Abstract “Making a Living” moves the gendered analysis of sex work in an economic direction. Using examples from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Venice, the analysis focuses on the ground-up economics that provided women as well as men with disposable income, economic value, and agency. Based on the firsthand testimonies of ordinary women from throughout Europe summoned before Venice’s moral tribunal of the Executors against Blasphemy, the research illuminates the larger story in world history about the economic potential of the sex trade for household and family and how market demands undermined gender norms and religious traditions. The Bestemmia’s microstories refine our picture of the trade in relation to household composition and alternatives to patriarchal rule. Both individual and corporate behavior on the part of Venice’s sex workers lend themselves to a different interpretive paradigm for prostitution, one that departs from conceptualizations that view the trade in primarily moralistic terms as external to or even opposed to the family unit. In Venice, sex work did not necessarily separate women from the rest of the population. On the contrary, they remained deeply embedded in the city’s social and financial networks as well as family life. This is evidenced by various constituencies within the city responding to plausible economic incentives and thus approaching the sale of sex differently. prostitution, sex work, sexual ethics, urban economy In 1733, Maddalena Bruna, nicknamed the Spaniard, was brought before Venice’s Executors against Blasphemy (the Bestemmia), a secular tribunal charged with eradicating moral turpitude.1 She was accused of procuring and managing sex workers, presumably with her Spanish lover, Antonio, but he had abandoned her, and Maddalena was left to face the judges alone. Earlier, she and her partner had offered lodgings to German prostitutes who catered to the merchants at the German Trading Post (Fondaco dei Tedeschi). When Maddalena’s lover deserted her, leaving her in debt and with child, she took to the streets at night, selling her own body to make a living. Prostitution was officially frowned upon in Venice, but it was not a criminal offense. The solicitation of sex workers, however, was, and neighbors had come forward to say that Maddalena was bringing home both men and women of all sorts to carouse into the night. The accused was constrained to justify herself before the four patrician judges, unlike the numerous other sex workers who had managed to flee the city and avoid interrogation and imprisonment. Indignantly, she told the magistrates that she might have lost her private honesty (a euphemism for sexual reputation), but not her public grace. However, it was not her own sexual activity that offended the state as much as her alleged recruitment of sex workers. She denied any matchmaking but defended the rights of free women, as prostitutes were often called, to have consensual sex with clients. Further, she opined that if four-fifths of the women in the city who were selling sex did not do so to make ends meet, they would die of hunger. While the judges condemned her to a year of prison, Maddalena steadfastly defended her choice, and that of other economically disadvantaged women, to have sex outside of marriage in order to earn a living.2 Maddalena’s justification of sex work casts light on a common aspect of the human condition that transcends time and space: the plight of struggling women. Her case, filed in the tribunal of the Bestemmia along with those of several other sex workers from around Europe, leads us away from the more familiar interpretive paradigms of prostitution as an activity that municipal authorities ostensibly frowned upon but also justified as a means of satisfying the libidinous desires of men, as the object of moral discourse condemning promiscuity, or as a crime requiring regulation.3 From a top-down perspective, the rhetoric and disciplinary actions of the Venetian adjudicators all readily lend themselves to these well-trodden themes.4 They fit with historiographical discussions underlining how religious change during the Reformation Era and an increasing awareness of the dangers of syphilis impacted the attitudes of municipal authorities.5 However, they do not explain the proliferation of prostitution. Prescriptive writings and law remained ineffective means of regulating clandestine sex, a phenomenon that prevailed both during the city’s medieval period, when prostitution was spatially segregated and under state sponsorship, and during the early modern era, when it was deregulated. Nor do they explain why the Venetian state was essentially constrained to forfeit tax revenues by relinquishing prostitution’s residential containment to more hidden forms of solicitation.6 These are questions that pertain not only to Venice, but to all of the European cities from which Venice’s sex workers came. In searching for a better understanding of what energized the sale of sex despite its ignominious reputation, Maddalena’s words point us in another direction: toward thinking about the work in terms of the ground-up economics that provided women—and men, for that matter—with disposable income, economic value, and agency.7 Given the prominence of prostitution in Venice, as evidenced by the common reference to the city as “the Brothel of Europe,” it is particularly important to explore some of the questions about the nature of this activity and the agency of women—questions and interpretations that might be useful in other cases. Venice’s judicial records lend themselves to exploration of sex as a commodity as well as of how the market undermined gender norms and religious traditions. Such an approach helps nuance the larger story in world history about how the needs of households and families intersected with the operations of the economy and overrode traditional norms, an area in the history of prostitution that merits further research.8 In this regard, Venice’s Bestemmia records are instructive, providing rich insights into the needs of the disadvantaged and the economic potential of the sex trade for household and family. They permit the formation of a different interpretive paradigm for prostitution, one that departs from conceptualizations—encouraged by the rhetoric of contemporary authorities—that view the trade in primarily moralistic terms, as external to or even opposed to the family unit. Such conceptualizations assume that families were stable networks, when in fact the case examples in the Bestemmia are a reminder that in early modern times families not just in Venice but around the globe were fragmented, which put women in economically precarious positions that required action to repair both their finances and their broken households. Moreover, their engagement in sex work did not necessarily separate them from the rest of the population. On the contrary, many remained embedded in urban economic and family life. To be sure, on a macro level the experiences of sex workers varied, which is why we cannot generalize about the relationship between poverty and prostitution. Instead, close analysis of Venice’s microstories becomes a useful methodological tool for refining our picture of the trade in relation to household composition and alternatives to patriarchal rule and government regulation.9 A deep reading of case examples reveals both individual and corporate behavior as well as human subjectivity. In this way, sex workers no longer fit into a uniform category of analysis. On another level, it also brings to light the importance of the cultural and gendered dimensions of market economies. Applied to Venice, this approach reveals instances in which sex work was a part of urban society and family life and not an “other” that challenged it.10 This is evidenced by the fact that various constituencies within the city responded to the plausible economic incentives related to the sale of sex and thus approached the behavior differently. The financial motives underlying the widespread sale of sex in Venice challenged the repressive measures of the Counter-Reformation church and state. “Moral deviance” and “prostitution” were social constructions that did not command uniform consensus at the ground level, for family economics and commercialization undermined the rules of patriarchy. Nor did all women in the trade view occasional sex work as the key factor shaping their identities. They moved in and out of varied realities that were tied in many respects to the economic viability of their households. When gendered analysis of sex work is moved in an economic direction, the individual experiences of both women and men, as well as their interconnectedness, become more visible.11 Sex as a form of economic exchange became increasingly important for households and families during the sixteenth century, as evidenced by its widespread spatial desegregation. Many European metropoles relinquished legal supervision of the trade.12 In Venice, sex work became a flourishing generalized, clandestine vocation by the mid-seventeenth century. While medieval municipal registration of prostitutes had essentially ascribed to them a fixed group identity, during the early modern period unregistered sex workers were able to appropriate their own space. Their activities became widely dispersed, not just in public places but also in domestic and matrimonial spheres, where they used their bodies as a marketable household good, even as the city’s broader economic systems underwent organizational change. The sale of sex in early modern Venice was an economic enterprise that was deeply embedded in the city’s social and financial networks. Market demands facilitated the trade, and women and men from Venice and beyond took advantage of the opportunities that that market had to offer. In this historically commercial city, the complex integration of sex as a commodity into the socioeconomic framework became more critical than how it was morally perceived by the dominant culture. Because of poverty, restricted marriage prospects, and broken families, many women who resorted to selling carnal pleasure, literally referred to as carnal commerce (commercio carnale), were deprived of what was in reality an idealized patriarchal household under male supervision. The famed sixteenth-century courtesan Veronica Franco was so concerned about such women’s plight—not because it was promiscuous, but because of its physical dangers—that she advocated that the government found a home for mothers and children.13 Moralists had socially constructed these women as fallen, lumping them into the vague category for all unchaste women, meretrici, a term that originated with the late Roman Codex Justinianus. But in fact many did not identify themselves as “prostitutes.”14 Their identities derived from their social relationships as tenants, consumers, mothers, and neighbors, and Venice’s particular labor market afforded the most ambitious women the autonomy to make rational choices in order to support themselves and their families. Sex as a source of income was encouraged by a cultural economy oriented toward offering visitors gambling houses and spectacle. As such, it was a financial counterpoint among the laboring classes to the moral exhortation for female chastity promoted in the Reformation Era through the proliferation of convents and asylums.15 Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Francesco Guardi, The Foyer, 1755. Oil on canvas, 108 x 208 cm. Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Wikimedia Commons. The proliferation of gambling houses in Venice during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including the celebrated Ridotto in Venice’s Palazzo Dandolo at San Moisè, here depicted by Guardi, afforded wealthy residents and visitors to the city in masked disguise the opportunity for anonymous amorous encounters. Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Francesco Guardi, The Foyer, 1755. Oil on canvas, 108 x 208 cm. Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Wikimedia Commons. The proliferation of gambling houses in Venice during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including the celebrated Ridotto in Venice’s Palazzo Dandolo at San Moisè, here depicted by Guardi, afforded wealthy residents and visitors to the city in masked disguise the opportunity for anonymous amorous encounters. Figure 2: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Donato Bertelli, Lovers in a Gondola (hiding), 1578. “Le vere imagini et descritioni delle piv nobilli citta del mondo,” The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed June 30, 2017. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/60f020ad-7c25-8237-e040-e00a180637d7. This print is part of a collection of images in which certain details are concealed with a flap (top) that, when lifted (bottom), reveals more titillating subject matter. Gondolas afforded opportunities for private sexual encounters. Figure 2: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Donato Bertelli, Lovers in a Gondola (hiding), 1578. “Le vere imagini et descritioni delle piv nobilli citta del mondo,” The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed June 30, 2017. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/60f020ad-7c25-8237-e040-e00a180637d7. This print is part of a collection of images in which certain details are concealed with a flap (top) that, when lifted (bottom), reveals more titillating subject matter. Gondolas afforded opportunities for private sexual encounters. Venice’s fascinating geography as a floating city, its role as a commercial hub, its renowned historical and artistic patrimony, and its new entertainment attractions during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries all facilitated the expansion of a sex industry that already provided services to a local clientele of residents and mariners. As a magnet for curious travelers, Venice had more in common with Rome, Amsterdam, and some parts of China and Japan than with Italy’s inland cities, which tended to be more insular and averse to encouraging commercial sex.16 When manufacturing opportunities declined after 1630, the city became more dependent on catering to visitors, an activity that underwent prodigious growth. Aristocrats, entrepreneurs, petty shopkeepers, landlords and landladies, innkeepers, tavern and café workers, gondoliers, and coachmen turned to the hospitality industry, and with it the business of offering play and pleasure. Even during the cold, damp winters, as Robert Davis and Garry Marvin have pointed out in their study of Venetian tourism, Venice remained highly populated with English, French, and Dutch gentlemen seeking the delights of a city with spectacular Carnival festivities, opera and gambling, and people who disguised themselves in masks as many as six months of the year. (Masks, a popular custom in autumn and winter, were a means of hiding one’s identity, social status, and gender.) Male visitors with ample disposable wealth making the Grand Tour could have satisfied their carnal fantasies in warmer places such as Naples and Rome, but instead appeared in Venice in the dead of winter and remained through the following autumn.17 Notably, clandestine prostitution was oriented toward traveling adventurers who preferred the anonymity that a state-regulated brothel could not provide, offering more areas of encounter. Private houses of pleasure and gambling thrived, and the city offered additional options for men of limited economic means in dark alleyways and gondolas, in addition to the more costly rented rooms, inns, cafés, taverns, and the top tiers of theater houses. The array of women offering carnal pleasures in Venice has long been an entertaining object of the popular imagination, thanks to the travel writers who larded them with erotic description and to the celebration of renowned courtesans in literary and theatrical works.18 Most of the women involved in the city’s sex industry, however, were relatively anonymous plebeian workers. By removing them from the erotic gaze and literary traditions that trump up the salacious, we may arrive at a greater understanding of their lives and business relationships. Various examples of their experiences can reveal a great deal about the untold stories of women across Europe who used migration and commercialization to construct survival strategies for themselves and for their families. Although researchers studying prostitution during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries can more directly avail themselves of the voices of sex workers through oral interviews and conversations, the Bestemmia testimonies of women speaking to authorities, albeit guardedly given the differences in power between them and their interrogators, provide remarkably insightful access to the perspectives of ordinary people and help us understand how migration, the precarious structures of household and family, and financial strategies for survival and mobility intersected with the city’s commercialization and changing patterns of consumption.19 Their lives would have gone unnoticed but for the trouble they found themselves in with priests, shopkeepers, neighbors, and state authorities. As is often the case, the conditions, motivations, and actions of the women under judicial investigation were not monolithic. Some of these women were single, orphaned, or dishonored. Others were married and either separated from their husbands or working together with them. Some were itinerant streetwalkers and were clearly marginalized as outsiders. Others, who had their own lodgings and networks of support or were managing brothels, were insiders.20 Some sustained sex work over the long term; others moved in and out of the trade, or viewed it as a temporary solution to financial worries. Some were empowered; others were subordinate; still others experienced something in between. What they shared in common was using carnal commerce to make money for themselves, and often for their children. Indeed, their family situation was critical to their making the decision to sell sex.21 Their plight was common to women with marginal resources across the early modern and modern globe, from Europe to Asia, who moved between frail domestic economies and the commercial marketplace, much like the Yūjo of early modern Nagasaki and the sex workers of Ming and Imperial China. In each of these regions, early modern commercialization and extensive economic development transformed the organization of prostitution and the degree to which women had the possibility to make choices.22 In the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, authorities in both Europe and Asia attempted to control the rapid commercialization of sex, with some cultural differences. In both Japan and China, there had been a long tradition of formally recognizing women as cash assets for their families, but during the early modern period, authorities employed a variety of measures to limit their commodification. Tokugawa rulers in early-seventeenth-century Japan targeted patriarchal abuse, placing prostitutes under state regulation. However, that country’s market revolution during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries destroyed state protections and destabilized family ties. The phenomenon of sex as a commodity spread from towns to villages. In the new environments, women were more vulnerable to being exploited by greedy brothel owners. Caught in the net of sex for profit rather than to help their families, they were stigmatized by rural elites who held to older, more traditional values. Likewise, in China, market pressures challenged the status-based regulation of prostitution between 1723 and 1735. The state lifted prostitutes’ legal protections and attempted to place them, together with all other women, under the normative rules of patriarchy, restricting female sexuality exclusively to marital relations. Sex workers exercising agency and entrepreneurship were then regarded as criminals.23 In both cases, market trends encouraged some degree of female independence from patriarchal control, despite moral injunctions against the commodification of sex and changes in state regulations. This was true also in Venice, but the tenor of state regulation was different. Sex workers were never the legal subjects of their fathers or husbands. Nonetheless, some were exploited as family assets just the same.24 However, the state often targeted mothers rather than fathers as the socially constructed criminals selling children into prostitution.25 The state also criminalized procurers and procuresses. Despite these measures, many women continued to work in their own domestic and matrimonial venues, the most successful enjoying close links with the business community. Social relationships best explain the proliferation of the sex trade and the failures of top-down patriarchal regulation. In Venice that trade was largely under the supervision of women.26 As managers, they operated as actors rather than as victims, ignoring the stigma associated with organizing and selling sex, and taking advantage of the opportunities that came their way. They were not simply impoverished women passively trapped in an economy of fluctuating crises. Some exercised autonomy, making the entertainment and port economies operate for them and deploying successful strategies of survival and improvement.27 They moved astutely into the deregulated marketplace of an early modern commercial and entertainment mecca and engaged in complex negotiations with clients, neighbors, landlords, shopkeepers, and the authorities of church and state. This is significant testimony to their ability to make choices and to exert their own agency in a commercially oriented cultural environment.28 As in many of Europe’s port cities, the sex trade in Venice was regularly replenished with a stream of newcomers. The movement of people to this aquatic hub was linked in part to the oscillating health of rural society and in part to the hope of finding employment.29 In Venice’s case, the sixteenth century brought dramatic demographic pressure, food shortages, and skyrocketing wheat prices, propelling the rural poor into the city. The plague epidemic of 1575–1576 offered temporary demographic relief, boosting opportunities for wage earners and encouraging foreign and local migration.30 However, between the end of the devastating plague of 1630 and the beginning of the eighteenth century, residents and immigrants alike struggled with a changing labor environment.31 The population increased dramatically, by 40 percent, at a time when the city was no longer the center of gravity for the wool industry, and the remaining activities, such as silk-weaving and lace-making, were circumscribed. Only port activity—an ideal venue for the sale of sex—and shipbuilding, where women engaged in sail-making, thrived through the eighteenth century. They made Venice an attractive place for female migrants and residents to serve sailors as well as travelers. Selling sex was a thriving income-earning alternative for needy Venetian households. Economic trends also help us understand why the sex business became a preindustrial livelihood for men as well as women within the Venetian community. The employment misfortunes of husbands in skilled labor or trade were of particular significance: wives turned to selling sex in order to compensate for the household’s loss of income, sometimes with their husbands’ complicity, sometimes because they and their children had been abandoned. Labor misfortunes also forced some parents to broker their daughters privately within their own homes, though unlike Asian villages and towns, whose cultures expected the self-sacrifice of dutiful daughters, the Venetian state severely frowned upon such practices.32 In cases where the sex work of wives and daughters was driven by marginalized income, selling sex was essentially indoor family labor. The same was true of adolescents and women who worked in skilled vocations, as spinners, weavers, embroiderers, and sail-makers, or in unskilled activities, as petty retailers, hawkers, peddlers, washerwomen, or cooks: selling sex was a means of supplementing marginal household earnings. Rather than a separate profession that stood on its own, prostitution was integrated into the dynamic generated by other mainstream economic activities. Whether these women were badly married, abandoned, widowed, or single, their strategies for survival frequently fell within arenas outside the official labor market and formal economy. Despite oscillating trends in trade and manufacture for themselves or their kin, the entertainment industry supplied new income outlets in the sex trade, where women might garner higher wages than in other types of work. The urban sex trade was also a magnet for migrants, often because they were destitute or orphaned, or their circumstances had cost them their honor on the marriage market, forcing them to seek anonymity elsewhere. Women knew that a chaste reputation was essential social currency, and they astutely sought the sympathy and leniency of adjudicators by emphasizing that they were the victims of poverty. A case in point is Elisabetta Napoliona from Padua. Arrested in 1758, she begged for mercy, writing, I, a very unhappy Elisabetta Napoliona, already sent a memo last week imploring you, because of the merits of my father, Giovanni Anastasio Napolione, a lieutenant who served under the glorious Republic throughout the course of his life, to pardon his daughter, who, casually passing by the Mercerie around midnight, going to my house, was arrested and conducted to prison at the disposition of the Justice of Venice. It is understandable in my case to see why I am a meretrice. My father died, my mother died, and at a tender age I was left without any assistance. One can understand that I was violated. I had to become a meretrice out of necessity. Merciful fathers have pity on a poor derelict orphan. I promise the Tribunal to be careful in the future and not to fall into trouble again.33 Three of Elisabetta’s fellow prisoners joined her in petitioning the Bestemmia for pity because of destitution. Incarcerated for nearly two months, Giacomina Rosa from Pordenone, Bernardina from Vicenza, and Betta from Mestre lamented that they had no one to assist them by bringing in extra food or tending to them if they were ill, an expectation on the part of the state while investigations unfolded. They asked for permission to return to their home districts because of poor health, a common supplication, and they promised that they would not return. It is notable that the Bestemmia showed mercy, allowing them and two other immigrants from the mainland towns of Dolo and Palma Nova to leave, with the admonition to never return.34 The decision suggests perhaps some consciousness of and sympathy toward the poverty of women on the part of government authorities. All six prison mates are emblematic of the circular migration linking urban labor markets with the people of their surrounding territories.35 Women selling sex moved continually from the countryside, where they might have been field laborers during the harvest, to towns and cities in search of temporary work as urban domestics or tavern maids or in some other capacity. Venice appears to have housed an abundant supply of such women who had crossed state boundaries, either in search of more favorable economic circumstances or to escape the law, or at the very least to find the anonymity that would enable them to avoid social dishonor in their places of origin.36 There was a sea of untraceable itinerants moving from territory to territory. Venice’s central place as a magnet for visitors seeking pleasure attracted a diverse population of women peddling sex. Like merchants plying their wares from town to town, they reveal some of the commonalities of women across Europe who sought income-earning opportunities in urban centers. The women who appeared before the Bestemmia tribunal constituted something of a mobile global labor force marketing a common culture. They were listed as Poles, Germans, English, and Dalmatians. Others were migrants or temporary visitors from the Friuli to the northeast; the Veneto and Lombardy to the west; and the Romagna, Tuscany, and Naples to the south. Most were Christian, a few were Jews, and many were married. Among the most itinerant were the seasonal chain migrants without a place to sleep in Venice. These outdoor sex workers, who were generally very young, arrived during the warm summer months, when they could camp under the porticos in the Rialto commercial center. They had no particular ties to Venetian residents, and no evident support networks; thus they enjoyed anonymity. However, because their salacious activities unfolded in the shadows of public space during the night and early morning rather than behind closed doors, shopkeepers and other residents denounced their debauchery, imploring authorities to clean up their business district. Venetians were also highly sensitive to protecting the innocence of children and youth, a frequent issue in their public rhetoric.37 A case in point was a group of women in 1758 who camped at night under the porticos of the Banco Giro near the fruit and vegetable market in the Rialto district. They solicited nearby, in front of the Church of San Giacomo, one of Venice’s oldest sanctuaries. The shopkeepers, represented by a barber, a server at a café, and two fruit and vegetable vendors, took offense and turned to the Bestemmia. They complained that the women were pandering in the vicinity of the Rialto markets at night and working near respectable places like the Church of San Giacomo, “a house of God,” with no regard for anyone, of any age, who might be passing by. The men implored the Bestemmia to correct the women and to make them respect religious piety. While they invoked religion, it is clear that they were concerned that the visibility of prostitution in the streets would hurt their businesses. They added that the neighboring shopkeepers had attempted to rein the women in many times and had strongly admonished them. One of the plaintiffs, Anzolo Piteri, the son of a fruit vendor whose shop was at San Giacomo di Rialto near the church, testified, Around midnight I see the public meretrici walking around, until three in the morning. They do infamous things in these environs. They exhibit themselves freely, displaying their sensuality without regard. One also hears obscenities and blasphemies of all sorts. I do not know these women. There are always seven or eight of them. They commit a thousand iniquities during the night. In the morning when I go to the fruit and vegetable market at the Erbaria, I see them in the Calle della Sicurità and in the Scanzeli. They sleep on the ground like beasts, exposing their breasts without regard for others. They especially gather under the portico of the Church … where they commit all sorts of infamy, with great scandal for all, which incites the ire of God.38 In another case, the entire neighborhood of San Giulian petitioned the Bestemmia to take action against the vendor at a coffee shop in 1774, stating: The proprietor of the neighborhood coffee shop at Corte della Zoggia in San Giulian lodges meretrici night and day, including those who loiter in front of the church, or at the edge of the stables, or on the steps of Girolamo Ippoliti’s house. With petulance they solicit passersby and bring them to the coffee shop. They commit all the iniquities that one could imagine. This scandal, before lots of unmarried girls, needs to be stopped.39 The magistrates responded by sending a captain to acquire the keys of the establishment and shut it down. Yet another case of promiscuity in that same year raised the ire of a nobleman named Pietro Gradenigo.40 During the month of August, a group of young women were committing lewd acts in front of open windows, and Gradenigo feared that his nieces, who were between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, would witness the sex. Authorities and members of Venice’s neighborhood communities alike wished to suppress visible promiscuity. Openly having sex in a courtyard or outside a church, for example, clearly crossed the line. Overt sexual behavior hurt businesses and corrupted innocent young virgins and youth in general. Venetian officials demanded that neighbors and transportation workers report transgressors, and many complied when the wayward behavior was overt. Residents were also mindful of the repressive means of the state should they ignore transgressions that had become public. In 1615 and 1633, Venice’s supreme judicial body, the Council of Ten, had ordered the Bestemmia to go after the networks supporting wayward women. The magistracy issued severe threats. Boatmen, coachmen, and servants were obliged to immediately report women peddling sex, or they would be condemned to the galleys for five years. If a man was unable to row, then his best hand would be severed. Those accused who failed to report for investigation would be exiled for twenty years.41 None of these laws, despite their severity, necessarily prevailed over the financial motivations behind selling sex, though transgressors were not without enemies, especially from among vendors facing unfair competition from businesses that used prostitution as a vehicle to make higher profits. Others who filed complaints objected to overt soliciting, sex in courtyards and alleyways, rowdy brothels, and women of ill repute attending mass with regular parishioners. Such behavior overstepped boundaries, tainting Venice’s renowned iconographic image as the Queen of Virginity and champion of Catholicism, and residents were strongly reminded that they were responsible for protecting the city. No doubt there were other, underlying social and economic motivations for these denunciations, but on these the documents are silent. Newcomers to Venice quickly learned how to connect with the resident procuresses and procurers. The former, generally women over forty who had successfully survived the perils of the trade, turned to gathering and organizing younger women deprived of family or husbands, taking advantage of their youth and their greater potential to bring in income.42 They organized them into small sororities termed scolette, the Venetian term for a brothel.43 The word has interesting connotations. Deriving from scuola, the name applied to the host of Venetian male confraternities that had proliferated during the Reformation, the scoletta appears to have been a feminine parody on a charitable institution or asylum, and one that was hardly saintly. It is notable that older women were playing pivotal roles in organizing itinerant adolescents and abandoned wives despite the vigorous Catholic campaign launched during the last quarter of the sixteenth century to enclose younger, more vulnerable females. Procuresses offered them shelter and protection, if not privacy, in exchange for a portion of their earnings. They also procured customers for those selling sex, and they lent them clothing. This phenomenon, which was not exclusive to Venice but was also present in eighteenth-century France, has broader implications, offering us new insights into the way older women helped organize the lives of younger ones.44 While contemporary Venetians may have thought of the scoletta as simply a brothel, it appears to have been far more. It represented a countercultural network of entrepreneurial women. Whether adolescents, young women, abandoned wives, and destitute widows volunteered to live in the scolette or were victims of forced aggression touches on one of the central historiographical debates for studies of prostitution during the modern age.45 Our sources do not mention forced aggression, but some women, albeit under judicial pressure and seeking sympathy, reported that they fell into prostitution after being promised employment as domestics or tavern maids. Others recounted that they intended to use the shelters of procuresses as halfway houses. The high degree of mobility among both prostitutes and procuresses on the run from authorities strongly suggests that the sex workers were not necessarily bound to their landlords and landladies, though it is also possible that they moved to other urban or rural venues. No doubt many intended prostitution to be a temporary phase in their lives, such as younger women hoping to accumulate the resources for dowries or to help their natal families, and wives needing income and shelter for themselves and their children after their marriages had fallen apart. What stands out and invites further research is why these women resisted Catholic enclosures. It is plausible that the procuresses promised them greater freedom and an improved standard of living. Further, there was no place in asylums for women with children. Here the words of Venice’s most famous courtesan, Veronica Franco, about why mothers and children might not join charitable asylums resonate: “it would be difficult to induce them, from one moment to the next, to change from such great licentiousness to a life as strict and austere as the convertite.”46 Whatever the case, living and working in a scoletta was in some ways a surrogate for the family household the women had lost, perhaps with fewer restrictions. These women reconstituted a family structure for themselves and for their children through the scolette. Sex work thus served not only as a self-generating means of obtaining income, but also as a means of reconstituting fictive—defined here as outside legal marriage—family relations. It was one of the social and economic strategies open to women in Venice’s particular labor environment, and it underlines how essential household formation was even for women who sold sex. Early modern households were typically susceptible to breakdown because of the periodic misfortunes burdening daily life, including war, famine, poverty, and disease, but also because of marital dissolution and abandonment.47 Historians have explored some of the options open to women, including domestic servitude, convents, and asylums, but again microhistorical research reveals other forms of household organization and cohabitation like the scoletta. Entrepreneurial wives separated from their husbands found the scoletta to be a viable economic strategy. They organized their sex businesses around other women like them. In a maritime city such as Venice, husbands frequently went off to sea or to war, sometimes never to return, and their wives and daughters resorted to sex work to make a living.48 Again it is worth noting that they resisted enclosure in an asylum for the “badly married” (malmaritate), instead adjusting to spousal transience or possibly widowhood by finding other women, or male partners, to protect them and forming business networks. Meneghina Micheletti, separated from her husband and with a ten-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, began an adulterous relationship with a procurer named Carlo. Equipped with prophylactics, the couple organized a circle of sex workers that included other women who no longer cohabited with their husbands. Their neighbors complained to the Bestemmia, citing moral turpitude. The women, they alleged, consorted with “infidels,” Bestemmia rhetoric for non-Christians. Meneghina was especially demonized as a baroness of the underworld, ridden with syphilis and speaking with the tongue of the devil. After interviewing a series of neighborhood witnesses who testified to the licentious activities at Meneghina’s house, the Bestemmia sentenced her in 1762 to three years in prison for soliciting. In prison, she suffered greatly from syphilis and pled, in the spirit of Christian charity, for early release.49 Similarly, the oarsman Domenico Menin and his wife managed married women separated from their husbands who sold sex. Their network enjoyed the protection of the head of the neighborhood, but some of the neighbors and the parish priest complained, and the Bestemmia disciplined them in 1768.50 A decade later, one Lucieta, nicknamed Little Polenta (presumably in reference to her girth), was also denounced in her neighborhood at San Canciano for living in an intimate relationship with her male partner, Angelo Cerchi, and for running a prostitution ring composed of married women who were separated from their husbands.51 Authorities in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Venice were most intent on eliminating procuresses and their partners, whom they prosecuted for rounding up the innocent and creating scandal, rather than the women who lived under them. Among the many examples was Cecilia Michielina, who came before the Bestemmia in 1651 for keeping a scoletta of young girls and women on the Calle Brentana off the Frezzeria. She was accused of hosting persons of poor character and of permitting all types of inappropriate sexual behavior. Her transgressions went beyond soliciting customers, however, to include being responsible for young girls’ loss of virginity, an intolerable crime in Venice.52 Michielina fled before she could be prosecuted, so she was automatically exiled, but if she had been caught, she would have been pilloried and whipped between the two columns in Saint Mark’s Square, with her transgressions printed on a broadsheet hung from her neck. She would then have spent five years in a dark prison cell. Similarly, Margarita, a woman from Lucca who kept a scoletta, was banished for three years after she failed to appear before the Bestemmia, as was Angela Grisona, a Neapolitan who “seduced honest women.” Angela acquired used clothing for the women who let rooms from her and kept half their earnings at the Corte della Malvasia, where she ran a locanda, renting beds to all sorts.53 The worst offenders in the eyes of the Church, the state, and society overall were procuresses who facilitated young girls’ loss of virginity. This repeated transgression, in line with Casanova’s infamous memoirs about his sexual conquests and the opera librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte’s script for Mozart’s Don Giovanni, confirms that there was a market among eighteenth-century libertines for the young and innocent, but also an increasing awareness on the part of both authorities and neighborhood residents that this was a violation of childhood.54 Elena Baddiali, who was around sixty to seventy years of age, ran her business in coordination with the Fave Hostelry at San Matteo di Rialto. There she rented rooms to five or six women. In the summer of 1735, the neighbors and two Jesuit priests denounced her, lamenting that she collected the most inexperienced girls of a tender age.55 Most procuresses and procurers fled the law before they could be punished. The sex business required knowledge of where it was possible to engage in the trade, and here the scolette managers were very discerning in selecting girls, in choosing locations for their brothels, and in arranging for protection from either neighborhood captains or influential nobles, elements critical to running a successful business. The fact that scolette were businesses that relied on astute socioeconomic relations and that contributed in many ways to Venice’s labor market attests to why they were difficult to control. Besides renting rooms and recruiting sex workers, procuresses had other ways of earning income. They brokered for young women who had recently given birth to nurse the infants of more prosperous families. In spite of losing their honor and being subject to stigma, they did constitute a service industry. As matrons, they also used their own dwellings to lodge unmarried pregnant women from both city and countryside who needed a clandestine place to live during their last months of pregnancy, when their conditions were apparent, and where they could then give birth and rest in anonymity during their forty-day lying-in period.56 This was a hidden world, beyond the vocational midwives who complied with the church and state’s requirements to officially register and to adhere to church regulations. These circles of women secretly collaborated to avoid the dishonor that came with unwed motherhood. A woman in trouble knew where to seek help from these “women of the world,” who counseled and assisted them and thereby made their living. Clearly sex workers offended members of their communities in many ways, engaging in rowdy behavior, swearing, openly having sex, and exposing the young to impropriety. In some ways they constituted a counterculture to expected norms for women’s sexuality and gender roles. Catholic reformers had constructed prostitution as a social problem that the asylums could redress. Authorities viewed procuresses and procurers as scandalous riffraff that must be swept out of the city, primarily through incarceration or banishment. Such ideological constructs did not portray workers in the sex trade as part of society. But in fact they were, and like their counterparts in Rome and Amsterdam, they contributed to the circulation of capital while accumulating income for themselves.57 Elements of the Venetian business community established relationships with procuresses, procurers, and prostitutes because sex workers created many income-earning opportunities. It seems that there was a long tradition of offering them credit to set up their organizations, harking back to the days when prostitution was concentrated in the medieval Rialto district.58 Business owners could accrue higher profits by housing the clandestine sale of sex rather than through their more visible and taxable economic activities. Innkeepers earned rentals from prostitutes, while servants made a living doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning for the entire operation. Prostitutes stimulated business at theaters, taverns, and cafés and furnished rental income to landlords and landladies of all ranks. In devising their own income-producing strategies, sex workers constructed their own self-identities and sense of importance as economic producers in the various districts of the city. In this regard, rental income is an important area to highlight. Especially from the late sixteenth century, it was a lucrative source of revenue for both property owners and renters who sublet to others. The nobility, in particular, leaned toward investment in real estate in lieu of economic activities that would require them to take greater risks, profiting from the swarm of immigrants and visitors who commonly boarded throughout the city, but there were other speculators of varying ranks and both sexes who would rent houses or rooms, furnish them with a few essential items, and then sublet them to sex workers. Lucieta Fabris, a prostitute from Padua living in Venice in 1758, earned enough to work on her own and hire a full-time live-in servant to keep her house. She rented a unit in Corte delle Colonne in the Castello district from a noblewoman by the name of Beatrice Bragadin, the widow of Pasqualigo Basadonna. The noblewoman reclaimed her property when Lucieta came under the investigation of authorities. The Bestemmia judges learned that Lucieta had agreed to lease the dwelling, situated at Ponte de Fuseri in Corte delle Colonne, for ten years at an annual rate of approximately sixty ducats. She paid the annual sum in four installments and also paid the sewer fees and other incidentals. In addition, she rented out the beds, the copper utensils, and the linens from her noble landlady. Lucieta’s sex work, thus, provided income to a widow of noble stature.59 Venetian law repeatedly prohibited the renting of lodgings to women of ill repute, a mandate that was habitually ignored.60 A Bestemmia law of 1612 also required landlords and landladies to register foreign renters and to present their rental agreements to the College of Setti Savi, one of Venice’s regulatory offices supervising inns and taverns. Foreigners were particularly viewed as suspect by the state because of the prevalence among Italian regional states of banishing criminals. The health authorities, fearing contagion, also required the registration of boarders.61 These policies, however, conflicted with the economic interests of small businesses as well as private individuals. Two German sisters, Cristofolina and Margarita, were banished for ten years in 1650 for failing to appear before the Bestemmia to respond to accusations that they were housing foreigners and creating a scandal. Had they appeared, they would have faced a five-year prison sentence. Moreover, to ensure that they stayed away, the Bestemmia offered a bounty from the sisters’ assets for their capture.62 In another case, in 1651, an English woman named Emma was summoned to the prisons after being accused of lodging foreigners and prostitutes in the parish of San Giovanni in Bragola. She avoided life in prison and the amputation of her tongue by failing to appear.63 Figure 3: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Pietro Longhi, The Washerwoman, ca. 1740. Oil on panel, 61 x 50 cm. Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Wikimedia Commons. Longhi was renowned for his depictions of daily activities and ordinary people, such as the laundress here and the cook in Figure 4. Some of these women sold sex to supplement the small earnings from their daily vocations. Figure 3: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Pietro Longhi, The Washerwoman, ca. 1740. Oil on panel, 61 x 50 cm. Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Wikimedia Commons. Longhi was renowned for his depictions of daily activities and ordinary people, such as the laundress here and the cook in Figure 4. Some of these women sold sex to supplement the small earnings from their daily vocations. Figure 4: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Pietro Longhi, Woman Pouring Polenta, ca. 1740. Oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm. Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Wikimedia Commons. Figure 4: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Pietro Longhi, Woman Pouring Polenta, ca. 1740. Oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm. Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Wikimedia Commons. Among the other examples were Giovanni Passagniol, a thirty-year-old procurer who received two years in prison in 1750 for renting out his house in San Giulian to sex workers and collecting a portion of the ladies’ earnings, and Ventura Zambon, nicknamed Squash (Zucca), who was given five years in prison in 1779 for lodging “dishonest” women at his locanda.64 Ten residents in the vicinity of the establishment deposed against Zambon, including a sausage-maker, a coffee vendor, a shopkeeper, a waiter, and the local parish priest. He engaged a lawyer, who argued that the allegations could not be proven because the ladies’ doors were closed, but the defense was unsuccessful. The state’s severe penalties clearly did not deter people from earning income from clandestine activities that violated the law. Pietro Antonio Merigno, called Antonio the Spaniard, and his wife, Caterina, are a good example. They were condemned in 1747 for having sublet twelve houses to women in the sex trade. Of note, they rented the houses from members of the city’s illustrious nobility and then turned them over to sex workers. The account delivered to the Bestemmia by the parish priest in San Barnaba illuminates the ways in which landlords made money from prostitution. Maria Negri, a prostitute from Udine, was subletting a house from Caterina in the parish of San Tomà. She paid thirty soldi a day for the house, a bed, and a few pieces of furniture. She also paid twenty soldi per week for the blouse she wore, ten soldi per week for her scarf, and ten soldi per day for her dress. She lamented that to avoid being evicted, she was forced to sin on Good Friday in order to pay the fees. A Dalmatian named Antonia Schiavona, a native of Cherso (Cres), also paid Antonio the Spaniard twenty soldi per day for the house she rented. Caterina, a prostitute from the city of Brescia who was also in San Tomà, paid twenty soldi per day to the Spaniard for her housing, and also for the dress and scarf she wore. Among the other women were Isabella and Cornelia from Burano and Caterina from France. Antonio and Caterina were both inscribed in the rag-sellers’ guild. Accused of pimping and of subletting to prostitutes, they were incarcerated despite their protests that what they were doing was legitimate. Caterina opined that they were helping poor orphaned women out of Christian charity. Unpersuaded, the judges condemned the couple to one year in prison.65 The authorities were scandalized not only by the explicit sexual promiscuity taking place at the couple’s rentals, but also by allegations that Christian women were having intimate relations with Muslim and Jewish men. Venetian magistrates eschewed such liaisons. But aside from providing rentals or letting rooms themselves, women offering sexual services were stimulating business at cafés, hostelries, and taverns, primary centers of male sociability. These businesses supplied the state with substantial tax revenues, but at the same time prostitution was a means for them to divert activity that was taxable to operations that were untaxable and had low overhead. A café owner named Alvise Bisanzio, for example, was arrested in July 1785 for providing his clients with women selling sex. He kept two little rooms for this purpose above his shop, located under the Rialto porticos. He also possessed a storage room across the alley from the café, supposedly for coal, but these places were furnished with small tables and sofas for the use of the women, whom he accommodated at night. Abhorring the way he was supplementing his income, the Bestemmia sentenced Bisanzio to two years in prison.66 Hostelries, where alcohol was consumed in great quantities, also provided an ideal opportunity for people to supplement their income by facilitating prostitution. In a case dated 1699, Alvise Padovani, Ambrosio Rovelli, and Antonio Grillo were accused of running a prostitution ring from the Osteria della Corona. Padovani had opened the bar at San Giovanni Nuovo, where he was the manager. There he set up rooms for “free” women, some of whom came disguised in masks, as was the custom. The business thrived until the neighbors denounced the establishment for impropriety. A resident named Giacomo Pelli remarked that the neighbors referred to the Osteria della Corona as a big bordello. The inn was a place where people went to play cards, an activity frequently associated with prostitution. Another witness confirmed that many times he had seen men enter rooms and close the door, making their activities suspicious. Others volunteered that there was one “whore” named Margherita who went to the Corona with a mask on her face at Carnival. There were also two women who rented one room with two beds, and they dined and ate with foreign visitors. Each paid two ducats in rent per month. One of the women was also a foreigner, about twenty-three or twenty-four years old, and the other was a local girl around eighteen or nineteen. Padovani put up a chivalrous defense, stating that he had accepted the task of running the tavern, which served malvasia wine, in order to help the owner, a widow with four children who had inherited it from her deceased husband. He had never sold malvasia before, but was instead a barber by vocation and still kept a barbershop (another venue that authorities suspected of facilitating prostitution). Padovani denied that he had turned the place into a brothel, explaining that some of the people who came to drink during Carnival had requested privacy, so he gave them rooms. One of the best love nests was named Bel Camerino, the “Beautiful Little Room.” In line with testimonies from disgruntled residents to the contrary, the Bestemmia judges did not find his story plausible, and he was condemned to prison. Rovelli and Grillo were also investigated. Rovelli supposedly had an annex next to the Osteria della Corona with three prostitutes who worked there and whose presence stimulated business at the bar. He defended himself by describing the area around Campo San Giovanni Nuovo as a place where only vile women, called donne da partito (women who were a good catch), lived. These women often entered taverns to drink wine. They also supplemented their incomes by purchasing inexpensive wine and reselling it to their clients for more than double the price. Rovelli was condemned to twelve months in prison, but Grillo was absolved.67 Sex workers, thus, did not work in isolation but rather in the midst of petty retail, alongside vendors of used clothing, alcohol, and coffee; boatmen; landlords and landladies; and servants in networks that encouraged the circulation of capital in this maritime and tourist hub. Moreover, they combined their sexual activities with other forms of work conducive to clandestine sex, their earnings constituting a part of the informal economy that remains largely inaccessible to scholars but is critical in understanding the standard of living for ordinary people. Taking advantage of certain logistical and social opportunities in male centers of sociability, these sex workers enjoyed a degree of integration among both women and men who stood to earn income from their activities while avoiding taxation. Figure 5: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Pietro Longhi, The Hilarious Pair, ca. 1740. Oil on panel, 61 x 50 cm. Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Wikimedia Commons. Taverns and inns were prime locations in Venice for sex workers to ply their wares. Figure 5: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Pietro Longhi, The Hilarious Pair, ca. 1740. Oil on panel, 61 x 50 cm. Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Wikimedia Commons. Taverns and inns were prime locations in Venice for sex workers to ply their wares. The interaction and cooperation between sex workers and neighborhood communities offers us a more nuanced understanding of the reception of prostitution in this early modern city than the official rhetoric of deviance and immorality provides. Aristocrats, libertines, foreign visitors, and laborers alike had the opportunity to use it as a commodity. Whereas lawyers and judges labeled all women who had sex outside of a legal nuptial union meretrici—a broad term that defies precise categorization but is clearly filled with stigma—popular references to these women, who had become a major attraction for male travelers, were playful and humorous. The women were called adventurers (venturiere), women of the world (donne di mondo), women who were a good catch (donne di partito), women who were generous with themselves (donne generose di se stesse), debased coins like the currency they accepted for payment (bagattine), and women soliciting from balconies (donne da balcon).68 But just as importantly, people also viewed them as laborers. Often in testimonies, witnesses referred to women with nicknames taken from their work rather than their patronymic surnames. Among those listed in the Civil Customs Magistracy were a sauce-maker, a laundry maid, a barber, a glove-maker, a printer, a shoemaker, a hairdresser, and a baker. They could have been in late-eighteenth- or nineteenth-century New York as easily as in Venice; these were common vocations for women who supplemented their incomes through the sale of sex.69 Many of them engaged in activities that were conducive to prostitution, such as washing or mending clothes or cooking, activities that might require home delivery and enable clandestine sex on the side. This is not to say that as part of the colorful scenery in taverns and inns, they were not subject to ribald play. Again, Venice in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was in the business of organizing pleasure. Among the most graphic descriptions that contemporaries assigned to sex workers were “Orsetta I Don’t Want To,” “Orsa with Seven Asses,” “Tranquila the Shitter,” “Chiaretta the Cunt,” and “Cecilia the Chestnut Eater.” (“Chestnut eater” was a common appellation for a prostitute.)70 Sex workers, however, resisted negative labels and mostly denied accusations if they opted to defend themselves with the help of lawyers before the Bestemmia tribunal rather than flee.71 Some, like Maddalena Bruna, indignantly defended their prerogative to sell sex. Venice’s sex workers also appear to have had good knowledge of the legal system, for they devised strategies to avoid arrest and prosecution. They protected themselves from authorities, usually through dissemblance and masquerade, again with the complicity of some members of the community. While state authorities officially prohibited women from disguising themselves by dressing outside their social and marital status, masking, and cross-dressing as men, such practices remained prevalent over the long term, exposing the disjunction between the laws of repression and popular social behaviors. Disguises permitted transgressors of local custom to continue their operations without interruption. Some female sex workers dressed as men to enable them to access their clients’ homes freely and to avoid the pernicious gossip that often drew the attention of parish priests, and subsequently of Venetian officials. Others dressed as men so they could row the canals soliciting business or ply their trade riding coaches on the mainland.72 Among the most colorful was Flaminia Zanardi, a woman from Treviso living “far from her husband, Bernardo,” who defied class and gender expectations. Flaminia made her rounds across Saint Mark’s Square garbed in black, cross-dressing as a Venetian patrician. She also doubled as a bandit. She lived in the vicinity of the square at the hostelry of the Salvadego. In July 1699 she failed to appear before the Bestemmia tribunal after her stepmother had denounced her to the Council of Ten for robbery and assault. The Ten redirected the case to the Bestemmia. Flaminia had appeared at Isabetta Cortenovi’s door early one morning, in men’s garb and armed with the kind of beretta firearm that gentlemen often carried, in the company of four ruffians with bandanas covering their faces. When Flaminia failed to appear before the judges of the Bestemmia, they banished her in absentia.73 Still other women disguised themselves by dressing in black and wearing pearls to portray themselves as married women or widows, or they wore long white veils or handkerchiefs, as was the custom for single women, in order to attend mass.74 All of these disguises underline Venice’s social hierarchy and the awareness on the part of women resisting patriarchal norms by selling sex that respectable status, with all its concomitant privileges, was a critical determinant of experience. Authorities also faced difficulties in protecting sacred space. It was officially off limits to women selling sex, yet the laws warning “free women” that they could not attend church, oratory, or other sacred places outside of prayer hours or they would be banished, sent to prison, or even have their noses and ears amputated, had to be continually repeated.75 Some women who transgressed these laws were truly pious and were asserting their right to practice their religion. They might consider selling sex to be sinful, but they also believed that sins could be forgiven. Others knew that keeping up a Christian appearance was important social currency, and the most defiant used churches as places to solicit sex. It is dubious that very many received the extreme punishment prescribed by law, for the accused were frequently successful in fleeing formal investigation, choosing exile or going underground instead. In contrast to measures to protect sacred space, the state’s policies on masking and gambling were more in alignment with market demands. There were fewer restrictions on women selling sex in secular venues that brought in tax revenues, such as theaters, opera houses, and gambling halls, sites where prostitution was tacitly accepted, with the law demanding only that it be discreet. In 1677, 1681, and 1690, the Magistrates of Civil Custom (the Pompe) decreed that public prostitutes were obliged to wear masks and outfits suitable for ladies when attending these places of entertainment.76 A century later, in 1767, women were forbidden to enter gaming houses, but soon proprietors and their clients managed to have the ban softened, and women could enter if they wore disguises. Figure 6: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Donato Bertelli, A Courtesan Concealing Her Breeches, 1578. “Le vere imagini et descritioni delle piv nobilli citta del mondo,” The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed June 30, 2017. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5959d7c0-d171-0132-5041-58d385a7b928. This print is part of a collection of images in which certain details are concealed with a flap (top) that, when lifted (bottom), reveals more titillating subject matter. Women cross-dressing as men was frowned upon, yet it was a common practice for both courtesans and ordinary women disguising their sexual commerce with men. Figure 6: Compliance with permission from the rights holder to display this image online prohibits further enlargement or copying. Donato Bertelli, A Courtesan Concealing Her Breeches, 1578. “Le vere imagini et descritioni delle piv nobilli citta del mondo,” The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed June 30, 2017. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5959d7c0-d171-0132-5041-58d385a7b928. This print is part of a collection of images in which certain details are concealed with a flap (top) that, when lifted (bottom), reveals more titillating subject matter. Women cross-dressing as men was frowned upon, yet it was a common practice for both courtesans and ordinary women disguising their sexual commerce with men. It is not surprising that Venetian patricians, members of a hereditary constitutional elite, tolerated prostitution despite the harsh penalties emanating from their tribunals. It would be a mistake to view the members of the state’s governing body as a monolithic entity with uniform attitudes and beliefs. As with any political body, there were fissures, and in Venice some adhered more readily than others to the precepts of the Church. The rules on restrictive marriage had long compromised the way the sexual system was embedded in power relations. Unmarried sons freely joined foreign travelers and sailors in enjoying the sexual favors the city’s male-oriented consumer culture offered. Moreover, by the eighteenth century, at least a third of the ruling class was so poor that marriage was hardly a possibility. Thus, many nobles bought sex or took concubines, which was in some ways an even greater threat to patriarchal kinship than prostitution because such arrangements mimicked marriage.77 The evidence of social and economic experience found in Venetian judicial sources provides us with a different perspective of the sex trade from that of moralists advocating patriarchy or travel writers producing guides to a paradise of whores. To begin, it underlines the regulatory powers of the community in this densely packed floating city where people enjoyed relatively little privacy. Priests, neighbors, and shopkeepers wielded the power to delineate the boundaries of commercial sex because judicial authorities had to rely on them for information in order to prosecute malefactors. But a host of people from all ranks of society were willing to ignore the prescriptive rules of gender and female sexuality if it was financially to their benefit. Microanalysis helps explain this range of attitudes. Nonetheless, the sources present limitations, in that the written record does not always identify the underlying reasons why people filed complaints. It is highly plausible that besides morality, money was at the center of disgruntlement. Shopkeepers who did not subsidize their incomes through the sex business no doubt resented the commercial prejudice stemming from this activity. Unfair competition may have been an underlying motive behind the moral rhetoric of a denunciation. Others used the state’s exhortation to regulate debauchery as a means of demanding propriety for their neighborhoods and children, a stance in alignment with more modern ideas of childhood.78 Still others may have feared the punitive consequences of not denouncing transgressors. Whatever the case, the successful prosecution of transgressors was uneven, owing to the ambivalence on the part of both state authorities and community members to eliminate generative wealth for the urban economy. Using microanalysis to examine the social and economic experience of sex workers also brings us closer to their subjective selves and to more nuanced considerations of their relationship to the overall economy. The economy was not simply a structure that determined people’s actions, but rather a theater of gendered operations that made it possible for the most entrepreneurial to acquire agency by participating in the opportunities that the market offered. Women with access to work and capital, however stigmatized, were not simply marginalized people, or a uniform category of historical analysis with fixed identities in prostitution.79 They did not necessarily make autonomous decisions, but they were clearly moved to some degree by the income-earning potential for themselves and for their collaborators in the hospitality and transportation spheres. In this respect we can see how women managers in the sex business, who are generally excluded from scholarly discussions about economic development, actually promoted the growth of Venice’s microeconomy. This helps explain why state authorities were both lax and unable to suppress sex work: the revenues generated from the establishments where sex workers stimulated business were a counterpoint to ideal templates of moral behavior. Viewing the sale of sex from the ground up shows us the ways in which patriarchal, regulatory models did not fit the life circumstances of the economically disadvantaged. As ordinary women saw things, they could not afford unpaid work or to be male-dependent, a persistent fact whose continuity over time challenges historical periodization. Venetian sources provide an example of how some women shaped their own subjective identities and constructed their own family economics through business relationships and protected themselves through disguise, dissemblance, and social networks. Their international composition surely informs the broader outlines of prostitution in global history. The moral and judicial literature throughout Europe that characterized sex workers as lascivious and avaricious, or, as was increasingly the trend in eighteenth-century societies, as piteous victims, was symptomatic of the cultural tensions that female assertions of autonomy produced, tensions that were anathema to the Reformation and Enlightenment asylum and that weakened calls for enclosure. However, there was another culture in operation that gave women choices, one that was embedded in market forces and held together by social relationships. Thus some women did not necessarily see the asylum as the solution to their problems, instead building their own fictive kinship networks in an international venue whose market made the sex trade, however undignified, an integrated feature of the urban economy. In conclusion, the perspectives of the historical actors in Venice’s judicial records illuminate the ground-up economics that provided ordinary people with disposable income, economic value, and agency. Moving the gendered analysis of sex work in an economic direction thus offers a compelling explanation for its persistence over the long term. In Venice, the needs of disadvantaged women from all around Europe intersected with the operations of a thriving market economy to undermine gender norms and religious traditions. A broad segment of the local population, from petty retailers to tavern keepers and innkeepers to landlords and landladies, stood to benefit from the commodification of sex, making moral deviance and prostitution social constructions that did not command uniform consensus from the city’s various constituencies. Because the sex trade was an economic enterprise embedded deeply in Venice’s social and financial networks, women engaged in such work were not necessarily separate from the rest of the population. Nor did they necessarily operate outside the family unit, working instead alongside their husbands and children, or in reconstituted households with partners, or in the collaborative scolette. Their experiences open up a small part of the hidden world of ordinary people trying to make a living. Joanne M. Ferraro is the Albert W. Johnson Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at San Diego State University, where she has taught since 1984. She is the author of Venice: History of the Floating City (Cambridge University Press, 2012), Nefarious Crimes, Contested Justice: Illicit Sex and Infanticide in the Republic of Venice, 1557–1789 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice (Oxford University Press, 2001), and Family and Public Life in Brescia, 1580–1650: The Foundations of Power in the Venetian State (Cambridge University Press, 1993). She is currently serving as the General Series Editor for A Cultural History of Marriage from Antiquity to the Present (6 vols.; forthcoming 2019 from Bloomsbury Press Academic) and as Volume Editor for A Cultural History of Marriage in the Renaissance and Early Modern Age, 1450–1650 (forthcoming 2019 from Bloomsbury Press Academic). I would like to thank my colleagues Pablo Ben and Ron King for their close readings of earlier versions of this manuscript. Notes 1The Council of Ten, Venice’s highest magistracy, established this judicial body in 1539, originally to regulate blasphemy. Government leaders, reshaping the polity’s identity in the midst of the Protestant Reformation, aimed to establish a strong confessional state, one separate from the burgeoning Roman curia and in charge of its own religious and moral affairs. As a result, the Bestemmia tribunal mushroomed into a bureaucratic organ preoccupied with moral turpitude and Catholic custom. Within the context of rapid demographic growth and intense commercialization, its responsibilities steadily expanded over two centuries, to include the suppression of gambling (1539); sex at sacred sites (1541); the appeals of women who were sentenced for prostitution by the magistracy of public health (1543); defloration, breach of marital promise, and sexual assault (1577); the regulation of foreigners’ lodgings (1583); and, repeatedly, gambling and prostitution (1615, 1633, 1742, 1771, 1796). From the late sixteenth century, then, Bestemmia judges remained focused on violations of Catholic custom, working alongside at least two other magistracies charged with social discipline, the Provveditori alla Sanità (Public Health) and the Provveditori sopre le Pompe (Civil Custom). Renzo Derosas, “Moralità e giustizia a Venezia nel ’500–’600: Gli Esecutori contro la Bestemmia,” in Gaetano Cozzi, ed., Stato, società e giustizia nella Repubblica Veneta (Secolo XV–XVIII) (Rome, 1980), 431–528. 2Archivio di Stato di Venezia [hereafter ASV], Esecutori alla Bestemmia [hereafter EB], busta 12, January 19, 1733, fols. 40r–46r. Also treated in Romano Canosa and Isabella Colonnello, Storia della prostituzione in Italia dal Quattrocento alla fine del Settecento (Rome, 1989), 161–162; and in Giovanni Scarabello, Meretrices: Storia della prostituzione a Venezia tra il 13. e il 18. secolo (Venice, 2006), 140–141. 3Much of the historiography of medieval and early modern prostitution has focused on authorities’ attitudes toward sexuality and its regulation. A useful summary is Kathryn Norberg, “Prostitution,” in Peter Stearns, ed., The Encyclopedia of European Social History, 6 vols. (New York, 2001), 3: 351–360, here 351–354. Medieval municipal elites generally tolerated prostitution as a guarantor of domestic order. Continental towns owned brothels and profited from taxing them. See Leah Lydia Otis, Prostitution in Medieval Society: The History of an Institution in Languedoc (Chicago, 1985); Jacques Rossiaud, Medieval Prostitution, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Oxford, 1995); Ruth Mazo Karras, Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England (Oxford, 1996); Carol Lansing, “Gender and Civic Authority: Sexual Control in a Medieval Italian Town,” Journal of Social History 31, no. 1 (1997): 33–59. In Venice during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, state attorneys also tolerated prostitution, but they viewed it as deviant, according to Guido Ruggiero, because it undermined marriage and family. Ruggiero, The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice (Oxford, 1985), 9, 49, chap. 7. Moreover, the state never successfully contained legalized prostitution during the period between 1360 and 1460. Paula C. Clarke, “The Business of Prostitution in Early Renaissance Venice,” Renaissance Quarterly 68, no. 2 (2015): 419–464, here 430. For the early modern period, local historians in Venice and their students have scoured the records of the city’s criminal tribunals, primarily to trace the regulatory practices of state institutions. See Scarabello, Meretrices; Madile Gambier, “La piccola prostituzione fra ’600–’700,” in Il gioco dell’amore: Le cortigiane di Venezia dal trecento al settecento (exhibition catalogue; Milan, 1990), 37–40; Gambier, “La donna e la giustizia penale veneziana nel XVIII secolo,” in Cozzi, Stato, società e giustizia nella repubblica veneta, 529–576; Paolo Preto, I servizi segreti di Venezia: Spionaggio e controspionaggio ai tempi della serenissima (1994; repr., Milan, 2010), 543–545. 4Pellegrina Schiavona’s sentence in 1639 is typical: the state banished her not only for her scandalous behavior, but also because she had been heard to blaspheme the sacred name of God with obscene and scandalous words. ASV, EB, busta 63, February 12, 1639, n.p. Meneghina Micheletti, another case in point, was sentenced in 1762 to three years in prison for soliciting and procuring. Among her transgressions, she brokered erotic exchanges among laypeople, priests, friars, and Jews, and she did not respect the dietary laws of the Catholic Church. She also feigned piousness when attending daily mass. These were crimes, according to the Bestemmia, against the laws of God as well as the state. ASV, EB, busta 29, 1761–1762, n.p. 5A proliferation of scholarly studies during the 1980s and 1990s emphasized the transition from tolerance of prostitution to its criminalization in the course of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries because the activity became more diffuse and less controllable. While there were fears about the spread of syphilis during the period of religious reforms in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, authorities placed greater emphasis on morality per se and as an instrument of state development. Protestant areas responded to prostitution more immediately than Catholic ones with legislative restrictions. See Tessa Storey, Carnal Commerce in Counter-Reformation Rome (Cambridge, 2008), 3–4. For an overview of the scholarship, see Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Christianity and Sexuality in the Early Modern World: Regulating Desire, Reforming Practice (London, 2000), 82–85, 122–124. More specialized studies of attempts to regulate women’s sexual lives include Patricia Crawford, Women and Religion in England, 1500–1720 (London, 1993); Rosalind Mitchison and Leah Leneman, Sexuality and Social Control: Scotland, 1660–1780 (Oxford, 1989); Isabel V. Hull, Sexuality, State, and Civil Society in Germany, 1700–1815 (Ithaca, N.Y., 1996); Lyndal Roper, “Discipline and Respectability: Prostitution and the Reformation in Augsburg,” History Workshop, no. 19 (Spring 1985): 3–28; James R. Farr, Authority and Sexuality in Early Modern Burgundy, 1550–1730 (Oxford, 1995), 142–143; Mary Elizabeth Perry, “Deviant Insiders: Legalized Prostitutes and a Consciousness of Women in Early Modern Seville,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 27, no. 1 (1985): 138–158; Perry, Gender and Disorder in Early Modern Seville (Princeton, N.J., 1990), chap. 7. While some Italian authorities attempted to register prostitutes, the diffusion of their activity led clerics and secular officials to encourage enclosure in asylums, imprisonment, or banishment. See Silvia Evangelisti, “Wives, Widows, and Brides of Christ: Marriage and the Convent in the Historiography of Early Modern Italy,” The Historical Journal 43, no. 1 (2000): 233–247, here 241; Lucia Ferrante, “Pro mercede carnali … Il giusto prezzo rivendicato in tribunale,” Memoria: Rivista di Storia delle Donne 17 (1986): 42–58; Ferrante, “Honor Regained: Women in the Casa del Soccorso di San Paolo in Sixteenth-Century Bologna,” trans. Margaret A. Gallucci, in Edward Muir and Guido Ruggiero, eds., Sex and Gender in Historical Perspective: Selections from Quaderni Storici (Baltimore, 1990), 46–72; Canosa and Colonnello, Storia della prostituzione in Italia dal Quattrocento alla fine del Settecento; Sherrill Cohen, The Evolution of Women’s Asylums since 1500: From Refuge for Ex-Prostitutes to Shelters for Battered Women (Oxford, 1989); Guido Ruggiero, Binding Passions: Tales of Magic, Marriage, and Power at the End of the Renaissance (Oxford, 1993), 48–55; Monica Chojnacka, “Women, Charity and Community in Early Modern Venice: The Casa delle Zitelle,” Renaissance Quarterly 51, no. 1 (1998): 68–91. For France, see Philip F. Riley, “Michel Foucault, Lust, Women, and Sin in Louis XIV’s Paris,” Church History 59, no. 1 (1990): 35–50. On the links between the spread of syphilis and prostitution, see Laura J. McGough, Gender, Sexuality, and Syphilis in Early Modern Venice: The Disease That Came to Stay (New York, 2011). On the reforming spirit in eighteenth-century Northern Europe, see Laura J. Rosenthal, Infamous Commerce: Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture (Ithaca, N.Y., 2006); Marion Pluskota, Prostitution and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century Ports (London, 2016), 152. 6Unlike Venice, the Florentine government abandoned its policy of containment in the fifteenth century, but then reconsidered the revenues it brought in from taxation and reinstated it in the sixteenth century. John K. Brackett, “The Florentine Onestà and the Control of Prostitution, 1403–1680,” Sixteenth Century Journal 24, no. 2 (1993): 273–300, here 287, 291–292, 296. Bologna was careful to register and tax prostitutes during the early modern period. Vanessa Gillian McCarthy, “Prostitution, Community, and Civic Regulation in Early Modern Bologna” (Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto, 2015). 7Likewise, studies of Rome, Amsterdam, Nantes, and Bristol have more readily analyzed the economic incentives of prostitution. Storey, Carnal Commerce in Counter-Reformation Rome, chaps. 5 and 7. Women also sold sex in Amsterdam despite its stigma. Lotte van de Pol, The Burgher and the Whore: Prostitution in Early Modern Amsterdam (Oxford, 2001). The same was true in Nantes and Bristol. Pluskota, Prostitution and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century Ports. 8Among the theoretical models for this approach are Natalie Zemon Davis’s exposé on how historians can hold on to the detail of microhistory while addressing the global history of households and families. See Davis, “Decentering History: Local Stories and Cultural Crossings in a Global World,” History and Theory 50, no. 2 (2011): 188–202, here 188–190. See also Amy Stanley’s excellent example in “Maidservants’ Tales: Narrating Domestic and Global History in Eurasia, 1600–1900,” American Historical Review 121, no. 2 (April 2016): 437–460; and Luise White’s example of prostitutes becoming landlords and acquiring respectability in colonial Nairobi in White, The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi (Chicago, 1990). 9This is not the microhistory that Carlo Ginzburg, Carlo Poni, and Giovanni Levi initiated in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Italian school was interested in testing the validity of the macro-scale paradigms of Annalistes, quantitative historians, and followers of historical sociology. Since then the field has evolved and expanded considerably, encompassing a variety of methods. For an elaboration of the Italian school and what has followed, see Francesca Trivellato, “Is There a Future for Italian Microhistory in the Age of Global History?,” California Italian Studies 2, no. 1 (2011), http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0z94n9hq; and Edward Muir, “Introduction: Observing Trifles,” in Edward Muir and Guido Ruggiero, eds., Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe (Baltimore, 1991), vii–xxviii. In The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, trans. John and Anne Tedeschi (Baltimore, 1980), Ginzburg applied evidential rigor to the inquisitorial process of an idiosyncratic individual to recapture interactions between elite and popular culture. He outlined his method in Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, trans. John and Anne Tedeschi (1989; repr., Baltimore, 2013), chap. 5. Levi also advocated searching for such idiosyncrasies and contradictory viewpoints in “On Microhistory,” in Peter Burke, ed., New Perspectives on Historical Writing (University Park, Pa., 1991), 93–113. On the other hand, I am more interested in recovering the daily lives of ordinary people rather than finding contradictions or testing macro-paradigms. Like the Italian microhistorians, I do extrapolate from bits of evidence, but with the purpose of discovering the wider context of ordinary people’s actions, responses, and choices. This is more in line with the North American model of microanalysis, which centers on finding individual agency rather than identifying the structures that limited it. I borrow from the feminist analyses of gender and identity in the works of Joan W. Scott and Natalie Zemon Davis, staying close to primary sources but also exploring how the micro scale might inform global themes such as prostitution from the perspective of individuals or small groups that resolve problems within the limits of their own local environments rather than from the perspective of overarching institutions designed to discipline them. See Scott, “Storytelling,” History and Theory 50, no. 2 (2011): 203–209; Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, Mass., 1983). On the narrative style and microhistory, see Sarah Maza, “Stories in History: Cultural Narratives in Recent Works in European History,” American Historical Review 101, no. 5 (December 1996): 1493–1515. On microhistory and global history, see Davis, “Decentering History,” 188–190, and the helpful comprehensive methodological essay by Trivellato cited earlier in this note. 10On prostitutes as “the other,” see Shannon Bell, Reading, Writing, and Rewriting the Prostitute Body (Bloomington, Ind., 1994). 11See Bryan D. Palmer’s critique of poststructuralism and the reification of discourse, methods that avoid the struggles of resistance in history. Palmer instead emphasizes the importance of material forces such as economic structures. Palmer, Descent into Discourse: The Reification of Language and the Writing of Social History (Philadelphia, 1990). Discourse analysis is also critiqued in Christian Henriot, Prostitution and Sexuality in Shanghai: A Social History, 1849–1949, trans. Noel Castelino (Cambridge, 2001), xv, 2. 12Municipal brothels in France, Germany, and Spain were obsolete by 1650. Norberg, “Prostitution,” 351–353. Milan closed its public brothel in the mid-sixteenth century, and prostitution was dispersed throughout the city. Stefano D’Amico, “Shameful Mother: Poverty and Prostitution in Seventeenth-Century Milan,” Journal of Family History 30, no. 1 (2005): 109–120, here 111. 13Margaret F. Rosenthal, The Honest Courtesan: Veronica Franco, Citizen and Writer in Sixteenth-Century Venice (Chicago, 1993), 128–135. 14In contrast, Karras’s study of medieval England found women who adopted the identification of meretrice;Common Women, 84, 95–101. This difference may be the result of cultural variables from place to place. Montpellier’s prostitutes were not marginalized but rather were integrated into family and community life. Geneviève Hébert, “Les ‘femmes de mauvaise vie’ dans la communauté (Montpellier, 1713–1742),” Histoire Sociale 36, no. 72 (2003): 497–517, here 509–513. 15See Cohen, The Evolution of Women’s Asylums since 1500. 16The Venetian ambassador to Rome, Paolo Tiepolo, explained that an attempt by Pius V to expel the city’s prostitutes in 1566 failed because the more than 25,000 other people who were earning income from this activity would also have left the city. Carlo M. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000–1700 (New York, 1976), 88. Prostitutes were to a significant degree integrated in the eternal city even though their presence was not entirely accepted. Elizabeth S. Cohen, “Seen and Known: Prostitutes in the Cityscape of Late-Sixteenth-Century Rome,” Renaissance Studies 12, no. 3 (1998): 392–409, here 392; see also van de Pol, The Burgher and the Whore. Cf. Ming China, where prostitutes were linked to the female entertainment industries. Harriet T. Zurndorfer, “Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Confucian Moral Universe of Late Ming China (1550–1644),” International Review of Social History 56, no. S19 (2011): 197–216; Amy Stanley, Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan (Berkeley, Calif., 2012), 103–108. In contrast, Siena, for example, was less tolerant of women who sold sex. The government made every effort from the end of the sixteenth to the eighteenth century to keep them outside the city walls. The women kept moving to avoid punishment. Oscar Di Simplicio, Peccato, Penitenza, Perdono (Siena, 1575–1800): La formazione della coscienza nell’Italia moderna (Milan, 1994), 187, 208–210. 17Robert C. Davis and Garry R. Marvin, Venice, the Tourist Maze: A Cultural Critique of the World’s Most Touristed City (Berkeley, Calif., 2004), 33–43. 18Nineteenth-century studies of prostitution include the anonymous Leggi e memorie venete sulla prostituzione fino alla caduta della republica: A spese del conte di Orford, ed. Giovanni Battista de Lorenzi (Venice, 1870–1872). For tourism, see Davis and Marvin, Venice, the Tourist Maze. A model literary study of courtesans is Rosenthal, The Honest Courtesan. See also Guido Ruggiero, “Prostitution: Looking for Love,” in Bette Talvacchia, ed., A Cultural History of Sexuality in the Renaissance (London, 2011), 157–174. 19These themes have also been considered for late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century U.S. history in Timothy J. Gilfoyle, “Prostitutes in the Archives: Problems and Possibilities in Documenting the History of Sexuality,” American Archivist 57, no. 3 (1994): 514–527. For the techniques and benefits of oral history, see, for example, White, The Comforts of Home; Amalia L. Cabezas, Economies of Desire: Sex and Tourism in Cuba and the Dominican Republic (Philadelphia, 2009). 20Historians of early modern Rome have also identified prostitutes as community insiders during the Reformation Era. Widows and the abandoned moved in and out of prostitution, and prostitutes moved in and out of marriage. See Storey, Carnal Commerce in Counter-Reformation Rome, chaps. 5 and 7; Cohen, “Seen and Known,” 392; Elizabeth Storr Cohen and Marina Bocconcelli , “La verginità perduta: Autorappresentazione di giovani donne nella Roma barocca,” Quaderni Storici, new series, 23, no. 67 (1) (1988): 169–191. 21See the parallel argument in Pluskota, Prostitution and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century Ports, 26. 22See Yasuko Sato’s historiographical essay on the relationship between market expansion and changes in the family in Japan, China, and France: Sato, “Early Modern Prostitutes, Concubines, and Mistresses,” Journal of Women’s History 28, no. 2 (2016): 156–165. 23Matthew H. Sommer, “Foreword,” in Stanley, Selling Women, xi–xvi; Stanley, Selling Women, 16, 74–81, 118; Sommer, Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China (Stanford, Calif., 2000). Confucian scholars praised filial loyalty and were concerned with how materialism damaged the moral fabric of society. Zurndorfer, “Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Confucian Moral Universe of Late Ming China,” 200–206. 24Joanne M. Ferraro, Nefarious Crimes, Contested Justice: Illicit Sex and Infanticide in the Republic of Venice, 1557–1789 (Baltimore, 2008); Ferraro, “Youth in Peril in Early Modern Venice,” Journal of Social History 49, no. 4 (2016): 761–783. 25The Council of Ten ruled against mothers in 1563. Rosenthal, The Honest Courtesan, 129–130. Tessa Storey notes that in Italy, literary and moralizing texts centered on the role of mothers in encouraging prostitution. However, legislation targeted both parents. Storey, Carnal Commerce in Counter-Reformation Rome, 19. 26Prostitution in early modern Seville, in contrast to Venice, was under male supervision. Perry, “Deviant Insiders.” Studies in the modern age have demonstrated that male dominance was prevalent where there was strong state intervention. See Timothy J. Gilfoyle, “Prostitutes in History: From Parables of Pornography to Metaphors of Modernity,” American Historical Review 104, no. 1 (February 1999): 117–141, here 132. For Imperial China, see Sommer, “Foreword.” 27Cf. Pluskota, Prostitution and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century Ports, 28–37. The author’s conclusions are instructive for Venice. Eighteenth-century sex workers in Bristol and Nantes exercised greater agency than their predecessors. Pluskota argues that the port environment in these cities furnished more freedom for women in promiscuous relationships and that they could become more independent wage earners. 28Here I agree with Laura Lee Downs that there is a connection between the cultural aspects of identity and social experience. Downs, Writing Gender History (London, 2004), 165. However, individual identity is not necessarily a derivative of a group’s location in social or political life. Women engage in actions that define their own subjectivity. On the debates over the status of the subject and discursive versus social experience, see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990; repr., London, 2006); Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993; repr., London, 2011). Joan W. Scott underlines the limits of giving subjects fixed identities. Identities instead are ascribed, resisted, and embraced, and women respond differently to life circumstances. Scott, “The Evidence of Experience,” in Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin, eds., The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (London, 1993), 397–415. Downs provides a useful summary of these authors in Writing Gender, chap. 10. Luise White’s study of prostitutes in nineteenth-century Nairobi is an excellent example of how women made their own lives and defined their own experiences in relation to shifting agrarian fortunes. Women selling sex were not concerned with disgrace; they were focused on supporting their families and rebuilding their family businesses. White, The Comforts of Home, 2, 20–21, 221. 29See the parallel analysis for Amsterdam in van de Pol, The Burgher and the Whore, 142–147. Similarly, in Milan during the 1670s, poor women turned to prostitution to escape destitution. D’Amico, “Shameful Mother,” 109–110. 30This included a steady stream of immigrants from the Low Countries between 1584 and 1602 and Jews from Ferrara. Brian S. Pullan, Crisis and Change in the Venetian Economy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Bungay, 1968), 9–10. 31The extensive literature is summarized in Joanne M. Ferraro, Venice: History of the Floating City (Cambridge, 2012), 184–187. 32Sommer, “Foreword.” The concept of self-sacrifice from dutiful daughters faded in seventeenth-century Japan, only to be replaced by the condemnation of women who asserted their autonomy and marketed sex for self preservation. Stanley, Selling Women, 108. 33ASV, EB, busta 50, 1758, n.p. 34Ibid. 35Cf. Lucia Ferrante, “Il valore del corpo, ovvero la gestione della sessualità femminile,” in Angela Groppi, ed., Il lavoro delle donne (Bari, 1996), 206–228, here 207–208. In “Pro mercede carnali,” Ferrante offers the example of Catterina Monari, who came before authorities in Bologna in 1604 after having worked the fields and then moved from town to town as a domestic servant. See also Erica-Marie Benabou, La prostitution et la police des moeurs au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1987), 267. 36For examples of women crossing Venetian-Ottoman frontiers, see Eric R. Dursteler, Renegade Women: Gender, Identity, and Boundaries in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Baltimore, 2011); and for Amsterdam, see van de Pol, The Burgher and the Whore, 28. 37Ferraro, “Youth in Peril in Early Modern Venice.” 38ASV, EB, busta 50, August, 22–23, 1758, n.p. 39ASV, EB, busta 51, December 5, 1774, n.p. 40ASV, EB, busta 51, August 19, 1774, n.p. 41Leggi e memorie venete sulla prostituzione fino alla caduta della republica, 137–138. 42This was an old trade in Venice, as evidenced in Paula Clarke’s analysis of matrons involved in the world of petty commerce between 1360 and 1460, when brothels were still under government regulation. Clarke, “The Business of Prostitution in Early Renaissance Venice,” 436. 43Preto, I servizi segreti di Venezia, 543. 44Middle-aged women furnished rooms for sex workers, recruited young women among the recent arrivals to the city, and coordinated encounters with men seeking sex. Colin Jones, “Prostitution and the Ruling Class in Eighteenth-Century Montpellier,” History Workshop, no. 6 (Autumn 1978): 7–28, here 17–19. 45There is a summary of this debate in Christine Overall, “What’s Wrong with Prostitution? Evaluating Sex Work,” Signs 17, no. 4 (1992): 705–724; see also Timothy J. Gilfoyle, “Introduction,” New Perspectives on Commercial Sex and Sex Work in Urban America, 1850–1940, Special Issue, Journal of the History of Sexuality 18, no. 3 (2009): 359–366, here 360–361. 46Rosenthal, The Honest Courtesan, 131–132. 47For additional examples of broken marriages and non-traditional households, see Joanne M. Ferraro, Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice (Oxford, 2001); Ruggiero, Binding Passions. 48Leggi e memorie venete sulla prostituzione fino alla caduta della republica, 129. Unlike prostitutes in Venice, prostitutes in Amsterdam rarely admitted to being married for fear of being prosecuted for adultery. Van de Pol, The Burgher and the Whore, 142–143. 49ASV, EB, busta 29, 1761–1762, n.p.; Ferraro, “Youth in Peril in Early Modern Venice,” 768. 50ASV, EB, busta 31, February 9, 1766, n.p.; September 16, 1768, n.p. 51ASV, EB, busta 37, August 18, 1779, n.p. 52Ferraro, “Youth in Peril in Early Modern Venice,” 768. 53Leggi e memorie venete sulla prostituzione fino alla caduta della republica, 351–353; ASV, EB, busta 51, March 8, 1775, n.p. 54See Larry Wolff, Paolina’s Innocence: Child Abuse in Casanova’s Venice (Stanford, Calif., 2012), 4, 197–209, 233; and Ferraro, “Youth in Peril in Early Modern Venice,” 761–772, 777–778. Cf. van de Pol, The Burgher and the Whore, 193. 55ASV, EB, busta 12, July 28, 1735, n.p. 56Ferraro, Nefarious Crimes, Contested Justice, 165, 169, 172, 178, 180, 183, 206. Cf. van de Pol, The Burgher and the Whore, 166, who describes a brothel as an organized business with a maid, a midwife, and a shelter. 57Cf. van de Pol, who shows how the economy of prostitution in early modern Amsterdam supported a wide range of people; The Burgher and the Whore, 199. And for late-sixteenth-century Rome, see Cohen, “Seen and Known,” 394, 407. 58Clarke, “The Business of Prostitution in Early Renaissance Venice,” 436. On the creditworthiness of women in the early modern economy, see Alexandra Shepard, “Crediting Women in the Early Modern English Economy,” History Workshop Journal 79, no. 1 (2015): 1–24. 59ASV, EB, busta 50, 1758, n.p. 60July 18, 1626, in Leggi e memorie venete sulla prostituzione fino alla caduta della republica, 147; for the eighteenth century, see Scarabello, Meretrices, 147. 61Monica Chojnacka, Working Women of Early Modern Venice (Baltimore, 2001), 98–99. 62Leggi e memorie venete sulla prostituzione fino alla caduta della republica, 349. 63Ibid. 64ASV, EB, busta 22, March 9, 1750, n.p.; Canosa and Colonnello, Storia della prostituzione in Italia dal Quattrocento alla fine del Settecento, 159; ASV, EB, busta 35, 1779, n.p. 65ASV, EB, busta 19, Pier Antonio Merigno e moglie, 1747–1748, in particular fols. 6r–7v, 9v–10r, 11r–11v; also treated in Canosa and Colonnello, Storia della prostituzione in Italia dal Quattrocento alla fine del Settecento, 157–158. On the secondhand clothes trade, see Patricia Allerston, “Reconstructing the Second-Hand Clothes Trade in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Venice,” Costume 33, no. 1 (1999): 4–56; Tessa Storey, “Prostitution and the Circulation of Second-Hand Goods in Early Modern Rome,” in Laurence Fontaine, ed., Alternative Exchanges: Second-Hand Circulations from the Sixteenth Century to the Present (New York, 2008), 61–75. 66ASV, EB, busta 39, July 28, 1785, n.p. 67ASV, EB, busta 3, 1699, n.p. See also Canosa and Colonnello, Storia della prostituzione in Italia dal Quattrocento alla fine del Settecento, 159–161. 68Scarabello, Meretrices, 133. 69Cf. Timothy J. Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790–1920 (New York, 1994). 70Leggi e memorie venete sulla prostituzione fino alla caduta della republica, 13–25. 71This was also the case in Florence: Brackett, “The Florentine Onestà and the Control of Prostitution,” 273–275; in Rome: Cohen, “Seen and Known,” 42; in Bologna: Ferrante, “Pro mercede carnali”; and in Paris: Benabou, La prostitution et la police des moeurs au XVIIIe siècle, 307, 317–318. 72A spy for the Venetian state inquisitors reported a prostitute in 1705 who dressed as a coachman and paraded around with her pimp. Preto, I servizi segreti di Venezia, 543. 73ASV, EB, busta 3, July 15, 1699, n.p. 74Leggi e memorie venete sulla prostituzione fino alla caduta della republica, 22–25, 143. 75Ibid., 165. 76Ibid., 167–168. On masking in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Venice, see James H. Johnson, Venice Incognito: Masks in the Serene Republic (Berkeley, Calif., 2011). 77See Alexander Cowan, Marriage, Manners and Mobility in Early Modern Venice (New York, 2007). 78Wolff, Paolina’s Innocence, 223; Ferraro, “Youth in Peril in Early Modern Venice.” 79Microanalysis permits us to consider the status of the subject rather than its place in a group category. For examples of the latter, see Olwen H. Hufton, The Poor of Eighteenth-Century France, 1750–1789 (Oxford, 1974); Tony Henderson, Disorderly Women in Eighteenth-Century London: Prostitution and Control in the Metropolis, 1730–1830 (London, 1999). © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Historical Association. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail email@example.com.
The American Historical Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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