As the history of capitalism has garnered increased attention over the past decade, scholars of gender and sexuality have found themselves wondering: Where are all the women in the history of capitalism? In Bawdy City, Katie M. Hemphill has crafted a stunning response. While it might be tempting to see prostitution as an illicit and shadowy enterprise—one that exists on the marginal edges of the “real” economy—Hemphill convincingly argues that commercial sex was not peripheral to the development of industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century. Instead, sex workers provided much of the labor, services, and capital that fueled economic development in American cities. While most scholarship on prostitution focuses on either the antebellum period or the Progressive Era, Bawdy City provides a connective thread between these two historical moments, effectively balancing a sweeping change-over-time argument with a nitty-gritty analysis of prostitution as a social practice, legal category, and economic...

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