female brothel keeper. a madame.

etymology: victorian underworld slang. an abbess (latin abbatissa, fem. form of abbas, abbot) is the female superior, or mother superior, of an abbey or convent of nuns. since the elizabethan era, nun has been slang for a prost-tute (ref. william faulkner, “requiem for a nun”), and a nunnery referred to a brothel.
“polly adler, in her memoir ‘a house is not a home,’ tells of her time as the abbess of the big town’s poshest nunnery.”

walter winch-ll, 1953

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