Not-So-Proper English Lady

In the mid to late 19th century, Alexandria, Virginia was a popular location, with both a large railroad system and plenty of waterfront for ships to bring people and cargo. Alexandria had a lot of people traveling to and from the city. As a sizable commercial hub, it also supported prostitution.[i]

One of the immigrants that decided to live in Alexandria was an English immigrant named Ann White. She was listed as a 50 year old homeowner in the 1860 U.S. Census.[ii] She owned $1300 in real estate, but no slaves. She was the second highest property holder in her block, only beaten by another woman running a boarding house. White was not married and neither was anyone else listed in her house. It appears that her home may have been a mix of a brothel and a boarding house. At the time of the 1860 U.S. Census, White had two women, both of whom worked as prostitutes, and a sailor living with her.[iii] Her house was located in the 300 block of North Lee Street.[iv]

brothel-house

Voting Viva Voce map

The house’s location was a great place for White to host a brothel, or a boarding house that doubled as a brothel. The house was a mere block or two from the water’s edge and local hotels, making it very accessible to sailors and other visitors.[v]

The two prostitutes living with White were Ann Jones and Margaret McCline/McCuin. Margaret’s surname changes based on the database used but she is consistently in the house. She was 23 years old, while. Jones was 34 in 1860. Neither Jones nor McCline were literate. McCline was an Irish immigrant but Jones was from Maryland.[vi] Perhaps both came from poor backgrounds, and were never able to have schooling so they turned to one of the few jobs available to women.

1860-whorehouse-census

ancestry.com 1860 US Census from Alexandria, VA

Jeremiah Robb (sometimes Robbs) is listed at the house in the 1860 U.S. Census, but doesn’t appear in the 1870 US census.[vii] It is unclear what connection Robb had to White. He was listed as a waterman, and perhaps was living there for a short period that happened to coincide with the census.[viii] He could have also worked for White part time; oftentimes, female brothel owners needed a male bouncer in case clients became rowdy.

Why White chose to run a brothel is not clear, but she did well and made a good profit doing so.[ix]

[i] A Brief History of Alexandria, City of Alexandria, VA, accessed September 29, 2016, https://www.alexandriava.gov/.

[ii] 1860 U.S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia, Sheet 68, household of Ann White, line 27, digital image, accessed September 29, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[iii] “Social Groups in Alexandria” Prostitution,” Voting Viva Voce, last modified 2016, accessed Sept. 22, 2016,  http://sociallogic.iath.virginia.edu/.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] 1860 U.S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia, Sheet 68, Ann Jones and Margaret McCline in the household of Ann White, line 28-29, digital image, accessed September 29, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[vii] 1860 U.S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia, Sheet 68, household of Ann White, line 27, digital image, accessed September 29, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[viii] 1860 U.S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia, Sheet 68, household of Ann White, line 30, digital image, accessed September 29, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[ix] “Social Groups in Alexandria” Prostitution,” Voting Viva Voce, last modified 2016, accessed Sept. 22, 2016,  http://sociallogic.iath.virginia.edu/.

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