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"We Have Never Allowed Such A Thing Here...": Social Responses to Saskatchewan's Early Sex Trade, 1880 to 1920



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Despite what the title suggests, Saskatchewan had a booming sex trade in its early years. The area attracted hundreds of women sex workers before Saskatchewan had even become a province in 1905. They were drawn to the area by the demands of bachelors who dominated Canada's prairie west. According to Saskatchewan's moral reformers, however, the sex trade was a hindrance to the province's Christian potential. They called for its abolishment and headed white slavery campaigns that characterized prostitution as a form of slavery. Their approach stood in contrast with law enforcement's stance on the trade. The police took a tolerant approach, allowing its operation as long as sex workers and their clients remained circumspect. Law enforcement's approach reflected their own propensity to use the services of sex workers as well as community attitudes toward the trade. Some communities were more welcoming of sex workers, while others demanded that police suppress the trade. Saskatchewan's newspapers also reflected differing attitudes toward the trade. While Regina's Leader purveyed a no tolerance view of the sex trade, Saskatoon's Phoenix and Star held more tolerant views. Saskatchewan's newspapers reveal that as the province's population increased and notions of moral reform gained popularity, police were challenged to take a less tolerant approach. However, reformers' efforts to end the sex trade dwindled with the onset of the First World War and attitudes toward sex workers shifted drastically as responsibility for venereal disease was placed largely on women who sold sex. Using government and police records, moral reform and public health documents, and media sources such as newspapers, as well as intersectional analysis of gender, race, class, and ethnicity, this examination of Saskatchewan’s sex trade investigates the histories and social responses to the buying and selling of sex, revealing the complex and, at times, contradictory place of sex workers and the sex trade in Saskatchewan’s early history.



sex work, sex trade, prostitution, history, Saskatchewan, white slavery, venereal disease, public health, moral reform, police, (Royal) North-West Mounted Police, newspapers, Saskatoon Phoenix, Saskatoon Star, Regina Leader, gender, race, class, rural, urban



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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