Launceston has a rich and vibrant history some of which we know, and some of which is still yet to be discovered. A new book, On the town: Prostitutes and Brothels of 19th Century Launceston, aims to reveal more of the city's past.
The book by Dianne Cassidy draws on the "real experiences of women who lived 'on the town' in 19th century Launceston".
It "reveals a dark underbelly of prostitution and crime. Taken together, these previously untold stories paint a vivid picture of the struggle for survival in society's lowest ranks".
Ms Cassidy said next to nothing had been written about these women at this point in history.
"In regards to the early history of Launceston, most of it was about the men."
Cassidy said there was minimal information on those who were not wealthy and those who were women, especially in the lower class and downtrodden area of society, which was the main reason she wanted to bring the stories to light.
"It's not just a list of brothels and prostitutes, it sort of mini biographies on the girls that I have been able to get enough information about."
Cassidy started her research about 10 years ago, though she has only really concentrated on the book for the last two years.
She worked in the library for about 34 years, first in Burnie and then in Launceston, with the last 14 years spent in archives. She got to know what information was available and what was not.
"This sort of thing was going on and hadn't been written about," she said.
Her research began when she found a list of brothels at the Community History Centre created by the superintendent of police in 1875. That piqued her curiosity and she started to look at other sources including newspapers via Trove, online information, Benevolent Society reports, police gazettes, and records such as Births, Deaths and Marriages.
"When you get interested you're a bit like a detective, you get on the trail, but it can take awhile to track down people."
She said she enjoyed building up profiles and biographies of the women, but some days were harder than others as one day you would find a lot of information and then the next could be quite light on with research.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Ms Cassidy enjoyed researching the Launceston Lock Hospital, a place where people were taken when they had contagious and venereal diseases. It was built into the Launceston Gaol and operated until the early 1990s.
"It was a really interesting thing to research," she said.
Other parts of the book she said were highlights included the story of Ellen Sneezewell, a brothel keeper who was shot and murdered by a client of hers. The man who murdered Ellen was the last to be hanged in Launceston.
The story of Mary Anne Ellington was another favorite of the author's. She was the daughter of convicts and her mother was a bit of an 'ill effective intellect'. She was unfit for service and later gave birth to Mary Anne.
Mary Anne got into trouble when she was young, getting pregnant and working in a brothel after being kicked out of home for the pregnancy. She threw her child in the Tamar River and was sentenced to life in prison. However, she was released later.
Cassidy said there were other stories of mothers prostituting their daughters.
"[The public] would never know about them unless [they] sit down and really research them and just how interesting the stories and women are," she said.
She said places such as the Alsatia area were bad then and what we know now as Wellington Street over to Frederick Street and down to Margaret Street. York Street was also a bad area for these activities.
"I think it's tremendously important to know the history of the town, what went where, why that happened, why it was built."
"If people don't show an interest a lot of this stuff will be lost and that would be a tragedy."
The book can be enjoyed by anyone, but the author recommended that it is suitable for persons over 15 years.
She said the book was sort of a "true crime book" and included biographies, photographs and maps.
"There's a lot of interest of people wanting to know more about their town or city now."
"I like to get the information out there and it's not just something you can look up on the internet."
Ms Cassidy is selling the book privately so to purchase please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The book is $25 and she can post it to you or it can be collected from her home.