Alexandre Parent-Duchâtelet

Alphonse Bertherand was part of a team of Army surgeons who accompanied the invading forces into Algeria. Along with his brother Emile Louis, they founded many medical institutions in Algiers, including clinics and medical journals. The report included within the 1836 first edition of On Prostitution in the City of Paris is later reproduced and expanded in one such journal in 1859, two years after it had appeared in the 2nd edition. [1] 

Pages 536-542 of Dr. Betherand's report with which this exhibit is concerned reads as follows: 

"Monsieur the Prefect,

"I have been known, for a long time, in your administration, for having always protected order and morals; I will have my house so that there will never be anything done there that is contrary to decency and honesty."

One of them, concluded her petition this way:

"Monsieur the Prefect,

"The decency with which my business will be run, and the restraint I will always impose on my women, will prove to you, Monsieur the Prefect, that you are not dealing with an upstart and an ingrate, and that I will always be worthy of your protection, your esteem and your consideration."

 A landlady of the top floor, expressed her request this way: 

"Monsieur the Prefect, "I have created for myself, by my ingenuity, a clientele of the feminine sex; not wanting to lose them, I am requesting a tolerance.

"I possess all of the qualities that can be expected of a woman in charge of the house [dame de maison, brothelkeeper], I can keep my record book and lead my women in the most honest and the most irreproachable manner; I do not tolerate scandal; I demand of my women honest and decent attire, and the self-control that characterizes them makes it so they never utter words capable of offending chaste ears.”

One does not see who effects noble and generous sentiments, and who takes in their demand a tone of elevation that one is surprised to find in this condition" [2]

Many believe that Respectability Politics are a phenomenon of the present, however in reading Parent-Duchâtelet it is apparent that that is not the case. During the 1800s in France discussions of what it meant to be a good daughter, mother and wife were popular topics of discussion. Social norms deemed what it meant to be a good woman, at a time when prostitution was serving as the antithesis to that model. The way that women were looked at in the past is still prevelant today and allows for women who participate in sex work, low income women and/or women of color to be deemed as a good or bad mother by society.  


[1] Bertherand, Alphonse. 1836. "De la prostitution en Algérie, Art. 1er" in On Prostitution in the City of Paris, Alexandre Parent-Duchâtelet, pp. 536-542.

[2] Translated by Professor Greggor Mattson '16 and Juan Contreras, '18. FREN 311, 2016




Alexandre Parent-Duchâtelet