Thursday, February 16, 2012

Women of ill repute: Prostitution in Wagga Wagga 1870 - 1890

Recently an extremely valuable addition to the local studies collection at the Wagga Wagga City Library was donated by Danielle Gamble , who studied at the University of Melbourne.
Danielle has written : "Just another job? A study of prostitution in late Nineteenth Century Wagga Wagga, 1870 - 1890", as her dissertation for the award of the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) 2011.

Amongst her resources were Wagga Wagga's Goal Entrance Description books. The information within these records showed the pressures and poverty these women suffered, that led to the use of prostitution as a way of survival.
Ms Gamble also used material from the Daily Advertiser of the time, and the Court of Petty Sessions.

This quote from the study is most telling, illustrating the difference between how society saw these women and how the women saw themselves: " If they were taken to court and labelled a common prostitute, they would respond with 'incomprehension and at times indignation'. Whilst they might accept that they had sexual intercourse with a man for money they would refuse the inference that this made them a common prostitute." (p.38).

There were different "categories" of prostitutes : the Rowdy, the Quiet, the Common. Most prostitutes were also charged with vagrancy, drunk and disorderly, larceny, or simply behaving in a "riotous manner" (p 41). Oh, and sometimes obscene language as well.

Ms Gamble identifies a third group : the Chinese camp prostitutes, who plied their trade on the banks of the Murrumbidgee. And reveals the location of two brothels in Wagga Wagga - one in Peter Street, and another in Crampton Street.

This research document is a truly valuable and respectful insight into the real world of late 19th century Wagga Wagga , a groundbreaking work, and a refreshing reminder that Wagga Wagga's history is not so dull and respectable as it looks on the surface.

The study is currently being processed and will be available for view shortly in the local studies collection. Email me : with your comments, thoughts, or information.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wagga Wagga circa 1939

The first Wagga Wagga City Council information booklets the Wagga Wagga City Library local studies collection holds are from 1938 onwards. This may not be the earliest year they were produced , but they are the first I have located in the collection.

These charming and elegant little booklets hold a wealth of historical facts and other information about the town.

In 1938, there were 1070 telephones connected ; statistics on the amount of butter produced in previous years - in 1937 , show that 1,904,507 lbs were churned out. In 1937, Wagga's population was 12,530. 29,309,800 cubic feet of gas was sold; and in 1937, there were two cases of typhoid , 35 cases of diptheria, and 11 cases of scarlet fever.

Council employed four people at the sewerage works, 8 at the gasworks, and 6 people at the cattle saleyards.

And as early as 1938 Wagga Wagga had "daily air service links with the capital cities", the journey taking one hour and forty five minutes.

An oddity mentioned in the general description of Wagga's parks and gardens is that Collin's Park had a "Zoological section". There were also black and white photographs of places of interest for a gentler era - including the business districts of Fitzmaurice and Gurwood Streets, the bathing beach, and the various parks and gardens .

Part of the charm of the booklets is that they are written in the language of the time, and with the statistics given, give a detailed picture of Wagga as it was in the 1930s, and with a little imagination it is possible to see yourself in Wagga circa late 1930s.

if you have any booklets or other information you would like to share with us - such as the creatures housed in the Collins park zoo, email me or ring 69269757 and leave your number and I will get back to you.