Extreme poverty: vagrants and prostitutes

Caitriona Clear

in Social Change and Everyday Life in Ireland, 1850-1922

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780719074370
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700693 | DOI:
Extreme poverty: vagrants and prostitutes

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Vagrants and prostitutes were among those who would have been described as ‘poor’ by everyone, including labourers and casual workers. As targets of repression and recipients of relief, they were in regular contact with government and voluntary agencies of the time. Vagrancy or wandering homelessness in Ireland and in Britain was seen as such an ongoing social problem that it prompted a special government commission in 1906. Social panic about prostitution happened a little earlier, in the 1860s and 1870s, flaring and fading at intervals for the remainder of the period. The male vagrant provoked contempt not only because he was a ‘masterless man’ but because he was not master even of his own house. Prostitutes were subjected to quite energetic persecution by working-class and artisan townspeople in eighteenth-century Ireland, while wandering beggars in pre-Famine Ireland were often hunted and persecuted.

Keywords: repression; relief recipients; voluntary agencies; vagrancy; prostitution; homelessness; Ireland; male vagrant; wandering beggars

Chapter.  6172 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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