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Following wherever research leads is a tenet of scholarship for researchers. It's a standard operating procedure that helps scholars avoid tainting their research with preconceptions and assumptions. For historian Judith Kelleher Schafer, however, following her research also led to an unexpected venture into the wild and wicked world of prostitution in pre-Civil War New Orleans.
Judith Kelleher Schafer, a visiting professor in the Tulane history department, was doing research on slavery prior to the Civil War when she came across records about prostitution, leading to her newest book. Photos by Paula Burch-Celentano. Schafer, a visiting professor in the history department at Tulane University, says she "just fell on" the topic that is central to her most recent book, Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans , while conducting research for an earlier project.
While poring over court records and newspaper clippings for her book, Becoming Free, Remaining Free: Manumission and Enslavement in New Orleans, , she says she became aware of "all this information on prostitution from the same period. Many of these women were "tough cookies," says Schafer. One prostitute, Bridget Fury, aka Delia Swift, had escaped from an Ohio penitentiary, where she had been incarcerated for manslaughter. She and this woman Bricktop Jackson, both redheads, formed one of the first female street gangs in the United States.
The number of arrests every night were incredible. The police were hopelessly underpaid and understaffed and were almost nonexistent in terms of stopping crime.
Kemper Williams Prize. She says she's received more media attention for Brothels than for her other two books combined.