Damaris Page: The real life Moll Flanders?

17thC cartoon showing a brothel keeper and a fashionably dressed sex worker with the caption "Launching a frigate" Damaris Page was one of the most notorious women of 17th century England. She was born into severe poverty and hardship but rose to fame and riches. She was the subject of several Grub Street pamphlets in 1660, characterised as 'The Wandring Whore' and the 'Crafty Bawd', she may have been one of the inspirations for Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders.

Page was born in Stepney around 1610, and worked as a prostitute throughout her teens. In 1653 she married James Dry in a Bermondsey church, and in 1655 she was brought to court for bigamy. She was charged with having been married to a William Baker of Stepney for the previous 15 years, though there is no mention of this marriage in the parish records so it may have been fabricated. Page was acquitted, and after the death of James Dry some years later she remained single.

Damaris Page appeared in court again, charged with the death of an Eleanor Pooley, who had died after Page had tried to perform an abortion with a two-pronged fork. She was convicted of manslaughter, and would have been hanged had she not been pregnant. Page was imprisoned in Newgate Gaol for three years.

Following her release Page became a brothel owner. She ran the Three Tuns in Stepney for seamen and another brothel in Rosemary Lane (now Royal Mint Street), near the Tower of London, for the wealthier naval officers. She agreed to press-gang her dock worker clientele for a fee, which made her very unpopular, and her house was targeted in the 'Bawdy House Riots' of 1668. At this time Samuel Pepys described Page as "the most Famous Bawd in the Towne."

By the middle of the century Page had moved into property speculation, investing the money she had made into building new houses on the Ratcliffe Highway, north of Wapping, and around in residential areas near the Tower of London. The income from these properties supported her for the rest of her life, and by her death in 1669 she had amassed a large fortune.


Wikipedia - Damaris Page