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Jessica Cale
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Editor and Author of Dirty, Sexy History
Editor and Author of Dirty, Sexy History

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By the first century AD, there were more than 32,000 sex workers registered in the city of Rome. There were likely just as many who were unregistered in the city, and countless more worked throughout the empire. To get an idea of their popularity, you…
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  Of all the great love stories in history that ought to be made into movies, Elizabeth Armistead and Charles James Fox must be near the top of the list. Elizabeth was born in Greenwich in 1750. By the age of twenty-one, she was working at a high-class…
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About the time radium cosmetics went out of fashion, a new deadly beauty product hit the market: 2,4-Dinitrophenol, known as DNP. DNP’s use as a diet pill took off in 1933, when the Journal of the American Medical Association published the discovery that…
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While you’re celebrating the holiday next week, have a drink for the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, born Christmas Day, 1745. Not only was he gorgeous enough to pull off that wig, he was also a champion fencer by the time he was twenty, a classical composer…
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In the late 1880s, the body of an unidentified young woman was pulled out of the Seine at the Quai du la Louvre, not far from the museum of the same name. While the Louvre houses the Mona Lisa, the river offered up an enigmatic smile of its own, and the…
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When Nellie Bly died in 1922, at least one obituary described her as “the best reporter in America.” She was certainly an impressive investigative journalist. As an advocacy journalist, she wasn’t shy about putting her opinions in her stories, and she…
Nellie Bly Takes the Gold Cure
Nellie Bly Takes the Gold Cure
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Every generation likes to think they’re the first to invent counterculture, but today’s goths and Murderinos are part of a tradition of gleeful creepiness that goes back centuries. We’ll be looking into more of this in future posts, but tonight we’re…
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You may have heard the story of Bluebeard—a woman marries a wealthy nobleman with a string of wives who had died under mysterious circumstances only to find said deceased wives congealing in an armoire. It’s a tale as old as time…or something. Variations…
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Nymphomania, masturbation, sexual derangement: just some of the reasons a nineteenth century—and indeed twentieth century—woman could find herself locked away in a lunatic asylum. In fact, many of the reasons women were incarcerated were related to their…
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Picture the ideal nineteenth century English beauty: pale, almost translucent skin, rosy cheeks, crimson lips, white teeth, and sparkling eyes. She’s waspishly thin with elegant collarbones. Perhaps she’s prone to fainting. It shouldn’t be difficult to…
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