"I thowt this girl, Martha, a'most like the dirt underneath my Em'ly's feet."
Angela Burdett-Coutts in the 1840s
Public DomainAngela Burdett-Coutts in the 1840s

Martha’s behavior would have been considered sinful and shameful, but following Emily’s own disgrace, Mr. Peggotty has greater understanding towards fallen women.

Charles Dickens had already assisted in altering public opinion towards fallen women through his depiction of Nancy in Oliver Twist (1837-1839), and in 1846, Dickens agreed to assist Angela Burdett Coutts (1814-1906) in establishing a home for the redemption of fallen women.