Delaware’s controversial age of consent, and girl prostitutes.

tatnall-streetChildren playing next to a reputed house of prostitution on Tatnall Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 1910.

Children in Delaware outside a brothel in 1910.

Technically, until 1972, the US state of Delaware had the age of consent set at seven. It was 1972 that the old law codes were completely overhauled.

It was in February 1889 that the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union submitted a petition to the Delaware General Assembly to have the age raised. The petition had ten yards of signatures of Delaware residents on it.

The age had been lowered to seven in 1871, having previously been ten. It was the lowest age of consent in the United States.

blacklist-of-states-arenaage of consent and rpae laws in nineteenth century unites states

A list of the age of consent in various states.

Click to enlarge and read.

The idea of the low age of consent for girls had a lot to do with proving rape (and dealing with – or ignoring! – child prostitution). Investigators in a rape case had to prove force and lack of consent, and the changed law helped cover for men having sex with young girls.

The states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida had the age set at ten.

At the end of the 1880s, the lowest age a girl could work as a prostitute in Delaware was raised to fifteen.

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2 thoughts on “Delaware’s controversial age of consent, and girl prostitutes.

  1. ‘Nother good one! So sad for those girls! I was in E. Europe when it opened to the West, and it was heartwrenching to hear of young girls being duped, kidnapped,etc into sex industry. It was not uncommon to hear stories of country girls being lured by ads for great paying jobs in big cities, only to become slaves of the Russian mafia.

    • Sonya Heaney says:

      The part I can’t get over is that they *lowered* the age of consent. That’s great progress!

      I have family and friends throughout the former USSR, and go over there every second year, so I’ve seen plenty of the corruption that goes on there. It’s not something anybody in the world really seems to care about anymore…

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