A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil, Chapter I, November 1911

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IN every large city throughout the world, thousands of women are so set aside as outcasts from decent society that it is considered an impropriety to speak the very word that designates them. Lecky calls this type of woman "the most mournful and the most awful figure in history;" he says that "she remains, while creeds and civilizations rise and fall, the eternal sacrifice of humanity, blasted for the sins of the people." But evils so old that they are embedded in man's earliest history have been known to sway before an enlightened public opinion, and in the end to give way to a growing conscience, which regards them first as a moral affront and at length as an utter impossibility. Thus the generation just before us, our own fathers, uprooted the enormous upas of slavery, "the tree that was literally as old as the race of man," although slavery doubtless had its beginnings in the captives of man's earliest warfare, even as this existing evil thus originated.

The Twin of Slavery, and the New
Conscience Concerning It

Those of us who think we discern the beginnings of a new conscience in regard to this twin of slavery, as old and outrageous as slavery itself and even more persistent, find a possible analogy between certain civic, philanthropic, and educational efforts directed against the very existence of this social evil, and similar organized efforts which preceded the overthrow of slavery in America. Thus, long before slavery was finally declared illegal, there were international regulations of its traffic, state and federal legislation concerning its extension, and many extra-legal attempts to control its abuses; quite as we have the international regulations concerning the white slave traffic, the state and interstate legislation for its repression, and an extra-legal power in connection with it so universally given to the municipal police that the possession of this power has become one of the great sources of corruption in every American city.

Before society was ready to proceed against the institution of slavery as such, groups of men and women, by means of the underground railroad, cherished and educated individual slaves. It is scarcely necessary to point out the similarity to the "rescue homes" and preventive associations which every great city contains.

It is always easy to overwork an analogy, and yet the economist who for years insisted that slave labor continually and arbitrarily limited the wages of free labor, and was, therefore, a detriment to national wealth, was a forerunner of the economist of today who points out the economic basis of the social evil -- the connection between low wages and despair, between over-fatigue and the demand for reckless pleasure.

Before the American nation agreed to regard slavery as unjustifiable from the standpoint of public morality, an army of reformers, lecturers, and writers set forth its enormity in a never-ceasing flow of invective, of appeal, and of portrayal concerning the human cruelty to which the system lent itself. We can discern the [page 2] scouts and outposts of a similar army advancing against this existing evil: the physicians and sanitarians who are committed to the task of ridding the race of contagious diseases; the teachers and lecturers who are appealing to the higher morality of thousands of young people; the growing literature, not only biological and didactic, but of a popular type more closely approaching "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Throughout the agitation for the abolition of slavery in America, there were statesmen who gradually became convinced of the political and moral necessity of giving to the freedmen the protection of the ballot. In this current agitation, there are at least a few men and women who would extend a greater social and political freedom to all women, if only because domestic control has proved so ineffectual.

The Old Abolitionist Movement
and the New

We may certainly take courage from the fact that our contemporaries are fired by social compassions and enthusiasms to which even our immediate predecessors were indifferent. Social compunctions have ever manifested themselves in varying degrees of ardor through different groups in the same community. Thus, among those who are newly aroused to action in regard to the social evil are many who would endeavor to regulate it and believe they can minimize its dangers, still larger numbers who would eliminate all trafficking of unwilling victims in connection with it, and yet others who believe that as a quasi-legal institution it may be absolutely abolished. Perhaps the analogy to the abolition of slavery is most striking in that these groups, in their varying points of view, are like those earlier associations which differed widely in regard to chattel slavery. Only the so-called extremists, in the first instance, stood for abolition, and they were continually told that what they proposed was clearly impossible. The legal and commercial obstacles, bulked large, were placed before them, and it was confidently asserted that the blame for the historic existence of slavery lay deep within human nature itself. Yet gradually all of these associations reached the point of view of the abolitionist, and before the war was over even the most lukewarm unionist saw no other solution of the nation's difficulty. Some such gradual conversion to the point of view of abolition is the experience of every society or group of people who seriously face the difficulties and complications of the social evil. Certainly the national organizations, such as the National Vigilance Committee, the American Purity Federation, and the American Alliance for the Suppression and Prevention of the White Slave Traffic, stand for the final abolition of commercialized vice. Local vice commissions, such as the able one recently appointed in Chicago, although composed of members of varying beliefs in regard to the possibility of control and regulation, united, in the end, in recommending a law enforcement looking toward final abolition. Even the most skeptical of Chicago citizens, after reading the fearless document, shared the hope of the commission that "the city, when aroused to the truth, would instantly rebel against the social evil in all its phases." A similar recommendation of ultimate abolition was recently made unanimous by the Minneapolis Vice Commission, after the conversion of many of its members. Certainly all of the national societies have before them a task only less gigantic than that faced by those earlier associations in America for the suppression of slavery, although it may be legitimate to remind them that the best-known anti-slavery society" in America was organized by the New England abolitionists in 1836, and only thirty-six years later, in 1872, was formally disbanded because its object had been accomplished. The long struggle ahead of these newer associations may also claim its martyrs and its heroes. Few righteous causes have escaped baptism with blood, and, if one may paraphrase Lincoln's speech, if blood were exacted drop by drop in measure to the tears of anguished mothers and enslaved girls, the nation would still be obliged to go into the struggle.

White Slavery as an Organized Traffic

Throughout this article, the phrase "social evil" is used to designate the sexual commerce permitted to exist in every large city, usually in a segregated district, wherein the chastity of women is bought and sold. Modifications of legal codes regulating marriage and divorce, moral judgments concerning the entire group of questions centering about illicit affection between men and women, are quite other questions, which are not considered in these articles. Such problems must always remain distinct from those of commercialized vice, as must the treatment of an "irreducible minimum" which will doubtless always exist.

Nothing is gained by making the situation better or worse than it is, nor in any wise different from what it is. This ancient evil is indeed social in the sense of community responsibility, and can only be understood and at length remedied when we face the facts and measure the resources which may at length be massed [page 3] against it. Perhaps the most striking indication that our generation has become the bearer of a new moral consciousness in regard to the existence of commercialized vice is the fact that the mere contemplation of it throws the more sensitive men and women among our contemporaries into a state of indignant revolt. It is doubtless an instinctive shrinking from this emotion, and an unconscious dread that this modern sensitiveness will be outraged, which justifies to themselves so many moral men and women in their persistent ignorance of the subject. Yet one of the most obvious resources at our command, which might well be utilized at once, if it is to be utilized at all, is the overwhelming pity and sense of protection which the recent revelations in the white slave traffic have aroused for the thousands of young girls, many of them still children, who are yearly sacrificed to the "sins of the people." All of this emotion ought to be made of value, for, quite as a state of emotion is invariably the organic preparation for action, so it is certainly true that no profound spiritual transformation can take place without it.

At the present moment, even the least conscientious citizens agree that, first and foremost, this organized traffic in what has come to be called "white slaves" must be suppressed, and that those traffickers who procure their victims for purely commercial purposes must be arrested and prosecuted. As it is impossible to rescue girls fraudulently and illegally detained, save through governmental agencies, it is naturally through the line of legal action that the most striking revelations of the white slave traffic have come. For the sake of convenience, we may divide this legal action into those cases dealing with the international traffic, and the regulations with which the municipality alone is concerned. 

The Case of the Girl Imported from Abroad

First in value in the white slave commerce is the girl imported from abroad, who, from the nature of the case, is most completely in the power of the trader. She is literally friendless and unable to speak the language, and, at last discouraged, she makes no effort to escape. Many cases of the international traffic were recently tried in Chicago and the offenders convicted by the federal authorities. One of these cases, which attracted much attention throughout the country, was of Marie, a French girl, the daughter of a Breton stone-mason so old and poor that he was obliged to take her from her convent school at the age of twelve years. He sent her to Paris, where she became a little household drudge and nursemaid, working from six in the morning until eight at night, for three years sending her wages, which were about a franc a day, directly to her parents in the Breton village. One afternoon, as she was buying a bottle of milk at a tiny shop, she was engaged in conversation by a young man who invited her into a little pâtisserie, where, after buying her sweets, he introduced her to his friend, Monsieur Paret, who was gathering together a theatrical troupe to go to America. Paret showed her pictures of several young girls, gorgeously arrayed, and announcements of their coming tour, and Marie felt much flattered when it was intimated that she might join this brilliant company. After several clandestine meetings to perfect the plan, she left the city with Paret and a pretty French girl to sail for America with the rest of the so-called actors. Paret escaped detection by the immigration authorities in New York through his ruse of the "Kinsella troupe," and took the girls directly to Chicago. Here they were placed in a disreputable house belonging to a man named Lair, who had advanced the money for their importation. The two French girls remained in this house for several months, until it was raided by the police, when they were sent to separate houses. The records that were later brought into court show that at this time Marie was earning two hundred and fifty dollars a week, all of which she gave to her employers. In spite of this large monetary return, she was often cruelly beaten, was made to do the household scrubbing, and was, of course, never allowed to leave the house. Furthermore, as one of the methods of retaining a reluctant girl is to put her hopelessly in debt and always to charge against her the expenses incurred in securing her, Marie, as an imported girl, had begun at once with the huge debt of the ocean journey for Paret and herself. In addition to this large sum, she was charged, according to this large sum, she was charged, according to universal custom, with exorbitant prices for all the clothing she received, and with any money that Paret chose to draw against her account. Later, when Marie contracted typhoid fever, it was necessary to send her to a public hospital. It was during her illness there, when a general investigation was made of the white slave traffic, that a federal officer visited her. Marie, who thought she was going to die, freely gave her testimony, which proved to be most valuable.

The federal authorities, following up her statements, at last located Paret in the city prison at Atlanta, Georgia, where he had been convicted on a similar charge. He was brought to Chicago, and on his testimony Lair was also convicted and imprisoned. [page 4]

The Demoralization of the Victim a Valuable Asset

Marie has since married a man who wishes to protect her from the influence of her old-life; but, although not yet twenty years old and making an honest effort, what she has undergone has apparently so far warped and weakened her will that she is only partially successful in keeping her good resolutions, and she sends each month to her parents in France ten or twelve dollars, which she confesses to have earned illicitly. It is as if the shameful experiences to which this is as if the shameful experiences to which this little convent-bred Breton girl was forcibly subjected had finally become registered in every fiber of her being, until the forced demoralization had become genuine. She is as powerless now to save herself from her subjective temptations as she was helpless five years ago to save herself from her captors.

Such demoralization is, of course, most valuable to the white slave trader; for when a girl has become thoroughly accustomed to the life, and testifies that she is in it of her own free will, she puts herself beyond the protection of the law. Marie herself, at the end of her third year in America, wrote to the police appealing for help; but the lieutenant who, in response to her letter, visited the house was convinced by Lair that she was there of her own volition and that, therefore, he could do nothing for her. It is easy to see why it thus becomes part of the business to break down a girl's moral nature by all those horrible devices which are constantly used by the owner of a white slave. Because life is so often shortened for these wretched girls, their owners degrade them morally as quickly as possible, lest death release them before their full profit has been secured. In addition to the quantity of sacrificed virtue, to the bulk of impotent suffering, which these white slaves represent, our civilization becomes permanently tainted with the vicious practices designed to accelerate the demoralization of unwilling victims in order to make them commercially valuable. Moreover, a girl thus rendered more useful to her owner will thereafter fail to touch either the chivalry of men or the tenderness of women, because good men and women have become convinced of her innate degeneracy. The very revolt of society against such girls is used by their owners as a protection to the business.

A Thousand White Slave Traders Driven Out of Chicago

The case against the captors of Marie, as well as twenty-four other cases, was ably and vigorously conducted by Edwin W. Sims, United States district attorney in Chicago. He proceeded under a clause of the immigration act of 1908, which was unfortunately declared unconstitutional early the following year, when for the moment federal authorities found themselves unable to proceed directly against this international traffic. They could not act under the international white slave treaty signed by the contracting powers in Paris in 1904 and proclaimed by the President of the United States in 1908, because it was found impossible to carry out its provisions without federal police. The long consideration of this treaty by Congress made clear to the nation that it is in matters of this sort that navies are powerless, and that, as our international problems become more social, other agencies must be provided, a point which arbitration committees have long urged. The discussion of the international treaty brought the subject before the entire country as a matter for immediate legislation and for executive action, and the White Slave Traffic Act was finally passed by Congress in 1910, under which all prosecutions have since been conducted. When the decision on the immigration clause, rendered in 1909, threw the burden of prosecution back upon the states, Mr. Clifford Roe, then assistant state's attorney, within one year investigated 348 such cases, domestic and foreign, and successfully prosecuted 91, carrying on the vigorous policy inaugurated by United States Attorney Sims. In 1908 Illinois passed the first pandering law in this country, changing the offense from disorderly conduct to a misdemeanor and greatly increasing the penalty.

As a result of this vigorous action, Chicago became the first city to look the situation squarely in the face, and to make a determined, business-like fight against the procuring of girls. An office was established by public-spirited citizens. Mr. Roe was placed in charge, and empowered to follow up the clues to the traffic, wherever found, and to bring traffickers to justice. The white slave traders have become so frightened that the foreign importation of girls to Chicago has markedly declined. It is estimated by Mr. Roe that since 1909 about a thousand white slave traders, of whom thirty and forty were importers of foreign girls, have been driven from the city.

The Position of the Friendless
Immigrant Girl

Throughout the Congressional discussions of the white slave traffic, beginning with the Howell-Bennett act in 1907, it was evident that the subject was closely allied to immigration; and [page 5] when the Immigration Commission made a partial report to Congress in December, 1909, upon "the importation and harboring of women for immoral purposes," their finding only emphasized the report of the Commissioner-General of Immigration made earlier in the year. His report had traced the international traffic directly to New York, Chicago, Boston, Buffalo, New Orleans, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Butte. As the list of cities was comparatively small, it seemed not unreasonable to hope that the international traffic might be rigorously prosecuted, with the prospect of finally doing away with it, in spite of its subtle methods, its multiplied ramifications, and its financial resources. Only officials of vigorous conscience can deal with this traffic, but one certainly can imagine no nobler service for federal and state officers to undertake than this protection of immigrant girls. It is obvious that a foreign girl who speaks no English, who has not the remotest idea in what part of the city her fellow countrymen live, who does not know the police station or any agency to which she may apply, is almost as valuable to a white slave trafficker as a girl imported directly for the trade. The cadet makes every effort to intercept such a girl before she can communicate with her relatives. Although great care is taken at Ellis Island, and a girl's destination is carefully indicated upon her ticket and her friends communicated with, after she boards the train the governmental protection is withdrawn, and many untoward experiences may befall a girl between New York and her final destination. Only this year, a Polish mother of the Hull-House neighborhood failed to find her daughter on a New York train upon which she had been notified to expect her, because the girl had been induced to leave the train at South Chicago, where she was met by two young men, one of them a clever cadet well known to the police, and the other a young Pole purporting to have been sent by the girl's mother.

The immigrant girl also encounters dangers upon the very moment of her arrival. The cabmen and expressmen are often unscrupulous. One of the latter was recently indicted in Chicago upon the charge of regularly procuring immigrant girls for a disreputable hotel. The non-English-speaking girl handing her written address to a cabman has no means of knowing wither he will drive her, but is obliged to place herself implicitly in his hands. The Immigrants' Protective League has brought about many changes in this respect, but has upon its records some piteous tales of girls who were thus easily deceived.

An immigrant girl is occasionally exploited by her own lover whom she has come to America to marry. I recall the case of a Russian girl thus decoyed into a disreputable life, deceived by a fake marriage ceremony. Although not found until a year later, the girl had never ceased to be distressed and rebellious. Many Slovak and Polish girls coming to America without their relatives board in houses already filled with their countrymen, who have also preceded their own families to the land of promise, hoping to earn money enough to send for them later. The immigrant girl is thus exposed to dangers at the very moment when she is least able to defend herself. Such a girl, already bewildered by the change from an old world village to an American city, is unfortunately sometimes convinced that the new country freedom does away with the necessity for a marriage ceremony. Many others are told that judgment for a moral lapse is less severe in America than in the old country. The last month's records of the Municipal Court in Chicago, set aside to hear domestic relation cases, show sixteen unfortunate girls, of whom eight were immigrants, representing eight different nationalities. These discouraged and deserted girls become an easy prey for the cadets, who have sometimes been in league with their lovers.

Immigrant Parents Often Unable to
Protect Their Daughters

Even those girls who immigrate with their families and sustain an affectionate relation with them are yet often curiously free from chaperonage. The immigrant mothers frequently do not know where their daughters work, save that it is in a vague "over there" or "downtown." They themselves were guarded by careful mothers, and they would gladly give the same oversight to their daughters; but the entire situation is so unlike that of their own peasant girlhood that, discouraged by their inability to judge it, they make no attempt to understand their daughters' lives. The girls, realizing this inability on the part of their mothers, elated by that sense of independence which the first taste of self-support always brings, sheltered from observation during certain hours, are almost as free from social control as is the traditional young man who comes up from the country to take care of himself in a great city. These immigrant parents are, of course, quite unable to foresee that while a girl feels a certain restraint of public opinion from the tenement-house neighbors among whom she lives, and while she also responds to the public opinion of her associates in a factory where she works, there is no public opinion at all operating [page 6] as a restraint upon her in the hours occupied in the coming and going to work through the streets of a city large enough to offer every opportunity for concealment. So much of the recreation which is provided by commercial agencies, even in its advertisement, deliberately plays upon the interest of sex, because it is under such excitement and that of alcohol that money is most recklessly spent. This great human dynamic, which it has been the long effort of centuries to limit to family life, is deliberately utilized for advertising purposes. It is inevitable that many girls yield to these allurements; on the other hand, one is filled with admiration for the many immigrant girls who, in the midst of insuperable difficulties, resist all temptations.

The Case of Olga, a Swedish
Immigrant Girl

Such admiration was certainly due Olga, a tall, handsome girl, a little passive and slow, yet with that touch of dignity which a continued mood of introspection so often lends to the young. Olga had been in Chicago for a year, living with an aunt, who, when she returned to Sweden, placed her niece on a boarding-house which she knew to be thoroughly respectable. But a friendless girl of such striking beauty could not escape the machinations of those who profit by the sale of girls. Almost immediately Olga found herself beset by two young men, who continually forced themselves upon her attention, although she refused all their invitations to shows and dances. In six months the frightened girl had changed her boarding-place four times, hoping that the men would not be able to follow her. She was also obliged to look constantly for a cheaper place, because the dull season in the cloak-making trade came early that year. In the fifth boarding-house, she finally found herself so hopelessly in arrears that the landlady, tired of waiting for the "new cloak-making to begin," at length fulfilled a long-promised threat, and one summer evening at nine o'clock literally put Olga into the street, retaining her trunk in payment of the debt. The girl walked the street for hours, until she fancied that she saw one of her persecutors in the distance, when she hastily took refuge in a sheltered doorway, crouching in terror. Although no one approached her, she sat there late into the night, apparently too apathetic too apathetic to move. With the curious inconsequence of moody youth, she was not aroused to action by the situation in which she found herself. The incident epitomized to her the everlasting riddle of the universe, to which she could see no solution, and she drearily decided to throw herself in the lake. As she left the doorway at daybreak for this pitiful purpose, she attracted the attention of a passing policeman. In response to his questions, kindly at first, but becoming exasperated as he was convinced that she was either "touched in her wits" or "guying" him, he obtained a confused story of the persecutions of the two young men, and in sheer bewilderment took her to the police station on the very charge against the thought of which she had so long contended.

The girl was doubtless sullen in court the next morning. She was resentful of the policeman's talk; she was oppressed and discouraged, and, therefore, taciturn. She herself said afterward that she "often got still that way." She so sharply felt the disgrace of arrest, after her long struggle for respectability, that she gave a false name and became involved in a story to which she could devote but half her attention, being still absorbed in an undercurrent of speculative thought which continually broke through the flimsy tale she was fabricating.

With the evidence before him, the judge felt obliged to sustain the policeman's charge, and, as Olga could not pay the fine imposed, he sentenced her to the city prison. The girl, however, had appeared so strange that the judge was uncomfortable, and gave her in charge of a representative of the Juvenile Protective Association, in the hope that she could discover the whole situation, in the hope that she could discover the whole situation, meantime suspending the sentence. It took hours of patient conversation with the girl, and the kindly services of a well-known alienist, to break into her dangerous state of mind and to gain her confidence. Prolonged medical treatment averted the threatened melancholia, and she was at last rescued from the meaningless despondency, hostile to life itself, which has claimed many young victims.

Our Negative Immigration Policy

It is strange that we are so slow to learn that no one can safely live without companionship and affection, that the individual who tries the hazardous experiment of going without at least one of them is prone to be swamped by a black mood from within. It is as if we had to build little islands of affection in the vast sea of impersonal forces, lest we be overwhelmed by them. Yet we know that in every large city there are hundreds of men whose business it is to discover girls thus hard pressed by loneliness and despair, to urge upon them the old excuse that "no one cares what you do," to fill them with cheap cynicism concerning the value of [page 7] virtue, all to the end that a business profit may be secured.

Had Olga yielded to the solicitations of such men, and had the immigration authorities in the federal building of Chicago discovered her in the disreputable hotel in which her captors wished to place her, she would have been deported to Sweden, sent home in disgrace from the country which had failed to protect her. May we not hope that in time the nation's policy in regard to immigrants will become less negative, and that some protection will be extended to them during the three years when they are deported so promptly if they become criminals or paupers?

Cities Force Their Police into Corruption

However difficult it may be for the federal authorities to accomplish this, certainly no one will doubt that it is the business of the city itself to extend much more protection to young girls who so thoughtlessly walk upon its streets. Yet, in spite of the grave consequences which lack of proper protection implies, the municipal treatment of commercialized vice not only differs in each city, but varies greatly in the same city under changing administrations.

The situation is enormously complicated by the pharisaic attitude of the public, which wishes to have the comfort of declaring the social evil to be illegal, while at the same time it expects the police department to regulate it and to make it as little obvious as possible. In reality, the police, as they themselves well know, are not expected to serve the public in this matter, but to consult the desires of the politicians; for, next to the fast-and-loose police control of gambling, nothing affords better political material than the regulation of commercialized vice. First in line is the ward politician who keeps a disorderly saloon which serves both as a meeting-place for the cadets and as a market for their wares. Back of this, the politician higher up receives his share of the toll which this business pays, that it may remain undisturbed. The very existence of a segregated district under police regulation means, of course, that the existing law must be nullified, or at least rendered totally inoperative. When police regulation takes the place of law enforcement, a species of municipal blackmail inevitably becomes [entrenched]. The police are forced to regulate an illicit trade, but, because the men engaged in an unlawful business expect to pay money for its protection, the corruption of the police department is firmly established and, as the Chicago Vice Commission report points out, is merely called "protection to the business." The practice of grafting thereafter becomes almost official. On the other hand, any man who attempts to show mercy to the victims of that business, or to regulate it from the victim's point of view, is considered a traitor to the cause. Quite recently, a former inspector of police in Chicago established a requirement that every young girl who came to live in a disreputable house within a prescribed district must be reported to him within an hour after her arrival. Each one was closely questioned as to her reasons for entering the life; if she was very young, she was warned of its inevitable consequences and urged to abandon her project. Every assistance was offered her to return to work and to live a normal life. Occasionally the girl was desperate, and it was sometimes necessary that she be forcibly detained in the police station until her friends could be communicated with. More often, she was glad to avail herself of the chance of escape, practically always, unless she had already become romantically entangled with a cadet whom she firmly believed to be her genuine lover and protector.

The Story of a Bohemian Factory Girl

One day a telephone message came to Hull-House from the inspector, asking us to take charge of a young girl who had been brought into the station by an older woman for registration. The girl's youth, and the innocence of her replies to the usual questions, convinced the inspector that she was ignorant of the life she was about to enter and that she probably believed she was simply registering her choice of a boarding-house. Her story, which she told at Hull-House, was as follows: She was a Milwaukee factory girl, the daughter of a Bohemian carpenter. Ten days before she had met a Chicago young man at a Milwaukee dance-hall, and after a brief courtship had promised to marry him, arranging to meet him in Chicago the following week. Fearing that her Bohemian mother would not approve of this plan, which she called "the American way of getting married," the girl had risen one morning even earlier than factory work necessitated, and had taken the first train to Chicago. The young man met her at the station, and took her to a saloon, where he introduced her to a friend, an older woman, who, he said, would take good care of her. After the young man disappeared, ostensibly for the marriage license, the woman professed to be much shocked because the little bride had brought no luggage, and persuaded her that she must work a few weeks in order to earn money for her trousseau, and that she, an [page 7] older woman who knew the city, would find a boarding-house and a place in a factory for her. She further induced her to write postal cards to six of her girl friends in Milwaukee, telling them of the kind lady in Chicago, of the good chances for work, and urging them to come down to the address which she sent. The woman told the unsuspecting girl that, first of all, a newcomer must register her place of residence with the police, as that was the law in Chicago. It was, of course, when the woman took her to the police station that the situation was disclosed. It needed but little investigation to make clear that the girl had narrowly escaped a well-organized plot, and that the young man to whom she was engaged was a professional cadet. Mr. Clifford Roe took up the case with vigor, and although all efforts failed to find the young man, the woman who was his accomplice was fined one hundred and fifty dollars and costs. The one impression that the trial left upon our minds was that all the men concerned in the prosecution felt a keen sense of outrage against the method employed to secure the girl, but took for granted that the life she was about to lead was in the established order of things, if she had chosen it voluntarily. In other words, if the efforts of the cadet had gone far enough to involve her moral nature, the girl -- who, although unsophisticated, was twenty-one years old -- could have remained in the hideous life quite unchallenged. The woman who was prosecuted was well known to the police, and was fined, not for her daily occupation, but because she had become involved in interstate white slave traffic. One touch of nature redeemed the trial; for the girl suffered much more from the sense that she had been deserted by her lover than from horror over the fate she had escaped, and she was never wholly convinced that he had not been genuine. She asserted constantly, in order to account for his absence, that some accident must have befallen him. She felt that he was her natural protector in this strange Chicago to which she had come at his behest, and continually resented any imputation of his motives. The betrayal of her confidence, the playing upon her natural desire for a home of her own, was a ghastly revelation that, even when this trade is managed upon the most carefully calculated commercial principles, it must still resort to the use of the oldest of the social instincts as its basis of procedure.

Case of a Chicago Police Inspector Who Tried to Protect Young Girls

This Chicago police inspector, whose desire to protect young girls was so genuine and so successful, was afterward indicted by the grand jury and sent to the penitentiary on the charge of accepting "graft" from saloonkeepers and proprietors of the disreputable houses in his district. His experience was a dramatic and tragic portrayal of the position into which every city forces its police. When a girl who has been secured for the life is dissuaded from it, her rescue represents a definite monetary loss to the agency which has secured her, and incurs the enmity of those who expected to profit by her. When this enmity has sufficiently accumulated, the active official is either "called down" by higher political authority or brought to trial for those illegal practices which he shares with his fellow officials. It is, therefore, easy to make such an inspector as ours suffer for his virtues, which are individual, by bringing charges against his grafting, which is general and almost official. So long as the customary prices for protection are adhered to, no one feels aggrieved; but the sentiment which prompts an inspector to "side with the girls" and to destroy thousands of dollars' worth of business is unjustifiable. He has not stuck to the rules of the game, and the pack of enraged gamesters, under full cry of "morality," can very easily run him to ground, the public meantime being gratified that police corruption has been exposed and the offender punished. Yet hundreds of girls, who could have been discovered in no other way, were rescued by this man in his capacity of police inspector. On the other hand, he did little to bring to justice those cadets and others responsible for securing the girls, and, while he rescued the victim, he did not interfere with the source of supply. Had he been brought to trial for this indifference, it would have been impossible to find a grand jury to sustain the indictment; he was really brought to trial because, from the point of view of the implied contract with the politicians, he had devised illicit and damaging methods to express that instinct for protecting youth and innocence which every kindly man on the police force doubtless possesses. Were this instinct freed from all political and extra-legal control, it would in and of itself be a tremendous force against commercialized vice, which is so dependent upon the exploitation of young girls. Yet the fortunes of the police are so tied up to those who profit by this trade, and to their friends the politicians, that the most well-meaning man upon the force is constantly handicapped.

Several illustrations of this occur to me: Two years ago, when very untoward conditions were discovered in connection with a certain five-cent theater, a young policeman arrested the proprietor, who was later brought before [page 8] the grand jury, indicted, and released upon bail for nine thousand dollars. The crime was a heinous one, involving the ruin of fourteen little girls; but so much political influence had been exerted on behalf of the proprietor, who was a relative of the Republican committeeman of his ward, that, although the license of the theater was immediately revoked, it was reissued to his wife within a very few days, and the man continued to be a menace to the community. When the young policeman who had made the arrest saw him, in the neighborhood of the theater, talking to little girls, and reported him, the officer was taken severely to task by the highest Republican authority in the city. He was reprimanded for his activity, and ordered transferred to the stock-yards, eleven miles away. The policeman well understood that this was but the first step in the process called "breaking"; that, after he had moved his family to the stock-yards, in a few weeks he would be transferred elsewhere; and that this change of beat would be continued until he should at last be obliged to resign from the force. His offense, as he was plainly told, had been his ignorance of the fact that the theater was under political protection. In short, the young officer had naïvely undertaken to serve the public, without waiting for his instructions from the political bosses.

Guarding Boys and Girls in the
City Streets

While the legal control of commercialized vice is thus tied up with city politics, the general public has no opportunity of determining whether a given police administration is lax or severe in this control, save by the difference in the number of women who are allowed to ply their trade upon the street. Many of these women are sent out and protected by cadets, and they are also utilized to secure patronage for the disreputable houses. Some of them are desperate creatures, making one last effort before they enter a public hospital to face a miserable end; others are young girls tying occasionally to earn money for much-desired clothing or pleasures. Their suggestive presence on the street is, perhaps, one of the most demoralizing influences to be found in a large city, and such vigorous efforts as were recently made by the former chief of police in Chicago, when he successfully cleared the streets of their presence, demonstrates that legal suppression is possible. Were the streets kept clear, many young girls would be spared familiar knowledge that such a method of earning money is possible. I have personally known several instances in which girls have begun street solicitation through sheer imitation. A young Russian woman found herself in dire straits after the death of her mother. Her only friends in America had moved to New York. She was in debt for her mother's funeral, and as it was the slack season for the miserable sweat-shop sewing she had been doing, she was unable to find work. One evening, when she was quite desperate with hunger, she stopped several men upon the street, as she had seen other girls do, and in her broken English asked them for something to eat. Only after a young man had given her a good meal at a restaurant did she realize the price was expected to pay and the horrible thing which the other girls were doing. Even in her shocked revolt, she could not understand, of course, that she herself epitomized that hideous choice between starvation and vice which is, perhaps, the crowning disgrace of civilization.

The legal suppression of street solicitation would not only protect girls, but would enormously minimize the risk and temptation to young men and boys. The entire system of recruiting for commercialized vice is largely dependent upon boys, who are scarcely less the victims of the system than are the girls themselves. Certainly this aspect of the situation must be seriously considered. In 1908, when Mr. Clifford Roe conducted successful prosecutions against one hundred and fifty cadets in Chicago, nearly all of them were local boys who had used their personal acquaintance to secure their victims. The accident of a long acquaintance with one of these boys, born in the Hull-House neighborhood, filled me with questionings as to how far society may be responsible for these wretched lads, many of them beginning a vicious career when they are but fifteen or sixteen years of age. Because the trade constantly demands very young girls, the cadets require the assistance of immature boys, for in this game, above all others, "youth calls to youth." Such a boy is often incited by the professional cadet to ruin a young girl, because the entire position of a cadet is much safer if the character of the girl is blackened before he sells her, and if he himself can not be implicated in her downfall. The cadet thus keeps himself within the letter of the law, and, when he is even more cautious, he induces the boy to go through the ceremony of a legal marriage by promising him a percentage of his wife's first earnings.

The Bulk of the White Slave Traffic Drawn
from the Youth of the Community

Only yesterday I received a letter from the young man whom I had known from his early [page 9] boyhood, written in the state penitentiary, where he is serving a life sentence. His father was a drunkard, but his mother was a fine woman, devoted to her children, and she patiently supported her son Jim far beyond his working age. At the time of his trial, she pawned all her personal possessions and mortgaged her furniture in order to get three hundred dollars for his lawyer. Although Jim had long led the life of a loafer and had never supported his mother, he was affectionately devoted to her and always kindly and good-natured. Perhaps it was because he had been so long dependent upon a self-sacrificing woman that it became easy for him to be supported by his wife, a girl whom he met when he was temporarily acting as porter in a disreputable hotel. Through his long familiarity with vice, and the fact that many of his companions habitually lived upon the earnings of "their girls," he easily consented that his wife should continue her life, and he constantly accepted the money which she willingly gave him. After his marriage he still lived in his mother's house, refusing, however, to take more money from her; but she had no idea of the source of his income. One day he called at the hotel, as usual, to ask for his wife's earnings, and, in a quarrel over the amount with the landlady of the house, he drew a revolver and killed her. Although the plea of self-defense was urged in the trial, his abominable manner of life so outraged both jury and judge that he received the maximum sentence. His mother still insists that he sincerely loved the girl whom he so impulsively married, and that he received the maximum sentence. His mother still insists that he sincerely loved the girl whom he so impulsively married, and that he constantly tried to dissuade her from her evil life. Certain it is that both Jim's wife and mother are filled with genuine sorrow for his fate, and that in some way the educational and social resources in the city of his birth failed to protect him from his own lower impulses and from the evil companionship whose influence he could not withstand. He is but one of thousands of weak boys who are constantly utilized to supply the white slave traders with young girls, for it is generally estimated that at any given moment three fourths of the girls utilized by the trade are under twenty years of age, and that most of them were procured when even younger.

It is clear that the bulk of the entire traffic is conducted with the youth of the community, and that the social evil, ancient though it may be, must be renewed in our generation through its younger members. The fact that recent investigation of the white slave traffic has emphasized the youth of its victims doubtless in a measure accounts for the new sense of compunction which fills the community. It is safe to predict that in time the lives and temptations of these boyish victims, as well as those of the girls, will be placed before the public by that group of vigorous writers who have begun to investigate the white slave traffic. They are fearlessly following the clues they find, even when they lead to men of high finance and to those of impeccable social standing, quite as another set of magazine writers are investigating commercial corruption, following its ramifications wherever they may lead, into political, social, or religious life. These writers have shown that the profits of the landlord are no small part of the vested interests involved, for it is apparently difficult to resist the high rentals which houses in the segregated districts can command if rented for purposes of vice. Many appeals made to such men in Chicago for help in ridding the community of a place notoriously dangerous to young people have never succeeded. The supposedly respectable landlords defend themselves behind the old sophistry, "If I did not rent my house for such a purpose, some one else would," and the more hardened ones say that "it is all in the line of business." Both of them are enormously helped by the secrecy surrounding the ownership of such houses, although it is hoped that the laws requiring that the name of the owner and the agent of every multiple house be posted in the public hallway will at length break through this protection. These investigators of the social evil, these pioneers in a new field of corruption, make it clear that the white slave market is being extended not only in the direction of supply, but also in that of demand; that procured girls represent a risked capital upon which it is necessary to induce men, by every possible means, to spend money, that a satisfactory rate of interest may be secured. The writing upon this subject in America is at present in the pamphleteering stage, although an ever-increasing number of short stories and novels deal with it, some of them approximating the plays through which Bernard Shaw constantly places the truth before the public in England, as Brieux is doing for the public in France. Both playwrights produce in the spectators a disquieting sense that society is involved in commercialized vice and must speedily find a way out. Such writing is like the roll of the drum which announces the approach of the troops ready for action. Since the death of Ibsen, Tolstoy, and Zola, the Germans alone seem able to incorporate the theme into genuine literature. Certainly Sudermann, Hélène Böhlau, and Elsa Gerusalem have forever rescued the so-called "fallen" woman from the false sentimentality of an impossible Camille. [page 10]

Some of the writers who are performing this valiant service are related to those great artists who, in every age, enter into a long struggle with existing social conditions, until after many years they change the outlook upon life for at least a handful of their contemporaries. Their readers find themselves no longer mere bewildered spectators of a given social wrong, but conscious of their own hypocrisy in regard to it, participators in a hidden horror which had come to seem normal.

In that vast and checkered undertaking of its own moralization to which the human race is committed, it must constantly free itself from the survivals and savage infections of the primitive life from which it started. Now one and then another of the ancient wrongs and uncouth customs, which have been so long familiar as to seem inevitable, rise to the moral consciousness of a passing generation, first for uneasy contemplation and then for correction. Many traces of this first uneasy contemplation of the social evil are found in contemporary literature; for, while the business of literature is revelation and not reformation, it may yet perform for the men and women now living that purification of the imagination and intellect which the Greeks believed to come through pity and terror.


[THE remaining articles in the series outline and illustrate existing efforts directed against the social evil in four directions: amelioration of economic conditions, moral education, philanthropic rescue and prevention, and increased social control. Many illustrations are taken from the records of the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, which has its main office adjoining Hull-House and to which twenty field officers constantly report those agencies which tend to demoralize children. The five thousand complaints which this association received last year became to me a revelation of the pitfalls which are designedly placed around many young girls. As head of the publication committee I read the original documents in a series of special investigations on dance-halls, theaters, amusement parks, lake excursion boats, petty gambling; also the social surroundings of two hundred department-store girls, two hundred factory girls, two hundred office girls, and two hundred immigrant girls. This reading only served to increase my painful impressions, until finally, out of my own need for a counter-knowledge to this bewildering mass of information, I attempted to put into order the growing efforts to understand and at length to abolish what is commonly called the social evil.]


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