Delia Swift/Bridget Fury

Delia Swift, alias Bridget Fury, was a redhead who first made her debut as a prostitute at the age of twelve. Though originally from Cincinnati, where she was also a known thief, Swift moved to New Orleans in 1856, and has become one of the most iconic female sex workers of the time [8].

Together with Mary “Bricktop” Johnson, as well as several other violent prostitutes, she was a member of one of the first female street gangs in not only New Orleans, but in the United States as a whole [8]. Swift did not have to rely upon her gang to get her into trouble though; as early as 1857, the Daily True Delta reports that only she and Mary McCoy were, "...arraigned on the charge of feloniously filching from the pantaloons pocket of Hugh McKeever the sum of $90" [9]. Daily True Delta is not the only one to mention Swift, however. Her name seems to pepper the Louisiana Courier, the New Orleans Bee, and the Times-Picayune from 1858 to 1869 in reference to robberies, prostitution, and most notably, murder. All the papers of the time seem to closely follow her stabbing of Patrick Croan and the subsequent murder trial, from the original charges to the sentencing. On his deathbed, Croan said "...he deserved to die, that he was of no good to the world, and positively refused to make any charge against Delia Swift," more than likely because he provoked the attack by grabbing at her and insulting her and her crew [10]. Swift was released on bail, and by the 3rd of May, 1859, she was, "...found guilty of murder without capital punishment' [11].

Despite escaping punishment, Swift appeared again in the newspapers after she was charged with robbery. Interestingly enough, "...no prosecutor appeared against Fury [Swift]...when she and her gang were arraigned for robbing a Texan, who trusted himself within her clutches. She was discharged' [12].

The life of prostitutes has never been easy, and Delia Swift’s was no exception. She prostituted her self and stole to survive, and her fondness for stabbing grew out of a desire to protect what honor she felt she still had left. Women like Swift capture the imagination of the public for their rejection of social taboos and are often looked down upon. It is important to realize that women like her also contributed to the creation of modern New Orleans by making areas like Storyville or Gallatin Street so well known and so ingrained in New Orleans lore, that their labor was just as vital to shaping New Orleans as any other woman, and that they were reacting to the society which they found themselves in.

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