Hurdy Gurdy Girls

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
May Boley in the tabloid play The Hurdy-Gurdy Girl

Hurdy Gurdy Girls were dance girls from the Wetterau and Hüttenberger Land in North America in the 19th century . Hurdy-Gurdy is an English term and means " hurdy-gurdy " in German .


The villages in the Taunus behind Butzbach in the Wetterau and the Hüttenberger Land were centers of the fly whisk trade. From the places Espa (it belonged to the Duchy of Nassau ) and Oes (it belonged to Solms-Braunfels at that time ) villagers had been moving to England every year since the 1820s and selling fly whisks there as travelers ; then they returned from England with well-earned money. At that time fly whisk was also important in Central Europe to repel the ubiquitous flies; It is not (yet) known whether the home-made fly whiskers made of Espa were particularly effective or particularly beautiful. In any case, the traders' trade was so lucrative that more and more villagers wanted to earn their money with it. Soon music was being made in the markets with hurdy-gurdy (hurdy-gurdys) to attract customers, and women and girls who had moved along sang and danced to it. Since 1824, residents from Münster , Maibach , Bodenrod , Fauerbach vor der Höhe , Hoch- and Nieder-Weisel also moved abroad, to England, but also to Russia , Holland and Denmark , Norway , Sweden and North America , and from 1865 even up to to California .

Before long business with the girls became the main thing; These hired themselves out to fly whiskers and so there were no more single young girls in some villages - they ended up in taverns ( saloons ), dance halls and brothels in the New World. The fly whisk trade became a girl trade to promote prostitution . The Hurdy-Gurdy-Girls , mainly from the Hessian region, were widespread throughout America and known by this name. In the dance halls of gold prospecting cities you could dance with the girls for a dollar in gold dust , half of the turnover stayed with them. Initially, the girls limited themselves to dance, and two dance schools were set up in the gold prospecting town of Virginia City . From the Hurdy-Gurdy-Girls , however, little respected prostitutes developed there, who were called Fancy Ladies . As early as 1836 there was a ban on taking school children with you, and the taking of “unmarried women” was restricted ex officio, but without great success. The temptation of easily earned money compared to home was too great, although many “ fallen girls ” often returned from a foreign country penniless and sick.

The cause of the country walk

In 1834 Georg Büchner and Friedrich Ludwig Weidig in Butzbach and Gießen described the current hardship in the Grand Duchy of Hesse in the Hessian Landbote , which forced the inhabitants of the poor villages to work from home . After the spring order, the goods made in winter - fly whiskers, brooms, jewelry boxes, jewelry plates - had to be sold, so they were taken across the country.

Between 1825 and 1875 poverty was particularly severe. Overpopulation , property fragmentation and bad harvests led to famine. As a result, many emigrated and so some villages lost half of their population in the course of 50 years up to around 1875.


The term Hurdy-Gurdy-Man became known in Germany in the 20th century through the hit of the same name by the British singer Donovan in 1968.


  • Heinz-Lothar Worm: country travel and girl trafficking widespread: d. Pastor u. Social reformer Ottokar Schupp published 1866 d. Story "Hurdy-Gurdy". In: Heimat im Bild. H. 38, 1997, p. O. Seitenz., Ill.
  • Holde Stubenrauch: Hurdy-Gurdy-Girls. From Espa to the whole world. Gratzfeld printing house, Butzbach 1992.
  • Thomas Jeier: The big book from the Wild West . America's pioneering days. Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-8000-1614-3 , pp. 106-107.
  • Dieter Wolf : Hurdy-Gurdy. In: Atelier-Galerie Holde Stubenrauch. Emerching Artists for Contemporary Styles (Ed.): Hurdy-Gurdy-Girls from Espa to the whole world - also a piece of Hessian history of the 19th century. Langgöns-Espa 1992, pp. 6-9.
  • Theodor Kirchhoff: The Rhenish Hurdy Gurdys in America. Another chapter on German human trafficking. In: The Gazebo . Illustrated family sheet, No 20, Leipzig 1865.

Web links