NIU professor and historian Nancy M. Wingfield, selected for a Fulbright Fellowship by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, is spending this fall semester in Ukraine researching humankind’s oldest profession: prostitution.
Wingfield is currently hosted by Chernivtsi National University in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, where she is completing research on a book-length manuscript on prostitution in late imperial Austria.
“I’ve been lucky to have received a fair amount of outside support for this project,” Wingfield says. “I’ve had two Fulbrights, one for the Czech Republic, and the one I’m on now. Last summer I had an IREX (International Research and Exchanges grant) for another part of Ukraine.”
This research-intensive project has taken Wingfield to some 20 archives and libraries in three countries where she is studying the regulation of prostitution. This will allow her to analyze the social, cultural and gender relations of the region. Wingfield’s research applies to two of her fields of study: modern Europe (Habsburg Central Europe) and gender and sexuality.
Studying the regulation of prostitution at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries allows Wingfield to focus on the issue of gender relations during this time period.
“I am using the very detailed records of the city police on prostitution in what was then called Chernowitz, the capital of Bukowina, one of the easternmost and poorest provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy,” Wingfield says. “Although there are some documents from the prewar period, many of them are from the last two years of the First World War. They address both regulated and clandestine prostitutes. Much of the material is concerned with tracking venereal disease since the Habsburg military was concerned with the high level of VD among the Austro-Hungarian troops.”
While in Ukraine, Wingfield has spoken at the Lviv Center for Urban History of East Central Europe on trafficking women in late imperial Austria from the perspective of the eastern provinces. She is scheduled to make a presentation on a similar topic to the history department of Chernivtsi National University.
Wingfield is currently teaching “History of Gender and Sexuality” to fourth-year college students at her host college. She will return this spring to NIU, where she’ll teach the same course as well as a graduate research course on gender.