Slammerkin the author tells us, is very loosely based on the real girl Mary Saunders, the known facts of her life are few and disputed. I don’t have the exact words since I had to return the book to the library. Mary Saunders was put out on the street by her mother at the age of 14, she turned to the only profession that could support a girl of that age in that time period, prostitution. In that life style she found a freedom of sorts and three rules to live by: Never give up your liberty. Clothes make the woman. Clothes are the greatest lie ever told. Prostitution was and still is a dangerous profession, when her life is in danger she flees London and ends up in Monmouth, where her parents were from and obtains the position of household seamstress with an old friend of her mother. It is a respectable profession for a woman, but she finds she has lost her freedom and realizes the only way to raise enough money to escape her new life is to become a prostitute again.
I enjoyed this book for its historical accuracy and honest portrayal of the plight of women in this time period. Some of the decisions Mary made were bad, but when you realize she was a child having to survive on her own, and her advisors are others who also have been living on their own since childhood you can understand why she made the choices she did. One thing I found particularly interesting was when Mary went to a ‘hospital’ to survive the winter, the girls were divided into the ‘misses’, girls like her, and the ‘ruined’, girls who had been ‘taken advantage of’ by men. It shows the attitude toward women, even a girl who was raped was at fault, in a sense.