Date of Award
Master of Arts
In November of 1882, Charleston madam Fanny Cochran was slain in her doorway by her longtime lover, Emil Hyman. Although this murder sent shockwaves through the city, the events transpired—and the questions it raised—quickly faded from memory. An examination of Fanny Cochran’s life reveals a web of closely connected men and women within the fourth ward of Charleston, South Carolina. These economic actors, many Charleston madams and sex workers, created a system of networks that supplied political and economic capital that would have been otherwise inaccessible to these supposed “powerless” women and connected them to businessmen of the day. They did so by exploiting loose laws on prostitution that allowed them to earn money through the informal economy and, particularly in Cochran’s case, used that capital in the formal economy, revealing the porous flexibility between the two.
This study focuses on the interconnectivity between sex work and the formal economic sector in the late nineteenth century in Charleston, South Carolina. By examining the ways that money earned in the sex trade could be used in reputable businesses, it reveals both the importance of the study of informal economy in urban environments and explores the possibility of sex workers as capitalists. The window of Fanny Cochran’s life and death explains the complex flow between formal and informal economies, and offers a more nuanced way of approaching sex work in urban environments
Sarah Pillman Amundson
Amundson, Sarah Pillman, "A Woman Lies Bleeding on the Ground: Prostitution and Underground Economy in Nineteenth Century Charleston" (2017). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 15247.