Sexual Profit in the 19th Century or NOT #ThemToo

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Belle Montgomery

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In reference to @Eleanor Rose excellent post I have to wonder about the antithesis stories of young women at the time and a common sad factor of how lust and being poor, desperate and devastated during war can tarnish even the purist of souls. Was it their choice? Many camp followers were accused of being prostitutes.
Albeit placed in Victorian era England, Tull's version of those kind of events places a "cross-eyed Mary" as a benevolent soul despite her circumstance. The song is about "Cross-Eyed Mary", a schoolgirl prostitute who prefers the company of "leching greys" (Aqualung) over her schoolmates.
Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) described the character Mary as a "schoolgirl prostitute type." She lives a wretched existence offering her services to the dregs of humanity. The "jack knife barber" reference in the song is a man who performs abortions was a necessary factor to their lifestyles.
Mary is a good person reacting to bad circumstances. Anderson has pointed out that "she is kind of a Robin Hood prostitute: she takes as much money as she can from her clients who can afford it, but would give away her services to those who can't"
I have to wonder about 17 year old Annie Jones the camp follower who caused a jealous riff between Custer and Kilpatrick which ended in Kilpatrick accusing her of being a spy. Was she a camp follower, prostitute or spy or all of these? She originally wanted to be a nurse but told she was too young. The 17-year-old from Cambridge, Massachusetts, claimed that she involved herself with six Union generals, plus Union officers of lesser ranks as well as civilian functionaries. Among the Union generals, according to Miss Jones, was a German-born officer who rallied many German immigrants to the Union cause. All of these would be considered "leching greys!" How young is young to enter that world? During the 19th century, the age of consent in the United States varied between 10 and 16, depending on the state and year. The age of consent was the age when it was determined that a boy or girl -- but most often, a girl -- was capable of consenting to any sexual activity.
Ian Anderson says that "the important issue in this song and the album as a whole is seeing the spirituality in all people, even a prostitute. Said Anderson, "There are these human types that would be thought to be undesirable and unpleasant, but are all God's creations one way or another, and there must be within these people some very essential humanity, even some goodness, some good side to their character or personality which was laudable."
I can't help but agree considering women had few choices back then, especially women who had lost the main breadwinner to the family during the Civil War, hence the 1863 Richmond "bread riots." Makes me also wonder about how many women thought they were doing their poor young (not leching greys) soldiers a patriotic favor and without a local "jack knife barber" the children bore from their "goodness." Anderson gets it without judging women who have no other choice, especially the lower class. Hooker got it and used it to his advantage. Some would even say Hooker and his men were the ones being used. Were these women former victims of assault and/or starvation circumstances who divulged themselves into a world of no return who tossed away their reputation and self-respect desperate for food, self aware lustful benevolent patriots or calculating souls seeking profit for earthly goods? I'm sure it includes all and more of those aforementioned reasons.

Either way, Tull's art imitating life song brings their plight to light in this classic song:

Who would be a poor man, a beggar man, a thief
If he had a rich man in his hand
And who would steal the candy
From a laughing baby's mouth
If he could take it from the money man

Cross eyed Mary
Goes jumping in again
She signs no contract
But she always plays the game
She dines in Hamstead village
On expense accounted gruel
And the jacknife barber
Drops her off at school

Laughing in the playground
Gets no kicks from little boys
Would rather make it with a leching grey
Or maybe her attention, is drawn by Aqualung
Who watches through the railings as they play

Cross eyed Mary
Finds it hard to get along
She's a poor man's rich girl
And she'll do it for a song
She's a rich man's stealer
But her favor's good and strong
She's the Robin Hood of Highgate
Help the poor man get along

Laughing in the playground
Gets no kicks from little boys
Would rather make it with a leching grey
Or maybe her attention, is drawn by Aqualung
Who watches through the railings as they play

Cross eyed Mary
Goes jumping in again
She signs no contract
But she always plays the game
She dines in Hamstead village
On expense accounted gruel
And the jacknife barber
Drops her off at school

Cross eyed Mary
Oh Mary
Oh cross eyed Mary



 
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