Lewis J. Duncan to Jane Addams, December 9, 1911

The Mayor's Office

Butte, Montana, Dec. 9, 1911.

Miss Jane Addams.
Chicago, Ill.

My dear Miss Addams:

In the prosecution of the program of the Socialist Party in this city I have been brought face to face with a matter in which I think you can greatly assist.

One of our campaign promises was that we would separate the liquor traffic from the sex traffic. This we have practically accomplished. In the course of the procedure leading to this result there came to my office the keeper of one of the so-called parlor houses. She goes by the name Ruth Clifford. Her first visit was for the purpose of securing, if possible, some executive clemency. I was perfectly frank with her and told her that she need expect nothing of that sort. The very frankness of my statement and the discovery that as a Socialist and as a man I recognized the economic sources of prostitution and had no implacable Pharisaic judgements against her or the unfortunate women in the district seems to have been a great revelation to her. Since her first visit we have had two or three other conversations. She has not said to me but she has told others that I am the first man she ever met who treated her as though she were a human being. Last Tuesday night with genuine tears in her eyes she thanked me for the consideration with which she has been treated. She says the rendering impossible of the sale of liquor at her establishment will drive her out of business and she is not at all sorry to be driven out. The only regret she has is that some $5,000 or $6,000 which she has put into the premises she now occupies will be a total loss to her, because she has made only a partial payment for the property, which was sold on such conditions that if she should default in payment she would lose what she has put in.

Unless she is greatly deceiving me, which I do not believe, she is exceedingly anxious not only to get away from this city but to secure employment where she can make some honest wages and at the same time have leisure in which to study and if possible fit herself for some occupation in life where she can be useful socially. I have a great deal of faith in this woman's real character and in the sincerity of her purpose.  She loathes the business. The Chief of Police here tells me she has run the cleanest establishment ever conducted in the city and has treated her girls with more consideration than any other keeper. She is a woman, who, if she [page 2] had the education and were properly environed, might become a valuable member of society. It occurs to me that you might be able to find her the opportunity for another start in life.

As she tells it to me her story is about as follows: Her mother died when she was yet a young girl. She grew up to young womanhood under the care of her father, who was a good chum. I have the impression that just as she was coming into young womanhood she lost her father, but of this I cannot be positive at this time. At any rate, she had no sort of education either in physiology or ethics that would have been a protection to her. At the age of sixteen, still unmarried, she became pregnant and the disclosure of this fact caused a quarrel between her brother and sister. The brother was for taking care of her and protecting her as much as possible; the sister was for turning her out and letting her look out for herself. I do not recollect just how the matter was settled between the brother and sister, but she was married to the man who had seduced her, for the purpose of legitimatizing the child. I have not looked into the matter and do not know how long she remained with him, but there subsequently entered another man into the case, a man of means and social position who wanted her for his mistress. It was this man who brought her to the city of Butte and gave her enough money to buy out the good will of the proprietress of the establishment she now has. This man is no longer in the city.  She tells me that save for these two men none other has entered into her [life] sexually. She says that the very approach and contact of the men who patronize her establishment is loathsome to her, but for the sake of her living she has had to endure much that is repugnant to her. I give you the story for precisely what it is worth. I know that such stories are common with people in this business and I do not too greatly rely upon it, although my inclination is to believe that she is telling me truth. I have not yet found her in the slightest attempt to mislead or to lie to me about any of the other matters of a business nature in which it has been necessary to confer. Before she would tell me an untruth she would say, "That is a question which I do not care to answer."

Miss Clifford is only twenty-six years old. She is a beautiful woman physically, who does not impress one as essentially coarse but rather the contrary. That lack of refinement she has impresses me as the result more of association than of temperament or nature. She says her ambition is to take up some line of study in which she could specialize and in the pursuit of which as a life work she would make her life count for something. I am no sentimentalist, neither is she, and when she told me this it impressed me as ringing true. She says there is a professional man in this town who wants her to go away with him as an assistant in his particular line and that if necessary to get her he would be willing to marry her, but she does not want to marry him. She says she does not care for him that way, does not love him, and feeling this way she does not wish to be dependent upon him in any way for any new start that she may get [page 3] in life. "I do not want to be under any obligations to him, you know, in any way in which he could make me feel that I owed him something." That is the way she states it.

Miss Clifford tells me that she is closing up her place and wants to be thoroughly out of it by the end of this month. She has not the faintest prospect as yet of what she will do thereafter. She says furthermore that by the time she shall have closed her business and paid her outstanding bills she will have practically nothing left save what she can get from the pawning or sale of one or two jewels. With this money she hopes to get off into some other place or <to> establish some other line of business and set herself seriously to the work of self-redemption above indicated. 

I think the above statement covers all the salient points in this matter. Should you want any more facts or information of any sort about the case I shall be happy to do all in my power to send them to you. Of course you understand that my interest in this matter is purely humanitarian, with the additional motive that I should like to feel that one of the fruits of the hard job which my comrades put upon me last spring has been the redemption of this woman. If you can or cannot assist in this matter I trust that you will let me know after you have carefully weighed the chances in your own judgement.


                  Yours with great regard,
           Lewis J. Duncan [signed]

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