Monday, April 27, 2009

Schafer on New Orleans's Antebellum Brothels

A new book by Judith Kelleher Schafer, Tulane University, Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans, is the subject of a story by Susan Larson in the Times-Picayune . (Although I'm linking to Amazon, feel free to request it at your local independent bookseller.)

The Times-Picayune story commences:
Tulane University history professor Judith Kelleher Schafer loves uncovering the truth, whether it be pleasant or not.

"I need history to tell me what to write," she said. "I couldn't make up this stuff. The truth is so wonderful."

Schafer's third book came about by happy accident. While researching archives of the First District Court of New Orleans and the Daily Picayune from 1846-1862 for her award-winning book, "Becoming Free, Remaining Free: Manumission and Enslavement in New Orleans, 1846-1862," she kept noticing charges for "keeping a brothel."

"And 99 percent of them were dropped before they went to trial," she said.

She began to keep track of these cases, taking notes as she went, thinking she had an idea for a book. The result is "Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans," a revelatory look stretching from the pre-Civil War period to the Union occupation.