Grave robbing

Victorian-era medical schools didn’t have enough dead bodies for students to learn on and the only bodies they could legally dissect were those that had belonged to someone sentenced to death for a crime. In 1823, Britain passed a law that made fewer crimes end in the death penalty. Hence, doctors-in-training ended up robbing graves. Resurrectionists were hired to dig bodies out of graves; they would get a price for each body and would also be given a fee to be kept on retainer and a fee once the body was delivered. Some even turned to murdering people to keep up the supply.

Deadly beauty routines

White skin was all the rage then, and women achieved that by washing their faces with ammonia, then covering them with lead-based paint. If you were unlucky enough to have thin eyebrows and eyelashes, a nightly smear of mercury could help with that. And speaking of eyes, watery eyes were all the rage too, for some reason. To achieve that look, women could use lemon juice, perfume, or belladonna as eyedrops. The latter did, of course, cause blindness.

Strictly forbidden divorce 

Divorce wasn't allowed in England until the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. As a result, in order to get out of bad marriages, wife-selling became a completely legitimate solution, and continued well through the 19th century, particularly in rural Britain. Wife sales could happen in public or in private. In public sales, the husband typically put some kind of lead rope on his unwanted wife, took her to a public square, and asked for offers. Sometimes the sale would be for cash, and sometimes the price included goods. But it wasn’t necessarily bad for women. Not only did it give them a way out of a bad situation, but they could also trade up into a marriage where they were valued.

to be continued...