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The London Lock Hospital in the Nineteenth Century

Gender, Sexuality and Social Reform

Maria Isabel Romero Ruiz

Based on archival research, this volume is concerned with the treatment of «fallen women» and prostitutes at the London Lock Hospital and Asylum throughout the nineteenth century. As venereally-diseased women, they were treated in the hospital for their physical ailments; those considered ripe for reform were secluded in the asylum for a moral cure. The author analyses the social and cultural implications arising from the situation of these female inmates at a time when women’s sexuality was widely debated, using a gender-informed and postmodernist approach.
The volume covers notions of purity and deviancy, issues of gender and sexual identity, the social and cultural issues connected with so-called fallen women and prostitutes, and descriptions of venereal disease and treatments for women patients at the time. The Contagious Diseases Acts and their impact are examined, as are the social and cultural implications of the creation of specialised hospitals and places of moral confinement. The book provides a complete picture of the Lock Hospital and Asylum and is an important contribution to the history of hospitals in the Victorian period.
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CHAPTER 5: From Deviancy to Purity: The London Lock Asylum and Moral Reform

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← 124 | 125 → CHAPTER 5

As has been stated in Chapter 1, the London Lock Asylum became a prominent feature of the London Lock after its creation in 1787 on the initiative of Rev. Thomas Scott, Chaplain to the Lock Chapel. He proposed the opening of an Institution for girls who, after release from hospital, could not avoid former friends and had given “sufficient proof of sincere repentance”. The main aim was to protect them till they could be restored to friends or family, and the community at large “in a way of Industry according to their ability”, and to support them even after discharge if they maintained an irreproachable behavior in their new situations in life.1 At this early stage the Asylum would accommodate up to 20 inmates under the supervision of a Matron and with the support of a separate list of subscribers from that of Hospital, who were mostly ladies, together with Hospital Governors and all the medical staff. A Committee of Governors was in charge of the supervision of the Asylum, but later a Ladies’ Committee was established to oversee its management and other practical matters. The staff was reduced to a minimum since penitents did most of the work, as we shall see.2

The London Lock became more involved in the reform work that characterised its evolution throughout the nineteenth century at the end of the eighteenth, when reforming disciplinary institutions were born out of the campaigns developed by groups such as...

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