Horrifying premise–syphilis can be cured by sex with a virgin.
Reality check — One way to escape poverty is to go to work. If uneducated and poor, then probably servitude. Another way to survive is to sell one’s valuables, a young woman’s virginity has value.
Set in New York in the 1870’s McKay’s novel explores the life of a young woman who after being sold as a servant by her mother and being abused by a mad woman poses as a 15 year old so she can become a prostitute. She is befriended by Dr. Sadie.* In a unique twist, her virginity and sexual favors are eventually sold to the husband of the woman who bought her as a servant. What is the resolution of this situation . Read this well-written and well-structured novel.
*Dr. Sadie was conceived by the author because her great, great grandmother was a doctor.)