Students are exploring the impact of the world’s oldest profession in Prof. Laurie Bertram’s seminar on sex work in Canadian history. Through research in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, students examine a history that is often hidden from descriptions of 19th and 20th century Canadian society. Her seminar encourages students to think critically about the differences between stereotypes and the more diverse lived realities of those involved in the sex trade.
Students work on a digital map that illuminates the history of the sex trade in Toronto in the late 19th century. Each student researches the life of one sex worker who appears in police records – adding a human face and story to this often hidden history. “This course is really about honouring the history of the sex workers in Canada,” says Bertram. “And when we honour that, I think we also honour their present and future.”