Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Jessica I. Elfenbein


Nineteenth-century sex work in the American south has long been neglected in sex work historiography. Formerly Confederate states have red-light districts rich in history, and stories of the South waiting to be told. The city of Columbia has great significance as the capital of the first southern state to secede from the Union, and this thesis acts as a local history of the city’s red-light district. Utilizing city ordinances, court cases, census records, city directories, probate records, and wills, the lives of Columbia’s sex workers and how they interacted with the growing city around them are brought to the forefront. I argue that Columbia’s red-light district reflects the gradual, racial diversification and growth of the southern sex trade and how the district—in combination with the Civil War, industrialization, and the Reconstruction era—influenced the city’s landscape in the years between 1860 and 1880.


© 2022, Presley McKalyn Ramey