Campaign of the Month: June 2012
The Jenny's' Guild
The guild began in 1238 with Jenny Malone. Jenny was a prostitute arrested for the killing of an abusive customer. It was deemed self defence, which was a landmark in itself, and she was acquitted in an Archemaine court. However, this legal victory was only the catalyst for her other accomplishments. The man she had killed was a minor noble. He had been disgraced a long time ago, yet his family fought to protect their name. All her life Jenny had believed that the system was made by and for the nobility. So she was more surprised than anyone else when she defeated them in the court. She had fought hard, for she was fighting for her life, but she had no doubt she would loose. The best she had hoped for was to be executed with dignity knowing she had tried everything. Winning changed her life. The rules were not written the way she thought they were. The law did not always protect the nobles. More importantly she realized that one person can make a difference. She realized she could change her life, and the lives of others for the better. All she needed was a plan, and the will to see it carried through.
To other prostitutes she had become a figurehead. Galvanized by her empowering victory Jenny gathered as many girls as she could and formed an unofficial guild. There were other abusive customers in the city she worked in. The only way to make the streets safe for women like her was solidarity, and a little blackmail. With all the girls sharing information, Jenny created a small-scale spy ring. Any customer who abused a girl in any way, or even treated her unfairly, was made known to all the prostitutes of the city. He quickly discovered he would have to leave the city to find willing girls. In extreme cases Jenny’s girls would see to it that the wives, mothers or sisters of the man in question became aware of his infidelities or proclivities. This threat kept many men in line, and the girls policed their own to see that no women accepted his ‘trade’ and broke with the guild. As no one pays much attention to the whereabouts of prostitutes, it is not widely known how ruthless Jenny’s girls were about keeping the terms of the pact. Many forgotten and desperate women were found in rivers after breaking with the orders of the underground guild. While the guild was being set up to make the lives of these desperate women better, Jenny took the long term view. Women who wouldn’t fall in with this design for their own betterment had to be sacrificed for the benefit of the others.
Soon word passed to other cities of how Jenny was creating a safe environment for their kind of trade. Her ideas were adopted first in Midrealm and then all over the Free Kingdoms. Eventually they came to the attention of the early Free Realms guilds. The jenny organization was still underground, but recognition by the new Free Realms League would give them their chance for legitimacy. By 1253, the League wanted to take on the Eastern Alliance of Guildsmen, but needed more money and power to do so. Jenny’s girls had acquired a good quantity of both, as well as a lot of interesting secrets. All they wanted in return was a chair in the League. It didn’t take the Free Realms League long to decide, and in 1254, Jenny’s guild became The Jennys’ Guild.
Organization and Goals
The guild today has a simple structure. It has no apprentices or Journeymen. A girl is either in the guild or not. The only way to join the guild is by working for it. Few women turn to prostitution because they want to, and testing for mastery of the craft is difficult (and more than a little intrusive). So power in the guild is generally based on seniority. It is accepted that younger girls must defer to the elder women. After all, it is comforting for the younger women to know they will not be alone and cast out when their looks fade. They know there is a career path open to them. Few rise to become madams and guild house owners; there are only so many places. However, there is always a need for cooks and nannies.
While the guild doesn’t use the same ranking system as the others, it does mark its members. There are no guild pins, but there are many ways to recognize a guild member. This is not just so members can recognise each other, but so that their prospective customers can as well. As such, they have become the symbols of the jenny’s craft, even non-guild members use them. However, any working girl that isn’t in the guild joins up if she knows what’s good for her. These symbols are well known and also warn the customer that the woman has the back up of the organization, and any misdeeds will catch up with him eventually. The signs always use red somewhere, and vary from country to country. In Midrealm the girls let one of their shoulders go bare, revealing a flash of red underwear. In Espagia the ladies use heavier make up than most, but also carry a red fan. In the Western Kingdoms she carries a red handkerchief tucked into her belt. The Juiss Jenny paints her nails and lips a very bright red, or allows the customer to see the red garter she wears. The girls in the Providences all wear small vivid red hats. The Ironfast jennys wear heavy jewelry of red, the richer ladies wear ruby encrusted items, while the poorer ones wear simple woven red cords. In Cymbria, jennys tie their hair with a red ribbon, or for the richer Jenny dye the fur edging on their coats red. There is little guild activity in the Eastern Kingdom so they use a mixture of all the symbols, but sometimes also wear an ankle chain of red beads. Women visiting other countries should be aware of these symbols too, in case they are mistaken for a lady of ill repute. Most fathers and husbands of any nationality hate to see their daughters or wives wear red at all for this reason. So red has become a risqué colour for a woman to wear, which sometimes makes it very fashionable.
What many people are unaware of is the amount of men who work for the guild. Many sons born to members are kept and looked after in the guildhouses. When they are grown they join as full members and work as guards and bouncers for the bordellos. Some actually go into prostitution themselves. There is a market for young men from both noblewomen and men, but this service from the guild is kept very quiet. These male jennys are theoretically employed as servants and cooks. Only when a visitor inquires about ‘that young man over there’ is a deal and price reached. This way the customer thinks he has gained a special deal. Even so, this has led to rumours of the guild trading in young boys and offering any debauchery for the right price. It is a rumor the guild doesn’t mind as it brings them customers for services it already offers, and lets them know who these ‘exotically inclined’ clients are. The guild is also careful with any children born into it. Most forms of contraception are not particularly reliable, but some Jennys want children of their own as well. All the children are brought up rather well with education and good living conditions. In fact a good proportion of the guild’s income is spent on the children of its members. These children are encouraged to find different careers, but not dissuaded from the path of a Jenny if they truly want the life. As mentioned above, there is a place for men in the ranks, as both sexes serve as servants and messengers as they grow up. Many are keen to serve and return some of the investment and care they received growing up. Every child remembers the home they first knew wherever they find themselves. This gives the guild more eyes and ears in many more places. One thing that never happens is children being allowed into the ‘working areas’ of the house. The guild does its best to protect their innocence. However the main reason is to ensure no debauched patron sees them and decides he wants to pay for them. One of the greatest secrets of the guild is its connection to Sophia’s Daughters. Membership in the secret society is one of the best ways to ensure advancement in the guild. Few working Jennys are members themselves, but the ranking member of any guild house usually is. Even if the madam is not a daughter, they are aware there are certain things they must do that are not directly for the guild. The daughters use associate members more than full members as agents. The wider range of such members makes them more useful in gathering information. In general the daughters do not have more agents within this guild then anywhere else, but they do have more members here in highly placed and powerful positions. It is true to say the daughters own this guild, but not all its members.