President = C. E. O. of a brothel, 1831

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 21 22:57:54 UTC 2010

As chance would have it, the head of the Jesuit Community at my old
high school bears the title of "president." He is the only person
whose appearance on the set requires that students stand. When I was
in grade school, the entrance of any faculty member whatsoever
required that the pupils stand and also greet her: "Good morning, Sr.
Mary Jane!"


On Fri, May 21, 2010 at 6:37 PM, George Thompson
<george.thompson at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      President = C. E. O. of a brothel, 1831
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Elegant Furniture. -- Of late, several sales by auction have been announced, of splendid furniture of "a family going to Europe," and the furniture has been exhibited the day previous to the sale for the inspection of the wealthy and fashionable inhabitants of the city.  It may not be generally known that some of the sales thus announced, are at houses of assignation or ill fame.  Now this is very wrong, to allow our wives and daughters to be attracted to such places, under the impression that the sale referred to is in a house of respectability.  All the Magdalens, excepting their President, appeared at a recent sale, mingling with ladies of the first respectability, and overbidding for such articles as they fancied.  ***  Imagine young ladies parading through the bedrooms, admiring the splendid furniture and rich hangings, without being aware of their owners. . . .  ***
>        Morning Courier & New-York Enquirer, August 5, 1831, p. 2, col. 3
> This is new to me and to the OED.
> Madams were called "abbesses" and their brothels "nunneries".  I see that OED has president = the head of a religious house, occasionally applied to a woman, but not since the 1390s or thereabouts.
> George A. Thompson
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
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