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We might think of them as dour and religious. But were the Victorians really so different from us? We have been educated to accept a vision of Victorian life on the Goldfields as rough and ready miners and prim women in crinolines; a steady rise of respectable town life built through women washing, mending, cooking, raising children, doing needlework, reading the Bible.
If a spouse died, say a female, then the husband would desperately need someone to look after the children. You would find quite often that the second wife would be a sister of the first, that the sister would come into the relationship. By the s immigration schemes had been set up to eliminate gender inequity in the colony, raising the male-female ratio to near equal.
These were mainly females, about 4,, that came to Australia. It was at the time of the famine in Ireland. A lot of people left Ireland between and And so a lot came to Australia; about 13 per cent were Irish on the Eureka Lead. The colloquial term for prostitutes was needlewomen, and of course when it arrived the wharf was covered in men waiting to meet it.
A Sly Grog Shop, Brothel-keeping was an enormous sideline of hotel commerce. It was actually named after the York Brothel. As in the case of alcohol sales, women were the proprietors of these institutions in the main. Given that prostitution was illegal, how did these businesses thrive?
Were the police and magistrates complicit in turning a blind eye, or even profiting from their existence? If it was a pretty young woman coming in for the first time, the magistrate was very lenient. There were four or five women out in the middle of the road in their nightdresses. They were brought in by the police. Clarke was around 20 years of age, 5 feet 5 inches high, full coarse features, rather pale complexion, brown hair, grey eyes, strong coarse voice, of stout build and masculine appearance and a well known prostitute.