The HyperTexts

Famous Courtesans
Famous Scandalous Women

This is a compilation of famous and notorious women who have engaged in prostitution, pimping and/or courtesan work, or were otherwise considered to be scandalous. A courtesan was originally a courtier: someone who attends the court of a monarch or some other powerful figure. During the Renaissance, the Italian word cortigiana, feminine of cortigiano ("courtier") came to refer first to a ruler's mistress, then to a well-educated, independent woman of loose morals, then eventually to a high-class "professional." The English word was borrowed from the Italian through the French form courtisane during the 16th century. The French term is associated with a court-mistress or prostitute. A courtesan was originally the European equivalent of a Japanese geisha. A French courtesan was known as a demimondaine and collectively they were know as the demimonde. The latter means "half the world" and originates with the 1855 comedy Le Demi-Monde by Alexandre Dumas II. But today the term "courtesan" is more likely to be taken to mean something like an upscale call girl.

Courtesans were often hedonistic, living in the lap of luxury thanks to the money and gifts they received from wealthy men. They were not mistresses, per se, because they did not limit themselves to having sex with just one man. Rather, they maintained a "brazen independence" by using their bodies, wits and wiles in unconventional, sometimes scandalous ways.

In England and France courtesans were the "ultimate luxury." According to an article in the Economist, "Young men of the aristocracy and the establishment would apply to a courtesan for her favour, and, if accepted, would set her up in style with resplendent jewellery and the best horses, and parade her in Hyde Park or in the Bois de Boulogne. 'In keeping' was how it was known. The women were all beautiful, sexy (obviously), extremely fashionable—and very, very expensive. Such was their celebrity that the newspapers reported their movements and ordinary women aped the tilt of their hats or the width of their ribbons. 'Great, High, or Fashionable Impures' was how they were described, or, in France, 'les Grandes Horizontales.'"

Here are our choices for the top ten courtesans of all time: (10) Kristen DiAngelo and Xaviera Hollander, (9) Eva Braun Hitler, (8) Bettie Page, (7) Marilyn Monroe (she was reported to have had affairs with John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert), (6) Josephine, (5) sisters Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc, (4) sisters Anne Boleyn and Mary Boleyn, (3) Helen of Troy, (2) Cleopatra, (1) Mary Magdalene, the consort of Jesus Christ

Honorable Mention: Sally Hemings (the slave-mistress who had six children with President Thomas Jefferson), Monica Lewinsky (whose affair with President Bill Clinton led to his impeachment trial), Madame de Pompadour (the mistress of King Charles XV and Voltaire), Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall (who had a notorious affair with Prince Charles while he was married to the far more popular Princess Diana Spencer), Nell Gwynn (the "pretty, witty" mistress of King Charles II), Lillie Langtry (the beautiful actress-mistress of the future King Edward VII), Blaze Starr (the stripper-mistress of Louisiana Governor Earl Long), Elizabeth Taylor (who married Eddie Fisher, the husband of her best friend Debbie Reynolds), Marla Maples (the mistress and second wife of Donald Trump), June Carter Cash (the mistress and second wife of Johnny Cash), Lucy Mercer (who was hired by Eleanor Roosevelt only to have an affair with her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt), Donna Rice (who had an affair with presidential hopeful Gary Hart on a yacht appropriately christened Monkey Business), Jaimee Grubbs (who had an affair with Tiger Woods), Rielle Hunter (who had an affair with presidential hopeful John Edwards), Ashley Dupré (a call girl who had an affair with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer), Amy Fisher (known as the Long Island Lolita for her infamous affair with Joey Buttafuco), Marion Davies (the mistress of publishing tycoon William Randolp Hearst), Jessica Hahn (the secretary and mistress of Moral Majority preacher Jim Bakker)

Related pages: Famous Beauties, Famous Supermodels, Famous Courtesans, Famous Ingénues, Famous Hustlers, Famous Pool Sharks, Famous Rogues, Famous Heretics, Famous Hypocrites, Famous Forgers, Famous Frauds, Famous Flops, Famous Morons, The Dumbest Things Ever Said, Famous Hoaxes and Hucksters

Katherine Hepburn [1907-2003] as Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene is commonly believed to have been a prostitute because she became associated with the nameless harlot whom Jesus forgave in the gospels. She has also been associated with sacred temple prostitution. However some Bible scholars have opined that the historical Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute at all, but rather was the foremost of Jesus's disciples, and perhaps also his wife or lover.

The idea that Mary Magdalene was the foremost of Jesus's disciples seems credible because (1) a disciple named Mary is mentioned more frequently in the New Testament than most of the other disciples; (2) she and John were the only disciples brave and loyal enough to be present with Jesus at his crucifixion; (3) Mary was the first disciple to recognize the meaning of the resurrection; (4) when the names of the disciples are listed in the gospels, hers often comes first; and (5) "Migdal" means tower, so her full appellation might mean something like "tower of faith." According to the famous Christian theologian Augustine, Mary Magdalene was "the apostle to the apostles." It has also been suggested that she was either Jesus's wife, his lover, his mistress and/or the mother of his children. According to all four gospels, Mary Magdalene was among the first and primary witnesses of the resurrection and two of the four gospels say that the first appearance of the resurrected Jesus was to her alone. So it may be plausible to say that if belief in the resurrected Christ is the basis of Christianity, that Mary Magdalene was the first Christian.

Cher as Cleopatra

Cleopatra was consort and lover to two of the most powerful men of ancient times: Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony.

Ava Gardner [1922-1990] as Mary Boleyn

Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne Boleyn, was the lover of France's King Francis as well as England's King Henry VIII; the French king referred to her as "The English Mare."

Gypsy Rose Lee [1911-1970] as Jezebel

Jezebel was a biblical "lady of ill repute."

Gypsy Rose Lee, born Rose Louise Hovick, was a famous burlesque performer known far and wide for her stripteases. But she was also a dancer, actress, producer, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy. She also wrote a mystery novel called The G-String Murders and co-produced a musical revue called Star and Garter. It is said that her first striptease was accidental, occurring when the strap of her gown broke, causing it to fall to the floor during one of her acts. She went on to develop a more casual style of striptease, emphasizing the "tease" and incorporating humor. She was frequently arrested during police raids on her performances, which would be considered quite tame and in good taste today.

June Havoc

June Havoc was Gypsy Rose Lee's sister. She was born Ellen June Hovick. Like her more famous sister, June Havoc was multi-talented, being a vaudeville performer, actress, dancer, author, playwright and theater director.

Eva Braun Hitler [1912-1945] as Hel, Queen of Neifelheim, the Norse underworld

Eva Braun married Adolph Hitler, the creator of the Nazi Holocaust: 'nuff said?

Kristen DiAngelo: escort, courtesan and executive producer of the film American Courtesans

Okay, if you make a movie called American Courtesans, you automatically make our top ten! But it definitely doesn't hurt to look like a sex goddess as well.

Sappho of Lebos [circa 630-570 B.C.]

Gleyre Le Coucher de Sappho by Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre

Sappho of Lesbos is perhaps the first great female poet still known to us today, and she remains one of the very best poets of all time, regardless of gender. She is so revered for her erotic love poetry that we get our terms "sapphic" and "lesbian" from her name and island of residence. As you can see from the utterly stellar epigram below, she remains a timeless treasure:

Sappho, fragment 42
translation by Michael R. Burch

Eros harrows my heart:
wild winds sweeping desolate mountains
uprooting oaks.

Calamity Jane [1852-1903]

The famous gunslinger and markswoman known as Calamity Jane allegedly worked as a dance hall girl and prostitute, among other odd jobs. It was said that to offend her was to "court calamity." But she was also known for her courage, compassion and generosity. By the time she teamed up with Wild Bill Hickok in 1876 and became famous as a performer, she had lost her youthful good looks. The picture above is the only one I could find that begins to do her justice. Calamity Jane, born Martha Jane Canary, was an American frontierswoman, explorer, wagon train rider, army scout, Indian fighter, sure shot, horsewoman, hunter, ox team driver, cook, waitress, dishwasher, nurse, Wild West show performer, dance hall girl, and courtesan. She also worked as a prostitute at the Fort Laramie Three-Hog Ranch. She was named "Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains" by a Captain Egan whom she rescued from death at the hands of Indians at Goose Creek, Wyoming in 1872-1873. She claimed to have married and borne a child by Wild Bill Hickok, and was by many accounts a generous and compassionate women, if something of a hellion. She lies buried next to Wild Bill and as one admirer put it, "Her vices were the wide-open sins of a wide-open country: the sort that never carried a hurt."

Madame X

Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), John Singer Sargent, 1884 (unfree frame crop).jpg

Madame X or Portrait of Madame X is the informal title of a portrait painting by John Singer Sargent of a young socialite named Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, wife of Pierre Gautreau. The model was an American expatriate who married a French banker, and became notorious in Parisian high society for her beauty and rumored infidelities. She wore lavender powder and prided herself on her appearance. Madame X was painted not as a commission, but at the request of Sargent. It is a study in opposition. Sargent shows a woman posing in a black satin dress with jeweled straps, a dress that reveals and hides at the same time. The portrait is characterized by the pale flesh tone of the subject contrasted against a dark colored dress and background. For Sargent, the scandal resulting from the painting's controversial reception at the Paris Salon of 1884 amounted to the failure of a strategy to build a long-term career as a portrait painter in France, although it may have helped him establish a successful career in Britain and America. As for Madame X, originally, the right shoulder strap was hanging off the shoulder, and the combination of this and the "erotic" suggestion of her dress, pale skin and pose caused viewers to be shocked and Gautreau to retreat from the public's eye.

Alma Mahler

Alma Mahler, aka Alma Maria Mahler Gropius Werfel, was an Austrian socialite, muse, and composer who married and had affairs with prominent men in society during the early 20th century. She is considered scandalous because at age 17, she had a fling with famous painter Gustav Klimt, who was 35 at the time. While she had various affairs over the years, her most notable one was with painter and playwright Oskar Kokoschka. After she refused to marry him, he commissioned a life-sized sex doll in her likeness!

Bettie Page [1923-2008]

Bettie Page was one of the first Playboy "playmates" and she was so notorious for doing bondage stills and films that the movie made about her life was titled The Notorious Bettie Page. In 1958, she retired to become a Christian evangelist, after which she returned to live in her Bible belt hometown, Nashville, and went on to do full-time work with Billy Graham. Ironically, after her conversion she had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized as insane for eight years.

Katy Perry as the second coming of Bettie Page

Katy Perry started out as a conservative Christian, due to her childhood upbringing, then made up for lost time by sowing lots of wild oats. Mind you, we're not complaining!

Norma Jean Baker [1926-1962], better known as Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe, 1949.

"Goodbye Norma Jean, we never knew you at all ..."

Princess Diana [1961-1997]

Diana Spencer became world-famous as Princess Diana when she married England's heir to the throne, Prince Charles.

Grace Kelly [1929-1982]

(Princess) Grace Kelly. (Gary Cooper discovered Grace Kelly on the set of her first film, Fourteen Hours (1951), when she was 22 years old.)

Grace Kelly was an actress before she married into royalty and became Princess Grace of Monaco.

Candy Darling

Candy Darling certainly qualifies as a notorious beauty, since she was a favorite of Andy Warhol. The songs "Lola" by the Kinks and Lou Reed's "Candy Says" and "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" were allegedly written with her in mind. Oh, and "she was a he," born James Lawrence Slattery.

Helen of Troy [circa 1200 BC]

Helen of Troy had the "face that launched a thousand ships." According to legend, her elopement with (or abduction by) Paris triggered the Trojan War made famous by the Greek poet Homer in his immortal Odyssey and Iliad. The actress depicted as Helen above is Rossana Podestà.

Lilith [circa the dawn of time]

According to Jewish mythology that dates back at least to the Babylonian Talmud, Lilith was Adam's first wife, but she refused to accept male sexual dominance (the "missionary position") and left him, after which God formed Eve from Adam's rib. In Hebrew, LYL or layil means "night," and in legend Lilith is often portrayed as a night spirit who flies around seducing human beings and drinking their blood, a likely origin of later vampire myths. Lilith and her kind were blamed for male nocturnal emissions. Well into the middle ages, Jews created amulets to ward off the lilim. Some Christian monks slept with crucifixes covering their genitals, to keep the succubi (female demons) away. Michelangelo portrayed Lilith as the Garden of Eden snake in one of his most famous works of art. Lilith was also immortalized, in a more positive light, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his painting Lady Lilith (below).

Mata Hari

Mata Hari, born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, was a Dutch exotic dancer, stripper, artist's model, courtesan and spy. Mata Hari was her stage name; it means "sun" or "eye of the day." She also performed as a circus horse rider, using the name Lady MacLeod, much to the disapproval of her ex-husband's family, the Dutch MacLeods, but he was allegedly a drunk, a wife-beater and a syphilitic adulterer. She openly flaunted her body and frequently posed nude, or nearly nude, which made her a sensation in Paris from her dancing debut in 1905. She was best known for a provocative strip tease act, in which she ended up wearing only a jeweled bra (because she was self-conscious about being small-breasted) and a few ornaments. Known more for her sensuality and eroticism than for classical beauty, Mata Hari brought glamour to exotic dancing, made it more respectable, and turned it into an art form. She was executed by a firing squad in France on October 15, 1917 on charges of spying for Germany. Her German code name was H-21; it has also been suggested that she was a double agent, working as a spy for Great Britain. According to an eyewitness account of her execution by British reporter Henry Wales, she was not bound and refused a blindfold. Wales wrote that after the volley of shots rang out "... Slowly, inertly, she settled to her knees, her head up always, and without the slightest change of expression on her face. For the fraction of a second it seemed she tottered there, on her knees, gazing directly at those who had taken her life. Then she fell backward, bending at the waist, with her legs doubled up beneath her ..." A non-commissioned officer then walked up to her, pulled out his revolver, and shot her in the head to make sure that she was dead. After her death she became the archetype of the glamorous femme fetale. For instance, in the 1967 movie Casino Royale, it was said that James Bond quit the MI5 after coaxing Mata Hari, his true love, from Spain to her execution in France, and that his daughter was named after her.

Xaviera Hollander

Xaviera Hollander, aka "the Happy Hooker," is a former call girl, madam, and memoirist. She came to be best known for her best-selling memoir The Happy Hooker: My Own Story. She was born Xaviera de Vries in Soerabaja, Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia), to a Dutch Jewish physician father and a mother of French and German descent. She spent the first three years of her life in a Japanese internment camp. In her early 20s, she left Amsterdam for Johannesburg, where her stepsister lived. There she met and became engaged to John Weber, an American economist. When the engagement was broken off, she left South Africa for New York. In 1968, she resigned from her job as secretary of the Dutch consulate in Manhattan to become a call girl, where she made $1,000 a night. A year later she opened her own brothel, the Vertical Whorehouse, and soon became New York City's leading madam. In 1971, she was arrested for prostitution by New York police and forced to leave the United States. In 1971 Hollander published a memoir, The Happy Hooker: My Own Story. Robin Moore, who took Hollander's dictations of the book's contents, came up with the catchy title, while Yvonne Dunleavy transcribed the book. The book was notable for its frankness by the standards of the time, and is considered a landmark of positive writing about sex. In the book, Hollander detailed her life as an open-minded woman. She stated that during the start of her career, she did not ask for cash in exchange for sex, but her partners voluntarily gave her money and other presents. Hollander later wrote a number of other books and produced plays in Amsterdam. Her latest book, Child No More, is the heartfelt story of losing her mother. For 35 years, she wrote an advice column for Penthouse magazine called Call Me Madam.

Belle Starr [1848-1889]

Belle Starr was called the "Queen of the Oklahoma Outlaws," the "Bandit Queen" and the "female Jesse James." A crack shot, she would ride sidesaddle while dressed in a black velvet riding habit, with a plumed hat, two pistols, and cartridge belts strapped across her hips. She knew Jesse and Frank James, and was allegedly married to Cole Younger for three weeks in 1878, although there is no evidence of such a marriage. But she did name her ranch Younger's Bend. Her mother was a member of the Hatfield clan. She was shot to death in an ambush at the age of 41. Her daughter, Pearl Starr, was a prostitute who ran bordellos, and her son Eddie was a horse thief, like his famous mother.

Laura Bell

Laura Bell was called the "Queen of London whoredom."

Apollonie Sabatier

Apollonie Sabatier was a courtesan who became the model for a famous orgasmic statue in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

La Païva

Esther Lachmann, better known as La Païva, was arguably the most successful of 19th-century French courtesans. She was ambitious, shrewd, manipulative, a notable investor and architecture patron, and a collector of jewels, with a personality so hard-bitten that she was described as the "one great courtesan who appears to have had no redeeming feature". Count Horace de Viel-Castel, a society chronicler, called her "the queen of kept women, the sovereign of her race." She rose from modest circumstances in her native Russia to become one France's most infamous women. She maintained a noted literary salon out of Hôtel de la Païva, her luxurious mansion at 25 Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris. Completed in 1866, it exemplified the opulent taste of the Second Empire; since 1904 it has been the headquarters of the Travellers Club. Lachmann also inspired the promiscuous, traitorous spy Césarine ("a strange, morbid, monstrous creature") in Alexandre Dumas's 1873 play La Femme de Claude.

Madame du Barry

Madame du Barry was the mistress to Louis XV of France.

Nell Gwyn

Nell Gwyn was a courtesan to King Charles II of England.

Veronica Franco

Veronica Franco was a Venetian courtesan and poetess.

Cora Pearl

Cora Pearl was a 19th century Englishwoman of "moderate beauty" who became the queen of the Parisian courtesans. She was probably the most famous real-life demimondaine and was said to have made millions of francs in her day. She called her noble lovers her "chain of gold." But it seems that she had a heart of gold because during the siege of Paris in 1870-1871 she turned her mansion into a hospital for wounded soldiers.

Virginia Oldoini, Countess di Castiglione

Virginia Oldoini, Countess di Castiglione, was a famous beauty who came to Paris in the 1850s with very little money and soon became mistress of Napoleon III. When their relationship ended she moved on to other wealthy men and nobles. She was one of the most aristocratic and exclusive of the demimondaines—reputed to have charged a member of the British aristocracy one million francs for twelve hours in her company. She lacked charm, and when her looks went so did her patrons; she died alone and mentally ill.

Harriette Wilson

Harriette Wilson, one of the more notorious courtesans, opened her deliciously scandalous memoirs by saying: "I shall not say why and how I became, at the age of 15, the mistress of the Earl of Craven."

Elizabeth Armistead

Elizabeth Armistead was the exception to the rule that courtesans usually didn't settle down with one man. After leading a homely life in the country with the Whig statesman, Charles James Fox, she eventually became his wife.

Marie Duplessis

Marie Duplessis died tragically of tuberculosis at age 23, but was immortalized by Alexandre Dumas II in La Dame aux Camélias, the story on which Verdi based La Traviata.

Sophia Baddeley

Sophia Baddeley was an actress and courtesan who became addicted to laudanum and died in debt. After her death, Harriette Wilson used her memoirs as blackmail to elicit hush money.

Top Ten Movie Roles for Courtesans and/or Prostitutes

Séverine Serizy, in the 1928 novel Belle de Jour and the 1967 film starring Catherine Deneuve
Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman, played by Julia Roberts
Lana, played by Rebecca De Mornay in the movie Risky Business, starring Tom Cruise
Lynn Bracken, a Veronica Lake look-alike, in L.A. Confidential, played by Kim Basinger
Jill McBain in Once Upon a Time in the West, played by Claudia Cardinale
Foxy Brown in Foxy Brown, played by Pam Grier
Satine in Moulin Rogue, played by Nicole Kidman
Mrs. Miller in McCabe and Mrs. Miller, played by Julie Christie
Iris "Easy" Steensma, a 12-year-old prostitute in the movie Taxi Driver, played by Jodie Foster,
Linda Ash in Mighty Aphrodite, played by Mira Sorvino

Other Famous Courtesans

Eve, the "original sinner" and consort of Adam, who lured him into having sex (possibly) before they were properly married
Lilith, who according to some mythological accounts was Adam's first mistress, but declined the "missionary position"
Pandora, the original "bad girl" of Greek mythology
Marie Antoinette, who famously (or infamously) suggested that peasants who lacked bread should eat cake instead
Josephine, the consort of Napoleon
Aspasia, Greek hetaera, companion of Pericles
Phryne, Greek hetaera
Rahab, the Biblical prostitute who assisted the Hebrews in capturing Jericho (Joshua 2:1-7)
Su Xiaoxiao, Chinese courtesan of the 5th century
Thaïs, Greek hetaera who lived during the time of Alexander the Great
Theodora, Empress of Byzantium
Gomer, a prostitute whom God commanded the Hebrew prophet Hosea to marry in the biblical book of Hosea
Polly Adler, New York madam, 1920s-1940s
Josie Arlington, a famous madam of Storyville, New Orleans
Theresa Berkeley, a 19th-century dominatrix
Pearl Callahan, prostitute from Northern California, in the film American Courtesans, and a sex worker advocate
Alice Chambers, 19th century Dodge City prostitute
Annie Chapman, one of the "canonical five" victims of Jack the Ripper
Gina DePalma, porn star, prostitute and dominatrix, in the film American Courtesans
Mary Jane Kelly, one of the "canonical five" victims of Jack the Ripper
Nicole Leguay d'Oliva, the French prostitute involved in the "Affair of the Diamond Necklace" who impersonated Marie Antoinette
Carol Leigh, a.k.a. Scarlot Harlot; she coined the term "sex worker"
Mary Ann Nichols, one of the "canonical five" victims of Jack the Ripper
Barbara Payton, American actress turned prostitute
Shady Sadie (Josephine Marcus), a courtesan who had an affair with Wyatt Earp
Elizabeth Stride, one of the "canonical five" victims of Jack the Ripper
Martha Tabram, a possible victim of Jack the Ripper
Valérie Tasso, French author
Libby Thompson, "Squirrel Tooth Alice," madam of a brothel in Sweetwater, Texas
Clara Ward, Princesse de Caraman-Chimay, daughter of a Michigan lumberman who spent most of her life in Europe
Lulu White, madam in Storyville, New Orleans

Film and Television

Richard Gere played Julian Kaye, a male escort, in the movie American Gigolo
Deuce Bigalow is a male gigolo played by Rob Schneider in the spoof Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo
Lulu, the doomed harlot, played by Louise Brooks in the 1929 silent movie classic Pandora's Box
Bree Daniels, a New York prostitute played by Jane Fonda in Klute
Elizabeth Taylor as Gloria Wandrous in Butterfield 8 
Sera, played by Elizabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas
Papillon Soo Soo as Da Nang Hooker in Full Metal Jacket
Mena Suvari as Carol in Sonny
Strawberry Alice, played by Frances Fisher, in the movie Unforgiven, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood
Crow Creek Kate, played by Josie Smith, in the movie Unforgiven, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood
Delilah Fitgerald, played by Anna Levine, in the movie Unforgiven, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood
Inara Serra, in Firefly by Joss Whedon
Téa Leoni as Julie Mott in Bad Boys
Emily Browning as Lucy in Sleeping Beauty (below)

Gallery: The 50 Hottest Prostitutes In Movies

Freida Pinto as Latika in Slumdog Millionaire
Nancy Allen as Liz Blake in Dressed to Kill 
Demi Moore as Diana Murphy in Indecent Proposal starring Robert Redford
Amanda Seyfried as Chloe in Chloe
Monica Bellucci as Malèna Scordia in Malèna

Bella Cohen, in Ulysses by James Joyce
Belle, in Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O'Neill
Belle Watling, in Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Candy, in Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction by Luke Davies
Candy, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Chandramukhi, in Devdas
Elisabeth Rouset, in Boule de Suif by Guy de Maupassant
Fanny Hill, in Fanny Hill, by John Cleland
Fantine, in Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
Marguerite Gautier, from Alexandre Dumas's La Dame aux camélias, inspired by real-life Marie Duplessis, a 19th century courtesan
Violetta, the main character from the opera La Traviata ("The Reprobate") by Giuseppe Verdi
Juliette, in the Marquis de Sade's Juliette
Lozana, in Portrait of Lozana by Francisco Delicado
Moll Flanders, in The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Molly Malone, an Irish urban legend made famous by the song "In Dublin's fair city, where girls are so pretty ..."
Nana, in Nana by Emile Zola
Nancy, in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Odette, in Marcel Proust's Un amour de Swann
Phedre no Delauny, in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel novels
Pie 'Oh' Pah, from Imajica by Clive Barker
Romulus, central character in The Romanian: Story of an Obsession by Bruce Benderson
Mrs. Rosie Palm, brothel owner and president of the Guild of "Seamstresses" in various Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett
Satine, in Moulin Rouge! by Baz Luhrmann, a story based on the Paris nightclub of the same name
Séverine Serizy, in the 1928 novel Belle de Jour and the 1967 film starring Catherine Deneuve
Sonya Marmeladova, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Suzie Wong, from The World of Suzie Wong
Talanta, La Talanta by Pietro Aretino
Tra La La, Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby
Tristessa, Tristessa by Jack Kerouac
Vasantsenaa, a Nagarvadhu, or wealthy courtesan, in Śudraka's Sanskrit play, Mṛcchakatika.
Yumi Komagata, in Rurouni Kenshin, by Nobuhiro Watsuki
Zaza, in Zaza by Pierre Berton and Charles Simon

Symbolic or Allegorical
The Whore of Babylon
Oholah and Oholibah
The prostitute in The Harlot's Progress by William Hogarth

Prostitutes in Myth and Legend
Agatha, English prostitute, mother of Mother Shipton
Basileia, in ancient Greece, the goddess of prostitutes and courtesans
Bebhinn, the Celtic goddess of pleasure
Belili, a goddess of Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, the Philistines and the Canaanites; her worship required sacred prostitution
The daughters in the original Saint Nicholas legend were sold to a brothel-keeper by their father
Naamah, an angel of prostitution and one of the succubus mates of the demon Samael in Zoharistic Qabalah
Shamhat, a goddess of  Sumer/Babylon
Xochiquetzal, the Aztec goddess of prostitutes, pregnant women and dancing
Alexandra Dé Broussehan, an Irish Celtic prostitute who caused a war between the Callahan and Lawlor Clans; she is often associated with the goddess Korrigan, whose worship involved sacred prostitution

Related pages: Famous Beauties, Famous Supermodels, Famous Courtesans, Famous Ingénues, Famous Hustlers, Famous Pool Sharks, Famous Rogues, Famous Heretics, Famous Hypocrites, Famous Forgers and Frauds, Famous Flops, Famous Morons, The Dumbest Things Ever Said

The HyperTexts