smaller than the capital’s and amounted to 12 thousand). The location of the city (near the border, on the route connecting Warsaw with the Russian interior), the presence of a garrison and a centre of ←65 | 66→the cloth trade (which had lost some of its importance after the 1820s, yet still attracted workforce from the countryside) meant that Kalisz had a permanent population of women engaging in prostitution.207

In other gubernias, including the one with the seat in Lublin, which was then the second largest city in the Kingdom (over 20 thousand residents in 1841),208 the regional capital did not play such a role, and the number of public women was not directly proportional to the population. What had the most significance was the presence of the army, hence the high concentration in the Lublin Gubernia (88.8 % of the prostitutes in the gubernia were found in the Zamość district where a stronghold was located, and in the Hrubieszów and Lublin districts), the Podlasie Gubernia (the military was constantly stationed in Radzymin) and the Augustów Gubernia (Suwałki). Other important factors included the proximity of large places of employment, a fact which justifies the high score of the Olkusz district (Kielce Gubernia). It would, however, be a mistake to regard the numbers presented in the chart as reflecting the factual scale of prostitution, as the results were also dependent on the diligence of the local police forces. This is clearly apparent in the case of Płock. Given how the governor of Płock was bemoaning the system’s inability to deal with illicit prostitution in 1843,209 the lack of known paid women in the gubernia may only mean that the police failed to register any.

Tolerance for prostitution, inherently implying the lack of any penalisation for the practice, went against the new legal standpoint on the matter professed by the penal code introduced in the Kingdom on 1st January 1848. The Code of Criminal and Corrective Penalties (Kodeks kar głównych i poprawczych; hereinafter KKGP) was an abbreviated version of the Imperial Penal Code of 1845,210 and punished men and women with six months to two years of imprisonment for open harlotry (nepotrebstvo).211 Visiting a woman of ill repute could also ←66 | 67→result in a fine (between one and ten roubles; art. 719), if it was done “in an overt and scandalous manner.”212 In practice, the new legislation brought chaos.213 Following a ministerial intervention (from the departments of internal affairs and justice), tsar Nikolai I agreed to make registered prostitutes exempt from penalties for rendering sexual services. In 1853 the State Council decreed that registered women could not be prosecuted for prostitution alone; following insistent requests to base the legislation solely on administrative regulations, article 715 was removed from the next edition of the code, issued in 1866 (the 1866 version of the code came into force in the Kingdom in 1876 along with the reform of the judiciary, as another stage in the process of Russification in the country214). The matter was also brought up in the drafting of the bill on “justice of the peace” courts, which were to rule on matters not included in the code. The authors of the legislation strived to give the supervision of prostitution some sort of legal form. Thus, the 1864 law regarding “justices of the peace” included article 44, which specified the penalties for the failure to comply with regulations instituted to prevent prostitution and counteract its negative consequences.215

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As before, the legislature used a system of punishment in an attempt to incite prostitutes to report illness. “Debauched women affected with the infectious disease brought about by their way of life (lues venerea), who would not announce this at the very beginning” risked a fine or confinement (for the first instance 10 roubles and 7–21 days in prison; for the second – 30 roubles and three weeks to three months’ imprisonment; for the third – three to six months confinement in a correctional institution). For “transferring” a disease resulting from sexual intercourse, the “culprit” could be sentenced to two months in prison or a pecuniary fine of up to 200 roubles.216

The regulations preventing prostitution and its consequences were more elaborate when compared to the Polish law of 1818. The KKGP instituted much stricter punishment for procuration (art. 726–730) and the facilitation of or enticement to prostitution (art. 716–718).217 It also created an entire hierarchy of associated circumstances (including the role of the victim and the person who took advantage of them) determining the extent of the punishment. The maximum sentence, i.e. deportation to the Tomsk or Tobolsk Gubernia combined with two to three years of confinement,218 was reserved for parents procuring their own children for prostitution and for husbands procuring their wives. A similar punishment (one to two years, and two to four years for individuals subjectable to corporeal punishment) was imposed for the procuration of minors by their teachers or legal guardians (art. 728).

The measures of penalising the procuration of girls from outside of the perpetrator’s family were much less severe. Incidental procurers were subject to a fine of 5 to 10 roubles for their first offence, and to confinement for 3 to 6 months for a repeated offense. “Those who had made the procuration of harlots their trade” were to be punished with a fine (3–10 roubles in cities, 1–3 roubles in the countryside), and 6 to 12 months’ confinement in a correctional institution for a repeated offense.

Thus, the legal protection extended over families rather than over women. In the early legislative codes, practically all sexual offenses were connected with ←68 | 69→the shared interest of the community (as threats to public order and proper conduct), and kept separate from the issue of the rights of an individual and personal injury. The approach did not change until the legislative reform in 1903.219

4. The “necessary evil” and an ideal brothel

Statements clarifying the authorities’ approach to prostitution and its tolerance within the State in the first half of the 19th century are very rare. The only sources historians currently have at their disposal are the legislative acts (enforced and proposed), the few surviving comments in official correspondence and a single article published in medical press. As noted before, contemporaneous policies towards prostitution stemmed from the belief in its instrumental role in the dissemination of dangerous venereal diseases, as well as in the need to protect the health of the people (or rather, the military). The lesson that could be derived from history was that repressions against prostitution had never been successful. What is more, the reformers of the time saw prohibiting prostitution as more dangerous than a policy of tolerance. As the example of other countries indicated, wherever prostitution was delegalised and everyone who plied the trade persecuted or punished, the numbers of paid women grew, while the “morality and the physical health of all the residents in the city [the author was referring to Vienna – J. S.-K.] were in jeopardy”. In contrast, places with an active medical police service – such as Paris – reported a decrease in the incidence of venereal diseases.220 Since the disease could not be contained with medicine alone, if only due to the fact that the infected tended to avoid doctors (out of shame and various superstitions related to venereal disease), prophylactics aimed at reducing the number of infections seemed the most sensible solution. Subjecting prostitutes to supervision and confining them in brothel houses ensured control over the state of their health. It was also hoped that with the legalisation of prostitution illicit sex trade could be curbed or even eradicated completely.

Until the end of the 19th century, the most often quoted argument for allowing brothels to operate legally was that registered houses of ill repute limited or eliminated clandestine prostitution and the diseases that it would inevitably bring. Local officials stated simply that the police were unable to bring prostitutes under control. In Płock, for instance, “aside from the lack of a house of such trade and with the presence of the army, all attempts at clearing the city ←69 | 70→from debauched women proved futile”.221 The governor of Płock, who penned these words in 1843, thought that illegal prostitution would automatically be focused or at least limited by establishing a brothel house, thereby making it easier for the police to perform their assigned tasks.222 Official correspondence dating from the second half of the 19th century contains not only words of justification for the opening of brothels, but even open demands for their presence. In 1870, for instance, following one Szaia Aronwald’s request for permission to establish a brothel in the village of Czarny Dwór (Powązki near Warsaw), chief police inspector Grigoriy Vlasov informed the governor of Warsaw that the existence of such establishments in the communes around Warsaw was “necessary and even beneficial” to effective supervision, due to the garrisoned army and the associated presence of many clandestine houses of prostitution.223 In a confidential note to the Lublin governor, written on 25th June 1895, the staff of the stronghold in Ivanogorod (Dęblin) argued that the presence of such an establishment in the Irena district near the stronghold would be “entirely indispensible, since there are around 7 thousand people in the stronghold, and it would mean constant control and prevent the spread of syphilis. With the closing of public houses, vagrant women engaging in prostitution outside of medical supervision increase in numbers. The number of soldiers suffering from syphilis also grows.” The matter had been dragging at least since 1895. In August 1898 the staff made one further attempt to press the governor for a decision, stating that “such an establishment is necessary for the garrison.”224 Another institution arguing for the establishment of a brothel, this time in Lublin, was a commission set up by the anti-syphilis committee in Lublin. In 1905 it described brothels as “the inevitable evil, a means of prevention for clandestine prostitution which spawns and spreads venereal disease.”225 In 1898 the district doctor in Konin (Kalisz ←70 | 71→Gubernia) explained that, in a city where the number of men exceeded that of women owing to the presence of the garrison, “given the lack of a licensed house [and despite the existence of 9 legally registered prostitutes], the urgent need for sexual contacts has to be satisfied in private (chastnym obrazom),” which in turn gives rise to the dangerous phenomenon of illicit prostitution.226 Throughout the century, similar arguments were also used by the owners (or prospective owners) of brothels. For instance in 1816, when the police intended to close the public houses in Marientsztat, Źródłowa and Garbarska streets in Warsaw, acting in accordance with the 1807 decree of the Minister of the Interior, the proprietors warned the directorate that “people accustomed to visiting such houses, seeking the women they need and failing to find any on the premises, will surely cause trouble and harm, and thereby disturb the order in the mentioned streets”. They also remarked that men would then turn to public women who avoid medical examination, making themselves more vulnerable to disease.227 Ludmiła Klajt, applying for a permission to open a brothel in Puławy in 1895, wrote that the enterprise was to satisfy the needs of the two regiments stationed in the area, and that the command thereof was favourable to the idea, “wishing to curb the progress of debauchery in the local population.”228

As the century drew to a close and the social acceptance for prostitution dwindled, opinions such as the one expressed by the district chief in Chełm in September 1898 were still an exception, especially in official correspondence. The official stated that the brothel in Chełm ought to be closed, as it was “a source of temptation and an open expression of depravity, staining the morality of the people.”229

The policy of legalisation was not tantamount to accepting prostitution as such. The phenomenon was still regarded as evil, from the medical and moral perspective alike. Prostitution was both an indication of demoralisation and a source thereof.

Much can be inferred from KRSW’s reply to the question posed in 1843 by the governor of Płock, who was inquiring about the possibility of opening ←71 | 72→a brothel house in the city. Explaining its policy of tolerance towards prostitution, the Commission proved that it was fully aware of the certain ambiguity and the awkward position in which the authorities found themselves, as well as of their powerlessness to reconcile moral standards with the existing reality: “the Government Commission sees it as necessary to state that the authorities ought to universally strive to eradicate harlotry, which has an indubitably harmful effect on the morality and health of all residents. Preventing it in smaller localities cannot pose as much of an obstacle as in more populous cities such as Warsaw, where this evil has already become something of a social need.” A further passage reads: “Harlotry has doubly harmful consequences: it is conducive to the corruption of morals and gives rise to the calamitous syphilitic disease. Should no possibility of eradicating harlotry exist, pains ought to be taken to at least safeguard good health. Thorough and regular inspections of women lending themselves to harlotry are the only method towards this purpose. It is therefore natural to conclude that, instead of clandestine back-alley harlotry which, as is known, may become the principal cause of disease, it is better to tolerate public houses. Being periodically examined by medical persons, the women staying in these houses do not cause as much alarm in spreading pestilence, which is, besides, never allowed to mature in them, and can therefore cause less harm than among women lending themselves to harlotry in secret.”230 The Commission “sees no counterindication to allowing the establishment of public houses in Płock, since Your Excellency recognises such a necessity and is certain that the founding of a brothel house shall be the downfall of clandestine harlotry, so calamitous in its consequences.” It was, however, added: “The sole condition is that these permits and the entirety of activity related to this aspect of service bear no marks of being a clear authorisation from the Government, as one should act to ensure that, permits notwithstanding, harlotry remains an object of reproach and is regarded as a necessary evil, only tolerated on account of local conditions and considerations, to avert worse disasters.”231 In 1896, a copy of this document and the 1843 ←72 | 73→regulations was sent to the governor of Piotrków, who was then attempting to regulate the matter of prostitution in his region.

The State put itself in open opposition to the accepted ordre moral, yet nonetheless tried to uphold it through the organisation and regimentation of the prostitution market. Tolerance for prostitution was not to be understood as support; “houses of overt harlotry… are to be neither privileged nor obliged, but only suffered, that is tolerated.”232

The opinions on prostitution held by the officials, doctors, military men and brothel proprietors of the day carried an implicit meaning – the belief that men are incapable of maintaining sexual abstinence, or, more precisely, feel a natural, physiological need of satisfying their sexual drive. All parties involved in the correspondence pertaining to concession-granting often invoke the existence of solitary men, such as soldiers, students, workers, as the sole and therefore obvious and understandable argument. The chief of the Puławy district mentions two infantry regiments, three artillery batteries and around 300 students of the Institute of Agriculture and Forestry, concluding that “under such circumstances the presence of a public house in Puławy is necessary.” A brothel house was equally “necessary” in Janów (Lublin Gubernia), as the district had to accommodate “the 9th regiment of Don Cossacks, two battalions of the 70th Infantry Regiment and four border guard units of the Sandomierz Brigade.”233 Regimentation was therefore based on the premise that prostitution was kept in existence by the very nature of male sexuality, which required the continual satisfaction of sexual drives, and could find no legal outlets to this purpose. As many sources throughout the 19th century emphasised, the problem lay in the fact that, due to financial concerns, a certain percentage of men entered matrimony late in life, many years after reaching full sexual maturity. The models of accepted sexual behaviour, different for males and females, and the rigorous standards applied to the sexuality of women – fiancées and wives – limited the freedom of sexual life and pushed it towards extramarital solutions, the easiest of which, at least for men, was prostitution.

This assumption led to acknowledging prostitution as useful. At a meeting of the Warsaw Medical Society, Ludwik Grabowski declared that “the presence [of prostitutes] in populous cities is incontrovertibly a necessity” and “common sense dictates that [they] be tolerated and their health cared for.” “Attention and ←73 | 74→efforts of this kind [i.e. medical and police supervision] are hardly against collective morality, nor do they arouse a stronger drive towards debauchery; since everyday experience indicates that carnality thrives if the hazard of infection is great, and those who are the most familiar with the venereal are often the most lecherous and hardly contribute to containing the disease. Those of the youth that are yet unspoiled by frivolity or beguiling persuasions, upon entering this downward spiral of life, are sometimes saved by the careful monitoring of harlots’ health. There can be no doubt as to how the numbers of harlots can be decreased with such means, after supervision is extended over them, how infanticide and suicide of abandoned children is limited for this reason [emphasis J. S.-K.], indeed, the most sacred sentiments of faith and charity command the caring government to turn its eyes to harlotry and patiently endure it: the very knowledge of the good and bad inclinations of the residents is fundamentally mandatory for the higher officials who hold authority over them. To ensure that venereal disease does not spread in secret throughout larger cities and in places where unmarried men reside in larger numbers, the establishment of so-called public houses is a necessary evil. Even though the need to institute and suffer such venues in cities indicates nothing good about the moral state of the residents, there is no other method to prevent violations, adultery and the spread of the venereal plague: for this reason, such institutions ought to be suffered even in cities of moderate size.”234

←74 | 75→

The aim was not only to protect people from disease, but also to prevent male sexual violence stemming from the inability of satisfying one’s sexual drive by legal means. Following this line of thought, tolerating the presence brothels was a social need.235

The author of the project drafted in 1809 was even more open in expressing his views on the role brothels played in cooling passions, pacifying possible outbursts of male sexual violence and preventing the consequences, medical or otherwise, of extramarital intercourse. He states: “In the cities it is impossible to avoid unmarried women being importuned due to the propensities of youth and the need to fulfil the necessities of nature in the assigned form. Due to many people not being able to marry or support a wife, to prevent all manner of violations of nature and tyranny of mothers who would harm their own offspring, to prevent the debauchery and degradation of women supporting themselves off men, by offering themselves to them for their convenience and giving a bad example to some, and ruining others by depravity, to pay heed to the pestilence spreading through so many families, to so many bad mothers sacrificing their daughters to debauchery, to pay heed to the cunning between married couples, the envy between men, and other immoral vices, it is advisable to combat all these indecent things by designating a venue for wolfery”.236

←75 | 76→

As Grabowski put it, one had no other choice but to “patiently endure the evil which protected from the worse.”237 This approach reflected the views of St. Augustine, who wrote the following: “remove prostitutes from the social order, and lust will destroy it […] Ugly as they are, they occupy their appointed place, leaving better places for better ones.”238 Parent-Duchâtelet’s beliefs regarding the inevitability of prostitution and its benefits proved of utmost importance.239

Since prostitution appeared impossible to eradicate, advocates of regimentation intended to channel male virility into the controlled, safe and isolated environment of brothel houses, which the French started to describe with the term “tolerated houses” (la maison tolérée).240 The State took it upon itself to make male sexuality safe for the client and the society.241 By controlling the hygiene, ←76 | 77→health and behaviour of prostitutes, the “tolerated house” was to ensure that men returned to their families and to the society free of venereal disease.242 In the process, it also hid the immorality and frailty of human nature from the public eye. Prostitution – and thus also pre- and extramarital sexuality – were to be brought under control with police obligations and prohibitions. As noted by the French historian Alain Corbin, regimentation reflected the dream of creating a service institution, controlled and indirectly managed by the State, featuring a “nobilitated prostitute,” who constituted “a rampart of sexual order”.243

An image of a model brothel house, as a site where the sexual aspect of the citizens’ existence was tamed by rational organisation, was presented by Kulpiński in his 1809 draft.244 The prostitutes (or “paramours”) employed by the public house were to form a closed “association” presided over by “a stately and sensible supervisor”. Brothels under government protection ought to be reliable institutions (the proposal to locate them in brick buildings acquires a symbolic meaning), safe and orderly (the government would receive the proprietess’ complaints against ill-behaving clients), and closed to “non-residents” between 10 PM and 5 AM. With regard to prostitutes, “it would be better to choose women that would not bear offspring, but be healthy inside and out, of good height, with plump calves, firm and robust bodies: such ones, having once dedicated themselves to entering this association, shall stay forever and make their living therein”.245 Restrictions were also to be applied to age – for prostitutes the ←77 | 78→minimum was to be 16, and for clients 18 years. As a doctor, Kulpiński did not forget cleanliness (“as it will mean health and distinction for the association), which was to be ensured by baths taken twice a week. As a man and a citizen, he also thought of discretion, designing a system of managing the traffic of clients so that they would never meet one another.

A brothel following this design would function solely to relieve sexual tension, unlike the existing venues, which provided all sorts of entertainment, often communally.

First-class prostitutes were to exist in utter isolation; even if the client expressed such a wish, they could not be “let out into the world at all, save under Government permission, for serious reasons”. Never venturing outside, even in their houses they had to “live most quietly” and modestly, “make no demands of anyone, and maintain the decent ambition that it was not for the business, but for the peace within human society and out of human love that she agreed to serve as a substitute. Moreover, she should not debase herself, but strive to combine pleasure with the courtesy of an enlightened woman”.246 In their free time, these aesthetically pleasing, quiet priestesses of erotic love could occupy themselves with knitting, singing, playing instruments, studying, or even charity (Kulpiński proposed that they organise theatre plays – naturally only staging morally appropriate works and only for women – and donate all the revenue to support orphans and hospitals).

The protection against venereal diseases was to be managed by a surgeon “advanced in years,” who would examine the women twice a week and also inform them of the symptoms of disease and “how they are to beware of the venereal weakness and attacks of the venereal” in situations where an infected client, despite the “courteous yet sensible” remarks, would still demand physical contact from a prostitute. In order to avoid such coercion, the author of the project proposed that the porter letting clients into the house (trained to recognise the symptoms of disease) direct the ill ones to “venereal paramours”.

Prostitution concentrated and concealed in brothels was therefore a means of protecting the society from disease, violence and unrest (Kulpiński portrays prostitutes as martyrs for the cause of safety and peace), from the moral decay that the sight of prostitutes could bring, and also from disorder in the literal sense, i.e. inconvenience and the crime usually associated with it (the system ←78 | 79→of tolerance towards prostitution allowed for the penalisation of transgressions against the social order).

The idea of rational organisation of all aspects of social life, accomplished through numerous obligations and prohibitions, stemmed from the Enlightenment philosophy of rule, in which the State took on many duties (carried out by the police etc.) and entered far within the realm of the citizens’ private life, at least in terms of thought and responsibility. In this sense, it may be argued that the regimentation of prostitution in the 19th century originated from the rational philosophy of the Enlightenment.247

The regulation of prostitution was justified with the concepts of the necessary evil – the lesser, tolerated one. As a Russian official in Płock put it, it was “a necessary evil, but muzzled.”248

5. The system of supervising prostitution in the 2nd half of the 19th century – medical-and-police committees in gubernias and districts

The 2nd half of the 19th century marked the beginning of the process of institutionalising the supervision of prostitution in the Kingdom of Poland through the so-called medical-and-police committees. They were also known as “anti-syphilitic” committees, and the latter denomination reflects the purpose for their establishment more accurately. Control over prostitution and the risk of venereal infections, thitherto exercised by the police and medical offices, was handed over to special teams composed of the highest officials in a given region (the governor, the president, the mayor, the chief of police), doctors and representatives of the military. Its principal (and for a long time the only) task was to protect the army from sexually transmitted disease. In the Warsaw Military District, comprising over 53 thousand soldiers in 1851, in every thousand infirm men there were 120.6 “syphilitics” – a percentage that was the third largest in ←79 | 80→the Russian army and led to considerable expenses for medical treatment.249 In the final two decades of the 19th century, as the population and economy in several urban centres in the Kingdom (and Russia) grew at a dynamic speed, the attention of the authorities also turned to the dire health problems among their inhabitants.

In the course of two years, between March 1861 and May 1863,250 the viceroy of the Kingdom and the KRSW issued several directives regarding the prevention of venereal diseases and the supervision of prostitution.251 On 25th March 1861, the commander in chief of the former 1st Army ordered medical-and-police committees to be established “for troops stationed in Poland” in all seats of gubernias and districts, as well as in cities accommodating independent military units which included a staff doctor. The committees were tasked with supervising activity aimed at preventing the spread of venereal diseases.252 The KRSW initially (rescript dated 8th/20th April 1861) obliged medical offices to take care of protecting the still growing army. The offices were expanded to include a delegate from the army, a military doctor and an officer. In district seats similar duties were imposed on district chiefs, to be assisted by district doctors and representatives of the military.253 The degree of control representatives of the military had over the actions of civil administration, and the extent of cooperation between the two increased greatly in the entire country. The following year (rescripts dated 15th/27th January and 5th/17th February 1862), the Commission instructed governors to be swift in establishing committees for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and supervising the search for and the examination of “lewd women”. These organs were to be founded wherever government doctors resided and wherever military units were billeted (the examination was to be done by military doctors).254 City committees were subordinate to district ones, while the latter answered to gubernia committees.

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The committees established in the early 1860s were associated with medical offices.255 In 1866 the law on gubernia and district management in the Kingdom of Poland dissolved medical offices, whose competences were taken over by medical departments newly established within the gubernia authorities.256 Along with the KRSW, the Russian lawgivers dissolved (1867) the central medical authorities in the Kingdom: the Medical Council, the office of the Principal Healthcare Inspector, the Medical Department. Thenceforth, healthcare in Polish territory was administered by the Medical Department of the Ministry of the Interior in St. Petersburg.257 The supervision of prostitution was based on Russian legislation, the most important of which was the circular no. 39 issued by the Ministry of the Interior on 28th October 1851,258 which assigned governors in Russia responsibility for the registration, examination and treatment of prostitutes. Towns and cities were to compile “accurate and comprehensive” lists of public women (i.e. those who made prostitution their trade). Each change in their residence had to be reported, and the police of the locality to which a given prostitute travelled needed to be notified of the fact.259 The police was also responsible for ensuring that public women showed up for their scheduled examinations. These regulations had already been introduced in the Kingdom (by the 1843 regulations and earlier directives).

The earliest records of establishing committees come from May and October 1861 and pertain to the Włocławek district in the Warsaw Gubernia. “The committee for preventing the spread of the syphilitic affliction,” tasked mainly with ensuring the health of the soldiers of the Nizhnii Novgorod Infantry Regiment, convened for the first time in January 1862.260 Early in 1862 the chief of the Gostynin district issued instructions regarding the search for “indecent persons,” ←81 | 82→their supervision and examination (e.g. registering them and distributing medical record books). He ordered mayors of cities with military garrisons to establish medical-and-police committees, and instructed vogts to monitor women suspected of prostitution and to send them in for medical examination.261 Records dated to after 1866, when the duties of the Warsaw Medical Office were taken over by the Medical Department at the Gubernia Authorities of Warsaw, do not contain much information regarding the supervision of prostitutes in the gubernia (excluding Warsaw). Since at least 1868 until the mid-1850s, the Department compiled an annual libellus of records pertaining to “the examination of public women,” yet the only surviving documents are the registers of deeds in which these libelli are mentioned.262 A new label for the documents (“on the activity of medical-and-police committees”) appeared in 1892, which may suggest that the committees had reassumed their duties after a period of inactivity. Be that as it may, all surviving records come from the Włocławek district (quarterly reports of the committee for the years 1901 and 1907–1909) and the Gostynin district (a single quarter in 1901).263 It is possible that only these administrative regions had any organised supervision of prostitution, although sources indicate the presence of public women in other districts as well.

The 1897 report on health status in the Warsaw Gubernia reveals that the administrative region (excluding Warsaw) had 338 public women: 68 employed in four brothels (2 in the Warsaw district, and one in Łowicz and Pułtusk), 52 detained individuals suspected of prostitution (the majority, i.e. 11, were reported in the Grójec district) and 218 independent prostitutes (odinochki). This last category was the most numerous in the Włocławek district (59), in the Pułtusk and Kutno districts (26 in each), and in the Gostynin district (20). The remaining districts each listed several.264 Units stationed in the Warsaw Gubernia included divisions and regiments of the 5th and 15th Corps of the Russian Imperial Army of the Warsaw Military District. The highest concentration of troops (outside of ←82 | 83→Warsaw) was found in Włocławek, which explains both the scale of prostitution and the authorities’ efforts to control it.265

In the 1860s, after the reform of the gubernia authorities was introduced, the supervision of prostitution was also organised in the Suwałki and Kielce districts. In Suwałki the task was assigned to the Governor’s Office in 1867. The committee266 began its work in 1868 by requesting to gather information on the incidence scale of venereal diseases, the reasons behind their spread among the military, army deployment and the extent of prostitution in the gubernia. Not waiting for the data, which were probably never acquired, it set the frequency for the examination of public women (which had, incidentally, been conducted since at least the 1840s), appointed the doctors to be responsible for them and forbade prostitutes to move away from their places of residence without the consent of the relevant authorities (similar regulations were made in the Augustów district).267 The activity of the gubernia committee is evidenced by records from the 1870s,268 while the only documentation on the district committees (or the supervision as such) is dated to 1886, 1887, and 1896,269 and pertains to the Kalwaria district,270 the Augustów district, the Suwałki district, the Wołkowysk district and the Władysławów district.271

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In 1867 a Medical-and-Police Committee was also established in Kielce,272 and in 1868 in all district of the Kielce Gubernia except for Włoszczowa. They ceased their activity after just two years (with the exception of the Stopnica and Olkusz districts), yet the periodical examinations continued. In 1871, when an increase in the number of infected soldiers was reported in the region, the governor instructed the staff officer for special purposes to analyse the preventive measures that had been used. The committees were revived and continued to operate throughout the 1880s and probably in later decades as well.273

In the Kalisz Gubernia (reestablished in 1866), the medical-and-police committees were presumably inaugurated in 1876, following an intervention by the commander of the 5th Hussar Regiment, who was concerned with the growing incidence of syphilis among soldiers. In a letter to the governor dated to 4th December 1875, he invoked the fact that such committees existed “almost everywhere” and inquired after the possibility of organising a similar institution to manage the medical examination of public women, the evaluation of sanitary conditions and the administration of adequate countermeasures in Kalisz and the entire gubernia. The addressee of the letter immediately responded by ordering the establishment of committees in all towns with a garrison. Within the month of December, such institutions were created in Kalisz, Warta (the Turek district), where the 10th Horse Artillery Battery was stationed, and Opatówek (the Kalisz district).274 The committees in Wieluń, in Wierumowo and Praszka, in Konin (where the 5th Kargopol Dragoon Regiment was stationed), and in Koło (the Koło district) started to operate in January 1867.275 The earliest data regarding the committee in the Łęczyca district come from the 1890s (Łęczyca 1895, Ozorków 1896). The members of the committees in the Kalisz Gubernia also included representatives of the municipal community.

The largest amount of documentation from anti-syphilitic committees comes from the Lublin Gubernia. At least in some of its towns, such institutions existed the very earliest since the 1870s.276 Regular reports from Lublin, Puławy (named ←84 | 85→Novoalexandrovsk at the time), Janów and Krasnystaw are only available for the year 1886 and onwards; the data from other districts comes from an even later period.277 District committees were not always the lowest link in the system. If the army was stationed in smaller towns or villages, the task of regular medical inspection of prostitutes and reporting its results fell to local commune authorities. Examples in the Lublin Gubernia include the Irena district near the Citadel in Dęblin (Ivanogorod at the time) and Opole in the Puławy district.

The frequency of committee278 meetings varied, but was usually relatively regular: weekly for district institutions and bimonthly for gubernia ones. The formal aim for their operation, emphasised by their names (e.g. the district anti-syphilitic committee for adopting medical-and-police measures to combat venereal disease) was to monitor the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, yet some institutions on the lower levels were also responsible for organising medical examinations.279

The plan of activities for any given year was decided by the gubernia committee on the basis of the data sent by district committees (regarding the number of prostitutes, examination results and the number of the infected). Its directives, usually limited to increasing the frequency of examinations or organising round-ups to apprehend prostitutes, were then conveyed by governors to district chiefs and chiefs of police, who in turn recounted them to the land guards and vogts.

Prostitution was supervised in all districts of the Lublin Gubernia, which was related to the fact that military units were spread rather evenly throughout the region.280 However, the report by the military commission established to evaluate this activity, the in 1899 the organisation of relevant procedures varied in quality.281 Medical-and-police committees operated only in the Janów district ←85 | 86→(Janów, Kraśnik) and the Zamość district (Zamość, Szczebrzeszyn). The authorities there saw it as advisable to create committees in two other settlements (Urorzędów, Zaklikowo), in the village of Zakrzówek in the Janów district (where a sugar refinery was located), as well as in Frampol and Krasnobród in the Zamość district. In the districts of Hrubieszów, Tomaszów, and Krasnystaw the medical examination was managed by municipal and communal sanitary committees, i.e. institutions dealing with matters of order and hygiene (such as cleaning the streets, managing cemeteries and sanitation). In Krasnystaw, the sanitary committee kept a register of prostitutes; under its authority, women suspected of prostitution were detained and “examined thoroughly”. No medical-and-police committee existed in the Chełmsk district at the time. The district chief decided that it was sufficient to have prostitutes regularly examined by the municipal and military doctor.

The district that received the highest evaluation for the supervision of its prostitutes was Puławy, where the land guards constantly followed clandestine prostitutes and observed military quarters, following instructions issued by the district chief. The authorities in the Biłgoraj district, in turn, exercised no control, although the investigation of the commission prompted them to recognise the necessity to establish a committee in Biłgoraj and three other places: Tarnogród, Kreszów and Czozirów.

A meeting of Russian syphilologists, who convened in St. Petersburg in January 1897, served as a source of inspiration. That year, on instruction by the Ministry of the Interior, the governor of Lublin established a special team to lay down principles for preventing syphilis and supervising prostitution in the gubernia.282 The Ministry, however, never evaluated the results of their work.283 In 1899, the gubernia authorities received detailed information on the state of the system of regimentation in the gubernia, sent by the committee founded to gather this data. The governor then chose not to wait for the Ministry’s reply, and provided district chiefs with his executive directives pertaining to the organisation of ←86 | 87→medical checkups and the elimination of clandestine prostitution.284 The introduction of a new initiative, a new project and new executive directives did not mean changes in the policy or even new methods of work. The same instructions were repeated over and over, as if introduced for the first time. Does this indicate that the office was in a state of disorder and earlier documentation could not be accessed, or that the matter was utterly neglected and the instructions coming from higher authorities were simply responded to in a routine manner? In the latter case, the records may have only been kept to create a false impression of exercising supervision. One is particularly inclined to make such an assumption if identical reports keep appearing over a long period of time.

In the Piotrków Gubernia, which was the most industrialised in the Kingdom, the level of control over prostitution was low. The only exception was Częstochowa, where a relevant committee operated at least since 1878. The institution adapted the directive of the Ministry of the Interior dated to 24th November 1877 (regarding the tightening and the extension of groups subjected to medical inspection) to fit local circumstances, and presented models for documentation used in the supervision process.285

The earliest information on the organised control of prostitution in Piotrków (the seat of the gubernia) and Łódź (a large industrial centre) only come from 1890. It reveals that in 1891 the independent prostitutes of Piotrków (the register comprised 15 names) were supervised by the Medical-and Police Committee led by the president, while all others, i.e. “brothel-based” (in 1891 the city had one public house) and the so-called “itinerant” prostitutes who stayed in hotels fell under the authority of the chief of police.286 In 1893 the committee submitted a project to the governor, suggesting that the supervision of all public women should be centralised under the office of the chief of police, and that prostitutes should be issued medical record books (which would mean tolerating newcomers and allowing them to stay in the city for longer periods). In 1895 the project was still waiting to be accepted, even though the matter had already become urgent due to the noticeable rise of illegal prostitution and the incidence of venereal diseases among civilians and the soldiers of the 28th Infantry Regiment. In the course of less than ten months, 40 cases of syphilis were reported in the army, ←87 | 88→and 8 among women not included on the list of tolerated prostitutes, but plied the trade.287

In Łódź the supervision of prostitution was organised very late. Until 1894 a small degree of control was exercised by the magistrate.288 In 1890 a preliminary register of prostitutes was compiled and the so-called black books were issued.289 In 1894, when the structure of police authorities in the city was reorganised, the management of prostitutes was handed over to the investigative division of the police, led by the medical police inspector. In 1896 the chief of police in Łódź prepared a set of instructions for brothel houses which granted the police absolute authority over prostitution in the city. The governor did not approve the project, invoking the 1843 regulations, according to which such authority should belong to magistrates only.290

As before, the most elaborate (and the best-functioning) system of supervising prostitution existed in Warsaw. Since 1843 it remained in the hands of a police inspector at the Medical Office of Warsaw, subordinate to the local chief of police. Despite that, illegal prostitution still flourished, and the number of patients in hospitals treating syphilis and other venereal diseases continued to grow. Attempts to improve the system had been in the making since the early 1860s. In July 1862 the matter was discussed in the capital by members of the Warsaw Medical Society. The doctors agreed that, given the rapid growth in the scale of prostitution in the city, the 1843 regulations no longer constituted an effective countermeasure to clandestine harlotry.291 They criticised the leniency granted to prostitutes in Warsaw, who manifestly waited for customers in cafés and other venues in the city centre. In strictly medical terms, their concern was aroused by the insufficient help provided to the least affluent patients. They expressed the need to arrange ambulatories in hospitals that would offer medical assistance free of charge. Concluding their discussion, the Society appointed a seven-person team to analyse the matter. Its members included such prominent ←88 | 89→doctors and philanthropists as Stanisław Janikowski and Henryk Natanson, yet the results of their work remain unknown.

Field marshal Fyodor Berg, appointed as the viceroy of the Kingdom of Poland in August 1863 also saw the 1843 regulations as unsatisfactory. He criticised the legislation for being one-sided and overly focused on medical supervision while neglecting police regulations which would facilitate the effective prevention of clandestine prostitution.292 Thus, in 1864 he established a “new committee” of doctors and military officers led by the chief of police. They were to review the relevant regulations written since 1843 and draft new ones. The aim was to provide the police with prerogatives that would allow it to take complete control over prostitution in Warsaw. The solutions they prepared won Berg’s approval. In February 1867 the viceroy created a Medical-and-Police Committee at the Office of the Chief Police Inspector in Warsaw – the new authority that was to govern prostitution in the capital until the end of the partition period. The committee took over the competences of the inspector at the Medical Office of the city of Warsaw, the dissolved Medical Office and the Principal Medical Inspector.

In 1868 sent the new regulations on the organisation of prostitution surveillance to St. Petersburg for review. Pressured by the chief police inspector, he did not wait for the reply, but introduced “good and advantageous” regulations modelled after the ones enforced in St. Petersburg, Moscow and all large cities in Europe.293 St. Petersburg expressed some reservations regarding the proposal to collect fees from public women and brothel houses and transfer the money to the municipal budget (and not, as before, to the treasury). Even the right to collect financial penalties for transgressions committed by proprietors and prostitutes (the project presented a system of judicial and police penalties imposed by the Medical-and-Police committees) was contested; the Ministry of the Interior decided to consult it with the Ministry of Justice and the Second Section of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Chancellery, which reviewed legislation proposals. In the spring of 1873 Berg received the instruction to use only the existing regulations until the final decision was reached. While the Committee was accepted as the temporary Medical-and-Police authority; the Ministry ordered it to stop collecting fees from public women and houses, as filling the municipal or national treasury in such a manner was deemed “inelegant”.294 On 25th May 1873 ←89 | 90→the Ministry of the Interior accepted the project of operation for the Warsaw Medical-and-Police Committee.295

Instructions by the General Governor of Warsaw defining the duties of all Committee officials and the supporting police and medical officers were published in June 1874.296 The rules for the operation of brothel houses were set; the only existing version, dated to 1878, is a copy sent to the governor in Piotrków.297 Such were the circumstances in which the Regulations of 1843 were changed.

By associating the Committee with the Office of the Chief Police Inspector, the new regulations placed matters of prostitution entirely in the hands of the police. The inspector in charge of the Committee was to be aided by three officials – two assistants responsible for the work of the medical and police units, each in his appointed part of the city, and a field official who, assisted by Cossack troops, was to make daily patrols outside the city (up to ten versts 10.7 km, outside the boundaries) in search of places of illegal prostitution and women rendering such services.298

Control over illegal prostitution, the invigilation of procurers and women suspected of sex work, the registration and de-registration of prostitutes (discussed in further sections of the present work) was in the hands of nine supervisors – full-time employees of the Committee operating within a specified territory. Their assistants at the lowest level were officers of the Warsaw police – district commissioners (uchastkovyy pristav) and senior block officers (starchiy okolotochnyy nadziratel’), who monitored prostitution in their area. The other full-time employees of the Committee were: a secretary, two clerks, five doctors, one midwife and two equestrian guards.299 Thus, the commissioner had a staff of twenty-three full-time Committee employees, and could call upon ←90 | 91→the assistance of police forces. He also used information provided by building caretakers and managers, and the medical expertise of the municipal healthcare services (doctors and midwifes). The entire process was overseen by the Chief Police Inspector of Warsaw. The Warsaw Medical-and-Police Committee had a very substantial budget – in 1873 it amounted to 17 790 roubles,300 and in 1909 to 18 300 roubles. 10 972 of the latter sum came from the magistrate, while the remaining 7 408 were added from the treasury. The only city in Russia with larger financial means to control prostitution was St. Petersburg (24 000 roubles; Moscow had 10 255 roubles). The costs of the supervision in other Polish cities were lower.301

The 1843 Regulations emphasised the organisation of medical supervision and defined the rules within which public houses were to function. The 1874 instructions, in turn, pertained mainly to methods of monitoring and registering women suspected of rendering sexual services for a fee. The brothels in the capital city continued to operate unimpeded, yet the legalisation of prostitution outside public houses, introduced in 1843, led to a rapid growth in the number of “tolerated women” who plied their trade independently (in reality they were mired in networks of ties with various intermediaries). The new structure of organisation forms and the development of prostitution associated with the territorial, economic and demographic growth of Warsaw meant that the authorities found themselves in a truly difficult position. Committee supervisors were granted much freedom in apprehending women suspected of prostitution. Wishing to make independent prostitutes easier to monitor and focus their activity in specific places, as early as in 1868 the Committee introduced “meeting houses”. While not much different from brothels (the issue shall be discussed in Chapter 3), they did not evoke equally negative associations, so initially many women agreed to this solution.

The Medical-and-Police Committee continued to use the 1843 and 1874 legislation until the end of the century. Nevertheless, it was still considered inadequate as a measure to curb prostitution. What is more, the last quarter of the century brought changes in the mentality regarding social relations, a tendency towards providing a reliable guarantee for the rights of individuals. These trends ←91 | 92→(also related to the legal status of prostitution) reached the Kingdom of Poland, partially owing to the movement against the regimentation of prostitution present in Europe since the 1870s. Even more significantly, they found support among the liberal lawyers of Russia. The system of regimentation reflecting the need to govern all aspects of life regarded as conducive to anarchy was oppressive towards prostitutes or, more precisely, towards all women of lower classes who encountered difficulties in stabilising their life situation and acted in a chaotic manner. They were permanently at risk of police invigilation and arrest as potential prostitutes. The regulations gave police the right to pass moral judgment on their conduct, and no malpractice on their part could lead to disciplinary action. However, whether such malpractice occurred can be inferred rather than proven. In contrast with, for instance, the French papers, which reported any mistakes made by the vice police (Yves Guyot’s articles),302 the Polish press, muzzled by the foreign authorities administering Poland, could not play such a role.

The price to be paid for the tolerance of prostitution was weakening the legal standing of women engaging in sex trade, and handing them over (along with those suspected of prostitution) to the sole jurisdiction of the police-medical regime.303 In matters defined by administrative regulations on prostitution, such women were subject to administrative procedures without the need of a court ruling, and to revocation of certain civil rights (their passports were taken away; their freedom of movement and residence were limited).304 Such arbitrary police jurisdiction, leaving much room for abuse, began to be criticised in Europe even by proponents of regimentation hailing from medical and judicial circles. They strove to base the regulations on proper legal grounds.305 Moreover, as noted by Engelstein, some Russian lawyers working towards the liberalisation of the law in the Empire spoke against the arbitrariness of regulations regarding the registration of women as prostitutes, proposing to introduce judiciary supervision over police authority. This criticism led to the introduction of certain methods of limiting the abuse of the existing regulations that would not undermine the legislation as such. In 1892 the Senate decided that article 44 of the law on justices of ←92 | 93→the peace pertained not only to registered prostitutes, and that women engaging in illegal prostitution not included on the list should also be brought to these courts.306 Although administrative regulations prescribed caution in registering women of dubious morals onto the lists of prostitutes, the voice of the Senate held greater gravitas.

Changes which may be regarded as softening the system of supervision occurred gradually and for a variety of causes. In October 1888, the Chief Inspector of Police in Warsaw decreed that independent prostitutes could keep their passports provided they were undergoing regular examinations. The supervision over them was thenceforth dubbed “secret,” in contrast with the “overt” monitoring of prostitutes who had their passports confiscated, i.e. those working in brothel houses.307 The principal aim was to encourage women to attend medical check-ups; if they proved disciplined, other limitations were lifted.

A tendency to improve the situation of prostitutes are evident in the new circular regulating prostitution, published on 8th/21st October 1903. It was the first such document to include the entire territory of the Russian Empire.308 Polozhenie ob organizatsii gorodskoy prostitutsii v Imperii drafted by the Medical Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs obliged the authorities to, first and foremost, organise an agency to supervise prostitution. Thus the Ministry decidedly chose to maintain and develop regimentation; in the early years of the 20th century this was no longer obvious, even to the officials responsible for fighting venereal diseases, and even in Russia. The 1903 regulations, whose declared main aim was to protect the populace from the infection with syphilis and venereal diseases, consisted of 66 articles grouped in the following sections: 1) on institutions supervising urban prostitution (22 articles), 2) for prostitutes (11 ←93 | 94→articles), 3) for administrators of the houses of prostitution (28 articles), 4) for persons maintaining supervised places of prostitution (5 articles). Regulations concerning the services of independent prostitutes, as well as regulations concerning venues other than the houses of prostitution where paid sexual services were on offer, were a novelty, at least in the Kingdom of Poland. The creators of these regulations, wishing to extend medical assistance to as many prostitutes as possible, were trying to stay abreast of the changing market. In Warsaw, a project of changes in the organisation of relevant medical and police supervision in the capital was sent to the Medical Department by the general-governor as early as in 1901; the project included the prerogatives of the Medical-and-Police Committee to issue permits to establish apartments with a few prostitutes and to visit prostitutes.309

First and foremost, however, the 1903 regulations decreed that consent of the woman herself, expressed in writing, was required to submit an illegal prostitute to supervision. In case of a refusal, a clandestine prostitute stood trial according to Art. 44, which was included in the new Penal Code, dated 1903 (introduced a few years later), as Art. 528.310 When candidates for employment in a tolerated house had parents, guardians, husbands (whose place of abode was known), the women could be submitted to supervision only with the knowledge of those persons. All substantial decisions were to be taken collectively by the committees. In 1901, under the pressure of the society’s opposition to the women trafficking, age restrictions for the registration as a prostitute (18 years for independent ones, 21 for those employed at the houses of prostitution) with criminal liability were introduced by the Ministry of the Interior (the 1903 Code). Also, the overt supervision (which pertained to prostitutes employed at the houses ←94 | 95→of prostitution and meant non-issuance of their passports) and covert supervision (which meant that the women were issued passports and could move freely within the state borders) were introduced in the entire Russian Empire. Certain preventive measures were introduced for the first time, as the committees were advised to cooperate with the organisations fighting to lay some boundaries to the very phenomenon of prostitution.

The 1903 circular introduced two models of regulating prostitution, leaving the choice to the local authorities: either having one central agency (the Medical-and-Police Committee, that is, in reality, the police), or dividing the tasks between the municipal sanitary agencies (medical supervision) and police committees (responsibility for the prostitutes’ attendance at medical examinations). Information collected in 1909 demonstrated that other models were employed as well: in four cities in Russia prostitution was supervised by municipal committees. Also, in some cities separate supervisory organs were not established, and the relevant tasks were fulfilled by the police (the police inspector, police commissioner and their assistants) based on general laws.311 Five of those cities, as stated in a brochure issued by the Ministry of the Interior, were in the Kingdom of Poland, namely Kielce, Piotrków, Płock, Siedlce and Łódź. In the remaining cities of the Kingdom, medical-and-police committees were established (or perhaps, more accurately, re-organised), whose membership and tasks were effectively the same as in the Kingdom’s already-existing committees.

With regard to prostitution, Warsaw remained one of only seven cities in Russia (the others being Riga, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinoslav, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Orenburg) to have extensive supervisory institutions that operated on the basis of special regulations issued at an earlier date and only adjusted to conform with the normative regulations of 1903.312

Existing data illustrate the process of establishing a supervisory body in Suwałki in keeping with the 1903 circular.313 The person responsible was Deputy Governor Count Boris Borkh, the chairman of the earlier Medical-and-Police ←95 | 96→Committee. The Commission was instituted in November 1903 and a month later it presented “A project for the organisation of prostitution control in Suwałki,” the relevant institution being again the Medical-and-Police Committee.314 The regulations were ready in the autumn of 1904 and were printed before the end of the year (A project for the organisation of prostitution control in Suwałki);315 this was unusually fast with compared with other cities of the Kingdom. In Lublin, a committee conforming to the 1903 circular was set up in 1905316 and was headed by the city’s president, not the governor as was the case elsewhere. The members of the committee were the same as in the preceding one.317 The Kielce Gubernia presented a relevant project only in 1911.318

The Gubernia Medical-and-Police Committee in Suwałki consisted of members of the regional administration (with the deputy governor as its chairman), the municipal administration (with an official delegated by the Suwałki police inspector as an acting officer; his duties were regulated by a special instruction), the state health service (the gubernia medical inspector, municipal and district medical officers, head doctor of the St. Peter and Paul hospital), and the army (a delegate and a military doctor).319 The important decisions were taken collectively by a general meeting of the committee, the other decisions by the chairman. Committees in Radom, Kalisz and Łomża had similar members, as per the circular.

The competencies of the Suwałki committee (and any other one) included all the issues pertaining to prostitution in the town itself and in its vicinity. It was ←96 | 97→responsible for the task of legalising clandestine prostitution (point 8a), which included the invigilation (by local policemen) of prostitutes, owners of clandestine houses of prostitution, pimps and supporters of clandestine prostitution. It held the ultimate authority over tolerated prostitution: it issued concessions and took the most important decisions (i.e. entering and removing prostitutes from the register).320 One more task of the committee was medical supervision. The police was obliged to inform the committee on the reasons for a prostitute’s non-attendance at a medical examination, deliver certificates and medical vouchers to prostitutes, and institute measures to protect the property of prostitutes currently in medical care.

The Medical-and-Police Committee in Suwałki became the model for similar committees in district towns. In the Augustów district, where the scale of legal and clandestine prostitution was one of the largest in the gubernia, the plan of the supervision was ready in October 1905.321 In the Wołków district, where previously prostitutes had been examined by a district medical officer, the newly instituted committee (i.e. the chief of the district, the chief of the district land guard, the Werzdałowo medical officer and the medical officer of the border guard) noted the fact that the town of Werzdałowo and the village of Kibarty had a large migrant population and a border-guard brigade was stationed there.322

The introduction of the Russian regulation in the year 1903 crowned, in a sense, the Medical Department’s efforts with regard to preventing venereal ←97 | 98→diseases and prostitution. From the late 1870s onwards, the relevant involvement of the authorities increased in the entire Europe. This involvement resulted from similar motives as in the first half of the 19th century, but the scale of the problem was larger. The increase in the numbers of venereal patients and the scale of prostitution seemed frightening. New views regarding hereditary syphilis were becoming widespread, and a new wave of interest in public health resulted in the development of various hygienic organisations. Criticism levelled at regimentation for ethical and legal reasons completed the picture. At the same time, regimentation (which by then had functioned for a few decades) provided know-how, while the research of scholars who had studied this problem and the data collected by the committees, the hospitals and the police provided increasingly objective (or at least so it was believed) tools for the assessment of the regimentation system. An analysis of the Ministry of the Interior documentation held in St. Petersburg shows that – contrary to the public discourse regarding regimentation, in which the government was unequivocally presented as an ardent defender of the system (more on this topic in Chapter 4) – the official views evolved and the existing solutions evoked very little enthusiasm. The opinions of the abolitionists were being listened to and the writings of medical authorities from the entire Europe, as well as the views and arguments of Russian medics and lawyers, were being analysed. The latter had been presented at, among others, the first conference of venereologist to take place in Russia (Conference on preventive measures against venereal diseases, 1897)323 and the Conference regarding the fight against trafficking in women (1910).324 The Ministry employed administrative channels to collect data on the functioning of relevant supervisory bodies in the entire Empire (1901 and 1909). The conclusions seemed clear: prostitution in the cities (especially industrial towns and ports) continued to increase rapidly, the incidence of syphilis increased in both the urban and rural population, including the army (which grew all the more important as the international situation deteriorated) and the schools, and the supervision, if it existed at all, was assessed as ineffective.325 In 1910 the Ministry of the Interior invited ←98 | 99→the representatives of the Ministries of Justice, of War and of Education, as well as social activists (e.g. members of the Russian Association for the Protection of Women) to a meeting, wishing to ascertain their views on whether to continue the regimentation system and maintain the public houses.326 In 1912 an inter-departmental commission for the assessment of the medical supervision; this commission admitted that the idea of limiting prostitution to public houses proved unsuccessful from the medical point of view, even though it was noted that an unequivocal estimation is difficult to reach for the reasons of methodology.327 In 1913 the chairman of the Council of Ministers asked for the ministers’ opinion on the plan of abolishing regimentation and closing the houses of prostitution which had been submitted to the Duma. The opinion that came from the Ministry of the Interior was unequivocal: from the medical and sanitary point of view, regimentation and the houses of prostitution were indefensible, as they had accomplished little in fighting syphilis and the supervision was a great burden on the police. Yet an opinion was one thing, a decision – another. The minister was worried that if the houses of prostitution were to be closed, a multitude of clandestine venues would emerge where not only diseases, but also crime would flourish; this would make the police’s plight even harder; he also alluded to the moral effects of this decision. Should regimentation be abolished, he asserted, the principles of social and family life might be adversely affected as, for instance, the incidence of cohabitation would increase.328 He proposed the advantages and disadvantaged of the proposed solution be further reviewed.

Also in Warsaw, in the year 1910, the so-called “Commission for Fighting Prostitution” debated on how to adjust the methods of fighting prostitution to new conditions. Doctors from the Medical-and-Police Committee wrote a letter to the chief police inspector. The commission voted in favour of closing the houses of prostitution (very few of which were still in operation after the revolution of 1905) and focused entirely on how to supervise legal independent prostitution. In addition to meeting houses, the commission granted legality to prostitution carried out at the so-called furnished lodgings as forms of mediation in the rendering of an erotic service. The co-called prostitute control quarters ←99 | 100→(housing four women per apartment) were established in order to facilitate effective medical supervision.329

Ultimately, despite the doubts and the awareness that over the century that the system had been in operation the conditions had changed materially, the achieved solutions retained some form of regimentation. It remained in force until the end of the Partitions, covering an increasing number of persons in an increasingly large territory, even though the results were not satisfactory.

80 Adam Krawiec, Seksualność w średniowiecznej Polsce (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 2000) pp. 216, 220–223.

81 This was probably related to the dissemination of German models, since it were German countries which typically connected the office of a headsman with the administration of houses of ill repute. See: Hanna Zaremska, Niegodne rzemiosło. Kat w społeczeństwie Polski XIV–XVI w. (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1986) p. 28. Small brothels also operated by some workshops of craft, see: Krawiec, Seksualność, p. 222.

82 Krawiec, Seksualność, pp. 221, 223.

83 Analysing municipal court registers, Karpiński found information on 171 professional and occasional prostitutes from five cities in the Kingdom (it should be noted that no criminal records for Warsaw have survived) – Andrzej Karpiński, Kobieta w mieście polskim w drugiej połowie XVI i w XVII wieku (Warsaw: Instytut Historii PAN, 1995) p. 334.

84 Andrzej Karpiński, “Prostytucja w dużych miastach polskich w XVI i XVII w. (Kraków, Lublin, Poznań, Warszawa)”, Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej, no. 2 (1988), pp. 280–287; Krawiec, Seksualność, p. 221.

85 Other forms were procuration, pandering, adultery, bigamy and incest; Karpiński, Kobieta, p. 333.

86 Karpiński, “Prostytucja”, p. 285; Andrzej Karpiński, Pauperes. O mieszkańcach Warszawy XVI i XVII wieku (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1983) pp. 214, 215. The author quotes Szymon Starowolski, who condemned the fact the city made profits from harlotry: “In larger cities officials do not shy away from taking weekly fees from loose women”.

87 They were also subject to certain restrictions in the legal relations under civil law. – Karpiński, “Prostytucja”, p. 294.

88 Karpiński, Pauperes, pp. 213–220; Karpiński, “Prostytucja”, p. 294; Krawiec, Seksualność, p. 217.

89 For instance Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski criticised the existence of “lewd houses openly instituted”. See Karpiński, “Prostytucja”, pp. 293, 285; Karpiński, Pauperes, pp. 214, 217; Karpiński, Kobieta, p. 345.

90 Jan Kracik, Pokonać czarną śmierć. Staropolskie postawy wobec zarazy (Cracow: Machaszaba, 1991), p. 29; Andrzej Karpiński, W walce z niewidzialnym wrogiem. Epidemie chorób zakaźnych w Rzeczypospolitej w XVI–XVIII wieku i ich następstwa demograficzne, społeczno-ekonomiczne i polityczne (Warsaw: Instytut Historii PAN, 2000) pp. 28, 43, 113, 115–116.

91 Karpiński, Prostytucja, p. 296; Karpiński, Kobieta, pp. 41–42.

92 Krystyna Zienkowska, Sławetni i urodzeni. Ruch polityczny mieszczaństwa w dobie Sejmu Czteroletniego (Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1976), pp. 288–289.

93 His famous memoir includes the statement that it was “the evil no large city can do without” – Jędrzej Kitowicz, Opis obyczajów za panowania Augusta III (Wrocław: Biblioteka Narodowa, 1951), p. 305.

94 See: Fryderyk Schultz, Podróże Inflantczyka z Rygi do Warszawy i po Polsce w latach 1791–1793, pp. 531–540; Johann Joseph Kausch, Wizerunek narodu polskiego. Opis podróży ze Śląska do Krakowa w Małopolsce, pp. 289–291. Both diaries in: Polska stanisławowska w oczach cudzoziemców, ed. Wacław Zawadzki (Warsaw: PIW, 1963), Vol. 2. A record from 1792 listed 59 prostitutes in Warsaw; Samuel Szymkiewicz, Warszawa na przełomie XVIII i XIX wieku w świetle pomiarów i spisów (Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1959, p. 227.

95 The full text in: Edmund Rabowicz, “Oświeceniowe ‘Przewodniki’ po warszawskich domach rozkoszy”, Zeszyty Naukowe Wydziału Humanistycznego Uniwersytetu Gdańskiego, Dodatek do Prac Historycznoliterackich, no. 8–9 (1985), pp. 23–26.

96 [Antoni Felicjan Nagłowski], “Przewodnik warszawski”, Zeszyty Naukowe Wydziału Humanistycznego Uniwersytetu Gdańskiego, Dodatek do Prac Historycznoliterackich, no. 8–9 (1985), pp. 27–43; [Antoni Kossakowski], “Suplement przewodnikowi [warszawskiemu] przez innego autora wydany w tymże roku 1779”, Zeszyty Naukowe Wydziału Humanistycznego Uniwersytetu Gdańskiego, Dodatek do Prac Historycznoliterackich, no. 8–9 (1985), pp. 45–67.

97 Więc dla was fryców, którzy do Warszawy / Zjechawszy, próżno wszędzie się włóczycie, / Przewodnik będzie mój prosty i prawy, / I za nim idąc do kurwy traficie” (literally: So for you, dunces, who, having come toWarsaw, wander aimlessly about, my guidebook will be simple and true, and shall lead you straight to a harlot); [Nagłowski], “Przewodnik”, p. 28.

98 Rabowicz, “Oświeceniowe ‘Przewodniki’ ”. Rabowicz found them in 1957 in the Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine in Kyiv. They were in a collection inherited from a private library, in a silva rerum of various obscene texts.

99 Marek Karpiński, Najstarszy zawód świata. Historia prostytucji (London: Lemur, 1997), pp. 85–104.

100 Wacław Zaleski, Z dziejów prostytucji w Warszawie (Warsaw: Druk. Policyjna, 1923), pp. 9–10.

101 Lafontaine’s account in: Kausch, Wizerunek, p. 290; Schultz, Podróże, p. 531. The existence of some form of police control was inferred from source material, see: Stanisław Janikowski, “Materiały do dziejów higieny i policji lekarskiej w Polsce. II Nierząd (Prostitutio)”, Pamiętniki Towarzystwa Lekarskiego Warszawskiego, Vol. 52 (1864), pp. 337–338. On the practice of flogging and shutting prostitutes in gaol ordered by the instigator see [Antoni Kossakowski], “Suplement”, verses 781–802, pp. 66–67.

102 Section 8, dealing with “supervision of municipal prisons, hospitals and public houses”; Volumina Legum, Vol. 9, Cracow 1889.

103 Tadeusz Srogosz, Problemy sanitarno-zdrowotne w działalności administracji Rzeczypospolitej w okresie stanisławowskim (Łódź: Wydawnictwo AM, 1993) pp. 285–389.

104 Practice may have preceded the legislation itself. Authors writing in the 19th century specify 1800 as the date of “official recognition” of brothels; see: Wykład chorób wenerycznych podług Zeissla, Redera i innych ułożony przez studentów medycyny pod przewodnictwem doktorów Pawlikowskiego K i Stankiewicza H. (Warsaw, 1873) p. 400; Jan Maurycy Kamiński, O prostytucji (Warsaw: A. Pajewski, 1875), p. 96; Zaleski, Z dziejów, pp. 11–12.

105 The full text of the ordinance was published by Giedroyć in: Franciszek Giedroyć, Rys historyczny szpitala św. Łazarza w Warszawie (Warsaw: Drukarnia Kowalewskiego, 1897), pp. 209–219.

106 Ordynacya, in: Giedroyć, Rys, p. 210.

107 Jan Kosim, Okupacja pruska i konspiracje rewolucyjne w Warszawie 1796–1806 (Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1976), pp. 42, 88, 96.

108 Southern Prussia was the name of one of the three provinces into which the lands annexed by Prussia were divided after the partitions. The province encompassed e.g. a part of Mazovia and Warsaw.

109 Jarosław Czubaty, Warszawa 1806–1815. Miasto i ludzie (Warsaw: Neriton, 1997), p. 15.

110 Zaleski, Z dziejów, p. 11; Kosim, Okupacja, p. 117.

111 Jan Kosim, Pod pruskim zaborem. Warszawa w latach 1796–1806 (Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1980), p. 123; Franciszek Giedroyć, Rada Lekarska Księstwa Warszawskiego i Królestwa Polskiego (1809–1867) (Warsaw: Władysław Łazarski, 1913), p. 57.

112 Marek Czapliński, “Wstydliwy problem. Demi-monde w Niemczech XIX wieku”, Zbliżenia no. 3 (1997), p. 43. See also: Marek Czapliński’s review of Sybille Krafft’s book Zucht und Unzucht. Prostitution und Sittenpolizei in München der Jahrhundertwende in Przegląd Historyczny, Vol. LXXXVIII, issue 2 (1997), pp. 363–366; Richard J. Evans, “Prostitution, State and Society in Imperial Germany”, Past and Present, no. 70 (1976), pp. 106–129.

113 A similar set of regulations for Poznań was published in Berlin on 4th February 1804: Ustawa przeciwko zwodzeniu młodych dziewczyn do Burdelów i do innego gatunku rozwiązłości, jako też: przeciwko rozszerzaniu się wenerycznych chorób w Poznaniu [Bill against the ensnaring of young girls into Brothels and other kinds of debaucheries, as well as: against the spreading of venereal diseases in Poznań], Poznań State Archive (Archiwum Państwowe w Poznaniu; hereinafter APP).

114 Cf. ALR art. 999 – “Lewd (wanton) women who wish to enter the trade of selling their body must proceed to whorehouses allowed to exist under state supervision” – Powszechne prawo kryminalne dla państw pruskich. Część druga obejmująca w sobie tytuł dwudziesty części drugiej powszechnego prawa pruskiego o występkach i karach, Warsaw 1813, trans. Ignacy Stawiarski.

115 Art. 21; “A harlot wishing to leave the brothel to continue the very same indecent practices on her own will be allowed to have such sport, yet solely under explicit consent by the police”; art. 23: “Extraordinary women who sustain themselves from debauchery on their own with several others should also report themselves to the Police Directorate in order to be registered and issued a permit. They are nonetheless obliged, as are harlots lending themselves out in brothels, not to resist attempts at inspection, which shall be undertaken by the district surgeon. They are likewise obligated to pay two talars per month to the coffer of St. Lazarus Hospital. In general, such women ought to comply with all regulations on bordellos and harlots living therein issued in the relevant Ordinance, and should they transgress, they will be subject to all the punishment specified herein. We therefore admonish them with the utmost severity not to shirk from the obligation of reporting their profession properly, thinking that they could remain undiscovered and unknown for lending themselves to debauchery, since the police authorities will use all the means available to acquire information on their lewd and indecent lives, whereupon they will punish these women with the utmost severity as ones that established a brothel household without the required permission.”

116 Art. 1023 of the ALR may be interpreted similarly: “Women making a trade of harlotry who did not bring themselves under specific police supervision are to be apprehended…,” Powszechne prawo. This “specific supervision” was not tantamount to employment in a brothel house.

117 Cf. ALR art. 1001.

118 Cf. ALR. art. 1000 (“Such brothel houses are only to be suffered in large populous cities and in no other locations than ones distant from public roads and streets”), art. 1003 and 1004.

119 “Such an obligation is regarded as a risk and burden placed upon him and, for the common good, inherent to the profession allowed to be thus pursued” (art. 12, 17, 18 of the Ordinance). Cf. ALR art. 1017–1019.

120 Cf. ALR art. 1005–1007.

121 It is an elaboration of ALR art. 996.

122 Running an illegal brothel house was punishable with between a year and two years’ imprisonment; a landlord lending property for such purposes risked a fine or six months’ imprisonment. The fine for failing to report women working in a brothel amounted to 50 talars, whereas women engaging in prostitution illegally could be sentenced to 6 to 12 months in prison and flogging. Cf. ALR art. 1001, 1004, 1023, 1024. The two latter articles of the codex not only penalised unlicensed prostitution, but also provided for obligatory re-socialisation. Having completed their punishment, the women were supposed to stay in the houses of labour “until such time as they find the will and opportunity to sustain themselves by honest means”. It was apparently decided that in Warsaw this would have been impossible.

123 Zaleski, Z dziejów, p. 12.

124 Zaleski, Z dziejów, pp. 11–12.

125 In 1803 there supposedly were ca. 100 prostitutes in Warsaw – Stefan Kieniewicz, Warszawa w latach 1795–1914 (Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1976), p. 69.

126 In Prussia, obligatory medical examinations of prostitutes were introduced in 1769. See: Marek Czapliński, “Prostytucja jako problem miasta Wrocławia w XIX wieku”, Śląski Kwartalnik Historyczny Sobótka, Vol. 53 no. 3 (1999) p. 316 (English translation available at: http://sobotka.uni.wroc.pl/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/1.pdf). In 18th-century Warsaw, medical examinations were conducted on an incidental basis, following police roundups of vagrant and beggar women. Nagłowski’s “Przewodnik warszawski” warned readers off places where one could catch a disease.

127 Cf. ALR art. 1013–1015.

128 Due to the risk of losing track of women who had left the hospital, the doctors from the St. Lazarus hospital were instructed to supply the Police Directorate with protocols stating the declared place of residence and future plans of all released patients. A prostitute providing false information was to be punished with 8 to 14 days of close arrest (art. 15).

129 Jan Śliwowski, “Kodeks karzący Królestwa Polskiego” (1818). Historia jego powstania i próba krytycznej analizy, Warsaw 1958, pp. 11, 375.

130 Kodeks karzący dla Królestwa Polskiego, (Warsaw, 1830).

131 Śliwowski, Kodeks, p. 375.

132 Kodex przestępstw i kar przetłumaczony z francuskiego, Warsaw 1811, article 334 (book II, section IV, transgressions against morals). The comprehensive and detailed analysis of the work on Polish legal codes presented by Śliwowski does not mention any debate on the issue of prostitution (Śliwowski, Kodeks).

133 See: “Konsens utrzymywania kobiet publicznych Wydziału Policyjnego Urzędu Municypalnego m.st. Warszawy” (1831, a template), APW, Korotyński Archive, t. VIII, t. 44, k. 5–7.

134 AGAD, Policja Tajna Wielkiego Księcia Konstantego [Secret Police of Duke Konstantin], 75 archival units from Mackrott’s office. No police records from Warsaw have survived.

135 Małgorzata Karpińska, Złodzieje, agenci, policyjni strażnicy… Przestępstwa pospolite w Warszawie 1815–1830 (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo DiG, 1999), p. 56.

136 Karpińska, Złodzieje, p. 56 (Chart 1). The decrease in numbers since 1826 is not necessarily tantamount to the decrease in the number of brothel houses, but certainly indicates less interest in such establishments on the part of the secret police.

137 Karpińska, Złodzieje, p. 58.

138 Adam Szczypiorski, Ćwierć wieku Warszawy 1806–1830 (Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1964), pp. 184–185.

139 “Rozporządzenie, rozwijające i wprowadzające w wykonanie postanowienie Namiestnika Królewskiego, dotyczące organizacyi Urzędu Municypalności i Policyi i w mieście stołecznem Warszawie”, in: Zbiór Praw Administracyjnych Królestwa Polskiego, Wydział Spraw Wewnętrznych, part 5 Zarząd Gospodarczy Miasta Warszawy, Vol. 1, Warsaw 1868, p. 53 (paragraph 49).

140 A. Szczypiorski, Warszawa, jej gospodarka i ludność w latach 1832–1862, Warsaw 1966, p. 10.

141 Wykład, p. 401; J. M. Kamiński, O prostytucji, p. 98. The first mention of legally operating “harlots living in Warsaw” comes from 1842 and is found in a report by the chief police inspector to the KRSW – AGAD, KRSW, j.a. 2464, k. 632.

142 Wykład, p. 401. Giedroyć, who was meticulous and well acquainted with the records, never mentioned such a directive.

143 See: AGAD, KWK, j.a. 1697 c, “Repertorium, czyli wykaz akt wydziału policyjnego KWK”. In the section entitled “W przedmiocie akt teatrów, widowisk, zabaw” [With regard to theatre acts, shows and entertainment] there is an entry on “Utrzymywanie domu kobiet publicznych” [Maintaining a house of public women].

144 Giedroyć, Rada, pp. 660–661.

145 Giedroyć, Rada, pp. 657–658; Text in: Franciszek Giedroyć, “Domy wilczkowania”: (projekt organizacyi wewnętrznej zamtuzów w Polsce) (Warsaw: Drukarnia Kowalewskiego, 1912).

146 Wykład, pp. 401–402. Pawlikowski, who was not aware for the Ordinance of 1802, deemed them to be the first written regulations pertaining to prostitution in Warsaw. The exact content of the drafts is not known.

147 Giedroyć, Rada, pp. 661–662. The Committee’s postulates presented to Stummer aimed at “establishing in the capital exclusive superintendence over harlot women” (which may be understood as creating a separate institution to supervise prostitution) as well as founding and managing houses of employment for such women in the capital and voivodeship cities (as a means of removing them from the streets). The draft had probably not survived in the records of the Medical Council, otherwise Giedroyć would have summarised or quoted it directly, as he did in other cases.

148 The text, composed of two parts: (A) “on the part of the police” and (B) “on the part of military commanders,” was published in: Giedroyć, Rada, pp. 662–664.

149 Giedroyć, Rada, p. 664.

150 It is mentioned in the memoirs of Józef Patelski, Wspomnienia wojskowe z lat 1823–1831, (Vilnius: Biblioteka Pamiętników, 1921), p. 44.

151 Giedroyć, Rada, pp. 660–661.

152 Jan Władysław Chojna, “Warszawskie lazarety wojskowe w czasie powstania listopadowego”, Archiwum Historii Medycyny”, Vol. XXXVI, no. 1–2 (1973), p. 77.

153 AGAD, KWK, j.a. 1697 e, n. pag.

154 Giedroyć, Rada, p. 662. The Government Commission for Internal Affairs was also receiving reports from local administrative authorities complaining about unprecedented numbers of “public women”.

155 The history of medicine offers two hypotheses on the origins of syphilis, one connecting it with the New World, the other arguing that a benign form of the disease had existed in Europe for centuries. See: Kazimierz Lejman, “Zarys historii kiły”, Archiwum Historii Medycyny, Vol. XXXII, issue 2 (1969), pp. 125–126. Claude Quetel, History of Syphilis, trans. Judith Braddock and Brian Pike, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), p. 20. As noted by Marcin Bielski, the author of Kronika polska (1597), the disease arrived in Poland “brought from Rome to Cracow by one madam who was travelling for indulgence there”. Quoted after: Kracik, Pokonać, p. 48.

156 Ludwik Grabowski, “O chorobie wenerycznej pod względem policyi lekarskiej”, Pamiętnik Towarzystwa Lekarskiego Warszawskiego, Vol. XVIII, libellus 1 (1847), p. 8.

157 Andrzej Stapiński, Zwalczanie kiły i rzeżączki w Polsce (Warsaw: Państwowy Zakład Wydawnictw Lekarskich, 1979), p. 42. Even in the most developed countries, the number of cases of venereal disease was only brought down in the final decades of the 20th century. In certain regions of the world syphilis still poses a serious epidemiological threat. In most countries, all infected patients are subject to compulsory registration and treatment; Tomasz F. Mroczkowski (ed.), Choroby przenoszone drogą płciową (Warsaw: Państwowy Zakład Wydawnictw Lekarskich, 1998), p. 14.

158 Grabowski, “O chorobie”, pp. 7, 8.

159 A late 18th-century police report for the Police Commission of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth reads: “It is worse indeed when the type of the infernal disease which – having infected the very source of life, through careless or inappropriate medication surfaces in the progeny, turning it into a debilitated tribe – has spread so wide throughout our communes that it poses an ultimate threat. The offices of the military and the increasing number of bachelors spread this plague. One fears to realise that these people, whom the Homeland would expect to be healthy and hale, in the very flower of their age, either prove fruitless in matrimony, or produce weak issue that would subsequently be utterly unproductive, becoming an idle burden on the earth.” The author proposes: “It appears therefore that the supervision of the Government ought to strive towards recognising and perfectly curing those affected by the illness, so as to preserve at least the new brood that is the hope of the Homeland. It would be conducive to this purpose, if there were communal doctors and medical assistants, paid by the Coffer of the Civilian-Military Commission, whose duty it would be to care for the health of moneyless peasantry, and, having tracked venereal diseases, cure them with the most decent means. While the exalted Police Commission, through [its] morally apt regulations, shall accomplish this beneficial task” – AGAD, The Kingdom of Poland Archive, j.a. 149, k. 36–37. See: Wiktor Piotrowski, “Choroby zakaźne w epoce polskiego oświecenia”, Archiwum Historii i Filozofii Medycyny, Vol. LKII, issue 63 (1997), pp. 203–210. The royal surgeon Lafontaine compared the incidence of venereal disease in the country with urban standards, writing that in one hundred recruits coming to Warsaw, eighty were infected with syphilis; Piotrowski, “Choroby”, p. 208.

160 Stapiński, Zwalczanie kiły, pp. 29–32. The data quoted by the author comes from reports by the Principal Supervisory Board of Charitable Institutions written between 1833–1840.

161 32% vagrants and clandestine harlots, 28% public women, 20% servants, 10% workers, 2% coffee makers, only 2% “of proper moral conduct,” the rest were children and the elderly; Stapiński, Zwalczanie kiły, p. 31.

162 Stapiński, Zwalczanie kiły, p. 32.

163 As noted by the specialist on the history of medicine Jan Nosko, there emerged “a vision of an egalitarian society based on the principles of rationalism and science, combining health as one of the natural human rights safeguarded by the government embodying the technocratic ideal of using science in the service of the State, and the model of scholars and doctors as experts and advisors to the decision-making bodies”; Jan Nosko, “Ku nowożytnej koncepcji troski o zdrowie publiczne. Intelektualne przywództwo Francji”, Archiwum Historii i Filozofii Medycyny, Vol. DCII, issue 3 (1997), p. 262.

164 See: Nosko, “Ku nowożytnej”, pp. 264, 280.

165 Giedroyć, Rada, p. 36.

166 In 1843, Grabowski was confident about the “ease with which venereal diseases can now be cured given the current state of medical skills” (Grabowski, “O chorobie”, p. 10); cf. footnote 79.

167 Mary Gibson, Prostitution and the State in Italy. 1860–1915 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999), p. 161.

168 Alain Corbin, “L’hérédosyphilis ou l’impossible rédemption. Contribution à l’histoire de l’hérédité morbide, in: idem, Le temps, le désir et l ‘horreur. Essais sur le dix-neuvième siècle (Paris: Flammarion, 1991) pp. 144–145.

169 With regard to Poland, the first attempts at legal regulations of medical treatment appeared in the 1770s. The principles of reforming the system of healthcare and sanitation were to be implemented by the new authorities instituted by the Great Sejm (1788–1792). The Constitution of 3rd May 1791 put healthcare in the hands of the Police Commission, in line with the Enlightenment’s views on the competences of the institution with regard to citizen safety; see: Srogosz, Problemy, pp. 285–389.

170 “Ustawa o zarządzie wydziału cywilno-lekarskiego w Królestwie Polskim” [Bill on the management of the civil and medical department in the Kingdom of Poland], DP KP, Vol. XXII, p. 427 and Vol. XXV, p. 129; Giedroyć, Rada, pp. 90–91; Szczypiorski, Warszawa, p. 184.

171 Giedroyć, Rada, p. 664. A mention of a “recently established Committee” which was collecting relevant proposals from civil governors and medical offices in the Kingdom; AGAD, RGOSz, j.a. 47, k. 50.

172 One of the speakers at a meeting of the Warsaw Medical Society noted: “we were a witness and a participant of a practical implementation of government regulations abroad and in the country”; Grabowski, “O chorobie”, pp. 4–6.

173 On the French system of regulations see Alain Corbin, “Commercial Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century France: A System of Images and Regulations”, Representations, Vol. 14 (1986), pp. 209–219. Its workings were also described in: Jill Harsin, Policing Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985); Jean-Marc Berlière, La police des moeurs sous la IIIe République (Paris: Seuil, 1982), pp. 17–35.

174 For a full bibliography of works from the 1830s see: Grabowski, “O chorobie”, p. 6.

175 On Parent-Duchâtelet’s influence over his contemporaries see Alain Corbin, Les Filles de noce. Misère sexuelle et prostitution au XIX siècle (Paris: Flammarion, 1982), pp. 13–36; Harsin, Policing, pp. 96–130.

176 Alexandre Jean-Baptiste Parent-Duchâtelet, De la prostitution dans la ville de Paris, Vol. I–II, (Paris: J. – B. Baillière et Fils, 1836). Reissued in 2000 with Corbin’s introduction.

177 He was equally industrious in solving the problem of sewer drainage in Paris and the elimination of cesspits; see: Anne F. La Berge, “A. J. B. Parent-Duchâtelet: Hygienist of Paris, 1821–1836”, Clio Medica. Acta Academiae taternationalis Historiae Medicinae, Vol. 12, no. 4 (1977), pp. 279–301.

178 Corbin, Les Filles, p. 24.

179 Laura Bernstein, Sonia’s Daughters: Prostitutes and their Regulation in Imperial Russia (Berkeley – Los Angeles – Oxford: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 19–24.

180 The laws of 18th-century Russia granted the police the right to punish both parties engaging in paid sex with a fine or arrest, and mandated the persecution of “vagrant women of debauched behaviour” should any suspicion of them being infected with venereal diseases arise. Prostitution was not tolerated, but clandestine brothels flourished in St. Petersburg in the 18th century. See Bernstein, Sonia’s Daughters, pp. 13–15.

181 N. B. Lebina, M. V. Shkarovskiy, Prostitutsiya v Peterburge (40-e gg. XX v. – 40-e gg. XX v.), Moscow 1994, pp. 11, 21–22. The laws were in place until 1861, when they were supplemented with regulations on the so-called “meeting houses.” In 1852, Petersburg had 152 legally registered brothels. The importance of the Petersburg Committee is evident from the fact that it was led by the president of the Medical Department of the Ministry of the Interior in St. Petersburg.

182 Bernstein, Sonia’s Daughters, p. 15; Barbara A. Engel, Between the Fields and the City. Women, Work, and Family in Russia, 1861–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 167.

183 Grabowski cites one article pertaining to rewards and punishments that were to incite ill women to report for treatment. Should a woman suspected of prostitution and detained by the police prove diseased, after the treatment she was punished with flogging; if she voluntarily turned to a medical facility, the therapy was followed by a financial reward. The latter were, however, reserved for “women of good repute,” even though the opinion did not protect them from follow-up medical examinations, if conducted separately from the ones performed on prostitutes; Grabowski, “O chorobie”, p. 30.

184 Przepisy policyjno-lekarskie do zapobieżenia szerzeniu się choroby syfilitycznej w mieście Warszawie [Police-and-medical regulations for the prevention of the spread of the syphilitic disease in the city of Warsaw], [Warsaw 1843].

185 Chapters: I (general principles), II (policing and medical measures), III (the competences of the Medical Office and the officers subordinate to it), IV (the cooperation of police), V (the cooperation of the head doctor at the hospital of St. Lazarus), VI (the cooperation of military authorities), VII (on public houses), VIII (on penalties), IX (on fines).

186 Lebina, Shkarovskiy, Prostitutsiya, p. 29.

187 It was so in the occupation lists from the districts of Kalisz (as many prostitutes as teachers), Łęczyca and Wieluń dated to 1864 and 1865 – AGAD, KWK, j.a. 3359.

188 Szczypiorski, Warszawa, pp. 34–35. He was in charge of the Police Bureau, police night watch and day watch, the Bureau of Service Control, and executive police.

189 The highest authority in medical matters was held by the Medical Council (1809–1867) of the KRSW. In 1838 the Commission also established the office of the Principal Healthcare Inspector. For details on its wide competences see: Giedroyć, Rada, pp. 78–79.

190 The team began to operate in 1842. Their principal task was protecting the military. Aside from an annual budget of 2265 silver roubles, the team also received 600 roubles from the viceroy’s own funds. In March 1842 the Administrative Council ordered the revenue from “public women” and brothel houses, thitherto directed to the municipal budget, to be entrusted to the Chief Police Inspector for the purpose of organising police and medical control over prostitution in 1843. See: Grabowski, “O chorobie”, pp. 28–29; Szczypiorski, Warszawa, p. 41.

191 Medical Offices were subsidiaries of the Medical Council operating in Gubernias between 1838–1866. Initially the system comprised one office per two Gubernias and a separate one for Warsaw; after the 1850s each seat of a Gubernia had one. The competences of the offices corresponded to the tasks assigned at the time to national healthcare systems, and encompassed medical (supervising healthcare), judicial, police (the broadly defined responsibilities of the medical police included supervising prostitution with the help of the police), as well as academic duties (Giedroyć, Rada, p. 32).

192 Szczypiorski, Warszawa, p. 42; the connection between prostitution and the security police was also argued in a later period by Macko, Prostytucja, p. 40.

193 Stanisław Milewski, Ciemne sprawy dawnych warszawiaków (Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1982), p. 71; on the mood of debauchery and amusement imposed by Russian officers and clerks see e.g.: Felicjan Faleński, “Wspomnienia z mojego życia”, in: Miscellanea z pogranicza XIX i XX w., Archiwum Literackie, ed. Kazimierz Budzyk, Vol. 8, (Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1964), p. 91; Antoni Zaleski, Towarzystwo warszawskie. Listy do przyjaciółki przez Baronową XYZ, ed. R. Kołodziejczyk (Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1971), p. 206–210.

194 Zaleski, Z dziejów, pp. 52–54; See also: Andrzej Chwalba, Imperium korupcji w Rosji i Królestwie Polskim w latach 1861–1917 (Cracow: Księgarnia Akademicka, 1995), pp. 82–83.

195 The meetings were attended by: a staff officer representing the military under the authority of the military governor of the city, the senior garrison doctor, the senior doctor of the military hospital, the inspector of the Medical Office, the head doctor of the St. Lazarus hospital, and the commissioner of police at the Medical Office.

196 The official correspondence pertaining to Warsaw has not survived, yet the records from other cities in the Kingdom provide sufficient evidence.

197 APŁ, RGP, WL, j.a. 38, k. 34–51 v. Copies of texts submitted in 1878 by the office of the General Governor of Warsaw to the head of the Piotrków Gubernia.


ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2020 (August)
social history regimentation of prostitution women`s history venereal diseases sexual education women trafficking
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 356 pp., 7 fig. b/w, 33 tables.

Biographical notes

Jolanta Sikorska-Kulesza (Author) Jan Burzyński (Revision)

Jolanta Sikorska-Kulesza is a professor at the Institute of History of the University of Warsaw. She specialises in research on the social history of the Kingdom of Poland and the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the nineteenth century (the history and transformations of the nobility, memory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the social role of photography) and critical editing of sources.


Title: Tolerated Evil