Book General Admission
Marion Canning Illustration
  • Name: Marion Canning
  • Age: 19 in 1891
  • Emigrant: From Mohill, Country Leitrim to New York around 1890

Some of us sold sex to support ourselves. We stood on the street trying to attract men, worked in brothels or brought clients back to our lodgings. It could be a hard life and we saw violence and addiction. Sometimes we were assaulted and robbed. Other times we stole from clients. The police were always out to get us. Society looked down on us.

I will gladly, nay willingly, take her home from America.

Thomas Canning, May 1892

New York State Archives

This time tomorrow I’ll be a married woman. It’s hard to get my head ‘round it. Just a year ago I was sitting in Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary, up to my oxters in filth and squalor with only thieves and prostitutes for company. I couldn’t believe I’d sunk so low. I was just a wee girl from Mohill village, County Leitrim. A nice girl from a good family. I went to America to make something of myself but there were that many girls streaming off the boats and only so many jobs open to us. I fell into bringing men back to my digs on Mulberry Street. I’m so ashamed of what I did. I can barely look my daddy in the eye. But I never was a common thief.

That man Bronkbank told the police a pack of lies. He was fresh off the boat from South America: a handsome man and a charmer too. I’d gone down the Bowery for a bite of supper and he talked me into taking him home. Afterwards he started kicking up a fuss. He said I’d stolen five bucks and his watch. Truth is, he was trying to run off without paying me. I called the police. They came straight away, but it was my word against his. I got seven years. He didn’t. There are different rules for men.

That was nearly two years ago. If it weren’t for Daddy, I’d be rotting in jail. As soon as he heard I’d been sent down, he wrote to the Governor of New York. He got me pardoned. He paid for my passage home and came all the way to Liverpool to lift me off the New York boat. My daddy’s a decent man. Tomorrow morning I’ll marry this fella and I’ll spend the rest of my days in Mohill. I’ll do my best to make Daddy proud of me again. I’ll forget all about the last few years. America feels like a bad dream now.

This is an imagined version of what happened to me. It’s based upon the parts of my story that were recorded and ground-breaking research into other Bad Bridgets who lived in Boston, New York and Toronto from 1838 to 1918.