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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 6: The London Lock at the Turn of the Century: New Perspectives on the Physical and Moral Cure of Deviant Women

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← 158 | 159 → CHAPTER 6

The years that elapsed between the passing of the last Contagious Diseases Act in 1869 and the repeal of regulation in 1886 brought about important changes to the London Lock. The most outstanding consequence was the eclipse of state medicine, starting in the 1870s and reaching its climax in the 1880s, which affected the state and medical control of sexuality. Throughout the repeal campaign the sanitary principle had been challenged and moralists had begun to redefine the parameters over which sexual issues were going to be discussed. With the local government reforms of the 1870s and in particular the Local Government Act of 1871, the Privy Council Medical Office and the Poor Law Board became one and formed the new Local Government Board. James Stansfeld and John Lambert became prominent figures who continued with the poor law tradition while remaining suspicious of medical experts; the latter became subordinated to civil administration, and the process culminated with Dr. Simon’s resignation in 1876. The Board was more involved in the field of theoretical research on epidemics but more limited in other areas of social intervention. In other words, during the last decades of the nineteenth century sexual politics and policy were in the hands of moralists and feminists who led the way to reform through a powerful language that would oblige the state to take legislative measures. Their ideology was behind government action, and according to them “chastity, continence and self-control” were the foundation for sexual...

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