I recently read Nightingales, Gillian Gill's biography of Florence Nightingale, and got my answer:
Florence's inspection and research confirmed that female nurses came from the humblest classes of society and were employed mainly to watch patients and keep them clean. Most were drunken, callous, and, willingly or not, accustomed to prividing sexual services for the doctors, dressers, and patients. (Page 277)Silly me, I thought it was society's impulse to make everything that women pursue out to be a sexual game, a heterosexual male fantasy where the ultimate goal of every female pursuit is to get on him, personally. Little did I know that the classist and sexist forces in Western society ensured that this was not a game or a fantasy in Victorian England, but reality.
Also, the book was fascinating (and the author's writing style very witty and sometimes hilariously bitchy) and I highly recommend it. Anyone interested in a feminist bookswap should write me an email.