Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Identity Papers for the Ladies of the “House of Tolerance”

Identity Papers for the Ladies of the “House of Tolerance”, Sighișoara, 1920s


One of the most fascinating files I have come across was one from the Sighișoara (Schäßburg / Segesvar ) police department containing detailed identity papers for the ladies - that is, prostitutes - residing at the Casa de Toleranță (House of Tolerance) in the 1920s. These forms were four pages in length and contained information regarding the woman’s birthplace, family background, religion, languages spoken, ethnicity, education level, trade school training, other jobs held, and in the last slot, the details of how the woman lost her virginity (including the name of the man and place) and whether she had given birth or had an abortion. Most of the time photographs also accompanied these files.

The women were generally out-of-towners, but other than this feature and their common occupation, they were as diverse a crowd as could be in Transylvania - Hungarians, Romanians, Jews, Germans, and even one Armenian were all represented. For anyone researching the oldest trade in the world in Transylvania, this little, unobtrusive file is a gold mine.

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