Irish sex worker Ellen Dodd gets quite familiar with the police in the short time she’s here.
By Sean E. Andres
Ellen Dodd, born around 1819 in Ireland, made her way to Cincinnati at some point, likely in the 1850s, with her older brother Peter. She was living on Oliver Street, a quiet, wholesome street with a Baptist church on it, but Ellen was neither quiet or wholesome. Nope. Ellen liked to party, and indeed, it seems she was running a brothel. In the summer of 1856, many neighbors were complaining about her “drunken orgies.” In the wee hours of Saturday morning, 02 August 1856, Ellen “amused herself” by breaking her neighbor’s window. She was arrested and brought before Judge Pruden, who sentenced her to three days in jail.
Judge Pruden again saw Ellen before him in court in March 1859, when Ellen smashed the glass of the light in front of the 9th Street jail. She was sentenced to thirty days in the city prison. She wasn’t out of prison long before she was back in court. This time, however she was a plaintiff in a very serious matter.
Ellen was on Elm Street at 2 am on 29 September 1859, where she was “inquiring for a place to sleep.” She was almost definite working and looking for someone to sleep with. Charles B. Davis and Daniel Gulick approached her and pretended to help her find a place to stay. Instead, “they conveyed her to the levee” and raped her, she alleged. Because she was “a woman of bad repute,” Judge Lowe likely didn’t believe her or think it was rape when her job was to have sex with men. He simply fined them five dollars each and sent them on their way, “a small amount for so grave offense,” the Enquirer wrote.
A year from then, she landed in Longview Asylum as a pauper. Life at Longview was not easy, especially for the Irish. She can’t have been there for more than two-and-a-half years because she was arrested for “vagrancy” with her brother Peter. Peter, more likely to get a job, was sentenced to 20 days in city prison. Ellen, however, was given three months. The next year, in September 1864, is the last we hear of Ellen Dodd, “matron of the green isle.” She was arrested with an “Orlena” for vagrancy once again and sent to city prison for a year. It’s likely she died there, almost definitely from the 1866 cholera epidemic and probably buried in a mass grave.
Ellen was living in a system designed to exclude and actively work against her, and it killed her.
- Cincinnati Enquirer
- Cincinnati Daily Press
- Cincinnati Daily Commercial
- U. S. Census Records
- Williams Directories
- Cincinnati Views
- I could not discern which Charles Davis was Ellen’s rapist, and I could not find a Daniel Gulick at that time in Cincinnati. They may have been visiting.
- Special shoutout to The Cincinnati Museum Center Library and Archives librarians for tolerating my hours upon hours of paging through the Cincinnati Commercial!