|Date(s):||July 15, 1852|
|Location(s):||NEW YORK, New York|
|Tag(s):||Nineteenth Century, Prostitution|
|Course:||“America From Civil War to World Stage,” Widener University|
|Rating:||5 (1 votes)|
In July of 1852, Lola Montez opened a copy of the New York Daily Times and came face to face with column after column of slanderous comments directed at her. Defamation of character is probably one of the most challenging things that one person can go through. People expressing half-truths without actually knowing the real story is a battle most people will face at some point in their lives. In the case of Lola Montez, the New York Times and the Common Council, an elected legislative body of the city of New York, called her a brazen prostitute and said that there are certain crimes that cannot occur without accomplices. They claimed that she proved herself guilty to everyone what her true character was by fleeing and hiding from the public. Finally Lola had enough, and on July 15th she wrote a letter to Times editor H.J Raymond, the gentleman who had allowed the slanderous comments to be printed in the newspaper in the first place.
Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, or Lola as she was more famously known, was born in Limerick Ireland; her dream was to leave Europe for America believing that she would live among generous and justice loving people there. She was an Irish adventuress; she took dance lessons in Spain and proclaimed herself to be Spanish dancer. With her dance training she was able to tour throughout Europe. She was the daughter of an army officer. When she was a child around eleven years old she had acquired her wild and free eccentric habits. She came to America with the same mentality as most immigrants did, and with the same premonitions as most females during that time period. Her goal was not to do harm to others but to look for a better paying job and escape from poverty. Desperate for money, she turned to prostitution. During this time period, the number of brothels had sky rocketed in New York. Lola was not the only prostitute looking for a chance to escape poverty. Many others such as, Maria Williamson bought and controlled a few brothels making her a substantial amount of money.
In her letter to the editor of the New York Times, Lola never depicts herself as a prostitute. Instead, she depicts herself as a Spanish trained dancer, who happened to catch the attention of a very noble king looking for companionship. She met King Louis of Bavaria in 1846 while touring as a dancer in Munich. She soon became his mistress and influenced him greatly in supporting things that she believed in such as liberal and anti-Jesuit policies. She married King Louis in 1847, and her power over him provoked angry reactions and once she realized that she was unsuited for his character, she divorced him in 1848 and fled the country and returned back to the stage, leaving King Louis to abandon his throne. Never once did she ever believe that her name would be used in vain and used for so many cruel and unjust things.
History shows that in the nineteenth century New York City was a thriving location for unscrupulous landlords, consumers and prostitutes. Unregulated and unsupervised, the red light districts exploded across the city, which eventually lead to twenty and twenty five thousand prostitutes working there by 1869. In fact, between five and ten percent of women in the city were involved in prostitution. With time, prostitution transformed to reflect and cater to consumer demand. During this time period, prostitutes were among the freest, wealthiest and most educated women in the United States. Like Lola Montez, many prostitutes befriended and gained the confidence of men that were looking for outside companionship. While some feminists were seeking to free women from slavery, prostitutes married later in life and divorced more frequently than other American woman. The New York Times stated that the Common Council had been taking lessons from Lola Montez, and said also that she hides herself in shame. They claimed that she took advantage of public charity as well. Lola challenged these accusations and called on her accusers to specify and prove her alleged offences.
In the final part of her retaliation against the editor of the New York Times, she requests that he admit his ignorance and state that he wrongly accused her of immoral activities. Otherwise she would be seeking legal action and let the courts decide who was actually being unjust, even though that was a road she did not really want to walk down. She was defenseless at that point; no one would take her seriously in order to prove that she was nothing more than a dancer and a companion to men. The letter makes it clear that Lola was tired of people belittling her without giving her a chance to clear her name. She appealed to the editor to write another article in which he admitted that his cruel words were nothing more than pure ignorance, however no such letter had ever appeared in the column of Times.