Item #7654 A Plan for A Preservatory and Reformatory, For the Benefit of Deserted Girls, and Penitent Prostitutes. John Esq Fielding.
A Plan for A Preservatory and Reformatory, For the Benefit of Deserted Girls, and Penitent Prostitutes.
A Plan for A Preservatory and Reformatory, For the Benefit of Deserted Girls, and Penitent Prostitutes.

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A Plan for A Preservatory and Reformatory, For the Benefit of Deserted Girls, and Penitent Prostitutes.

Printed for R. Francklin, Russet-Street, Covent-Garden, 1758. Sm 8vo (7.5” x 4.75"), marbled paper wrappers. [2], 25 pp. CONDITION: Very good, light wear to spine, several faint creases to front wrapper; a few minor (printer’s?) ink smudges to contents, which are otherwise bright and clean.

A scarce volume outlining the plan of a prominent English reformer to “preserve” and rehabilitate young prostitutes, shifting the narrative around prostitution from moral decline to economic distress.

Published in the same year that the author’s Asylum for Female Orphans was founded in Lambeth, the “preservatory and reformatory” outlined here was conceived for the aid not only of destitute daughters of the working poor, but of “that completely wretched, distempered, deserted, pitiable Body” of prostitutes, who fall to their work “from Necessity, even before their Passions can have any Share in their Guilt.” At the heart of John Fielding’s plan is “a public Laundry, intended to employ, breed up, and preserve the deserted Girls,” as well as to finance its own operation. The volume covers “The Building,” “The Objects to be taken in to the Reformatory,” “The Manner of their being taken in,” additional types of labor and support to which they would have access, and more.

Fielding’s Plan was one of several considered in a 1758 competition organized by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Commerce, and Manufactures to determine the design of the Magdalen Hospital, which was established later that year. Unlike other competitors, who “portrayed the prostitute as a genteel victim of aristocratic libertinism,” Fielding traced prostitution to economic causes—what he calls “Industry in Distress” (Batchelor).

John Fielding (1721–1780), known later in his career as “Blind Beak,” was a London Magistrate and social reformer who, with his half-brother the novelist and magistrate Henry Fielding, was instrumental in modernizing London’s criminal justice system through the establishment of its first professional police force, the Bow Street Runners. Fielding, whose eyesight was always poor, was blinded at age nineteen by a surgeon attempting to treat him; however, his reputed ability to recognize some 3,000 criminals by their voices gave rise to his nickname. “A pioneer in the treatment of juvenile offenders, Fielding sought to analyze and remove the causes of crime” (“Sir John Fielding”). He was knighted in 1761.

REFERENCES: ESTC T173784; Batchelor, Jennie. “‘Industry in Distress’: Reconfiguring Femininity and Labor in the Magdalen House,” Eighteenth-Century Life Vol. 28, No. 1 (2004), p. 1; “Sir John Fielding,” Britannica online.

Item #7654

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