From BU Today:
Boston’s infamous Big Dig construction project, which rerouted the city’s central artery, unearthed a trove of archaeological treasures in a 19th-century brothel’s outhouse. Buried there were items of importance to the women who made their living outside the margins of polite society: hairbrushes, medicines, and vaginal syringes used for self-medicating and cleaning.
Now, a team of archaeology students from BU is studying these artifacts to find out what they reveal about how the residents of one Boston brothel lived. The building, long since torn down, existed on Endicott Street, near Boston’s North End, just two blocks from what was then the city’s red light district. The team hopes that by studying the more than 3,000 artifacts recovered from the outhouse and using old city records, they can gain insight into the day-to-day lives of prostitutes believed to have lived at the property between 1852 and 1883.
Progressive reformers wrote of brothels as dens of iniquity, vice, depravity, and filth, “but yet in this site we see a very high concern for personal health and hygiene,” Beaudry says. “This is understandable given the inevitable side effects of the sex trade, which is conception, disease, that sort of thing. These findings are the reverse of shocking; they show that these women were making a living as best they could.”