This study of prostitution addresses female agency and experience, contemporary fears about sexual coercion and the forced movement of girls/women, and police surveillance. Rather than treating prostitutes solely as victims or problems to be solved, it seeks to find the historical subjects behind fin-de-siècle constructions of prostitutes, to restore agency to the women who participated in commercial sex, illuminate their quotidian experiences, and to place these women, some of whom made a rational economic decision to sell their bodies, in a larger social context. It investigates their interactions with police and other supervisory agents, as well as with other inhabitants of their world, rather than focusing top-down on the state-constructed apparatus of surveillance. Close reading of the sources shows that some prostitutes in late imperial Austria took control over their own fates, at least as much as other working-class women, in the decades before the end of the Monarchy.
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