Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Daniel Feller

Committee Members

Brandon Winford, Luke Harlow


This study argues that Knoxville, Tennessee, is a city particularly poised for a study of sex work as informal labor during the New South and emphasizes the years between 1890 and 1914. During these years, much of the city’s public debate surrounding regulation or prohibition of sex work occurred. The lives and industry of Knoxville’s sex workers can be best understood through the lens of labor. Between 1890 and 1893, Knoxville experienced the shockwaves of what became the Coal Creek War. This event led Knoxvillians to experience a particular kind of public labor awareness, leading to public debates that positioned sex work as either a regulated industry or as a prohibited crime. These discussions persist into the modern day as attitudes surrounding sex and agency shift. By engaging in a historically informed perspective, we may be able to draw conclusions about contemporary beliefs surrounding labor and sex work.

Available for download on Friday, May 15, 2026

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."