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Margaret Clap (better known as Mother Clap, died circa 1726) was a woman who ran a brothel for homosexual men in London in the early part of the 18th century.
At the time homosexuality in England was illegal, punishable by execution. Despite this, particularly in larger cities, private homosexual activity did take place. To service these actions, mainly in the cities, there existed brothels where men (from all social classes) could find homosexual partners. These were called molly houses, and the most famous of these was Mother Clap's molly house in the Holborn area of London, specifically on Field Lane (heading north to Farringdon). It was later destroyed by the construction of Holborn Viaduct.
After a tip-off to the local constabulary, Mother Clap's molly house was raided in 1726 and she was sentenced to spend time in the stocks. Public feeling against acts of sodomy was quite strong at the time and Clap was physically assaulted by angry citizens throughout her sentence. It is speculated that soon after her release from the stocks she died from the injuries she sustained, though no historical records document this. Some of the men who were arrested with her were hanged at Tyburn, London on May 9 1726.
Some hold that the name "the clap" is an eponym of "Mother Clap" ("the clap" being a slang term for Gonorrhea) presumably because sexually transmitted diseases were rife in the 18th century. However, the term "the clap" may date from 1587 (suggested etymology: from the Old French word "clapier", meaning "brothel").
- Rictor Norton Mother Clap's Molly House
- Rictor Norton (Ed), Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook
LGBT and Queer studies
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