Sunday, July 20, 2008

Victorian Era Prostitution in the US: Part III of III

PART III: Legislation

Great Britain

Offences Against The Person Act 1861
This bill was the first in a series of bills over 25 years. It raised the age of consent & penalties for sexual offences against women and minors.

Eliza Armstrong Case

In 1885, William Stead (1849-1912), editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, brought this whole issue front & center in a series of articles entitled The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon during the Victorian Era. He was prosecuted and imprisoned for kidnapping after he published a series of articles proving he could buy a 13 year old chimney sweep’s daughter for £5 by her own mother. His conviction was based on his failure to get “permission” to purchase the girl. Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army helped Stead purchase the girl. She was purchased by former prostitute Rebecca Jarrett and brought to a brothel lightly-drugged & placed under the care of the Salvation Army and sent to France.

[Note: Steadwell came over to help in Chicago at the Purity Conferences.]

Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885
“An Act to make further provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels, and other purposes”

it …
• made the age of consent from 13 to 16 years of age;
• made it a criminal offence to procure girls for prostitution by administering drugs, intimidation or fraud;
• punished householders who would permit under-age sex on their premises;
• made it a criminal offence to abduct a girl under 18 for purposes of carnal knowledge;
• gave magistrates the power to issue search warrants to find missing females;
• gave power to the court to remove a girl from her legal guardians if they condoned her seduction;
• provided for summary proceedings to be taken against brothels;
• raised the age of felonious assaults to 13 & misdemeanor assault between 13 & 16 as well as imbecile women & girls

For the first time children under the age of 12 were allowed to testify

United States

US Immigration Commission
The US Immigration Commission became involved. They circulated dispatches warning of the dangers of white slavery & gave an idea of how some females were kidnapped off of the street. They issued a rogue gallery of sorts of panderers (those that sold females) which included the notorious men: William Simes, Harry Frank, Richard Dorsey, Louis Fleming, Clarance Gentry, Frank Arnell, Thomas England Jr, Andrew Lietke (aka Andy Ryan).

Mann Act White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910
The Mann Act White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910 (named after lawmaker James Robert Mann) prohibited white slavery & transportation of females for “immoral purposes”. The first person prosecuted was Jack Johnson who encouraged Belle Schreiber to leave a brothel and travel with him. He spent a year in jail and later married the girl. University of Chicago professor sociologist William I. Thomas was arrested under the act when caught in the company of one Mrs Granger, the wife of an army officer with the American forces in France. (He was later acquitted.) In 1944 comic Charlie Chaplin was prosecuted under the Mann Act for involvement with actress Joan Barry. (He was later acquitted). Other famous individuals prosecuted under this act were Chuck Berry, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Charles Manson.

Besides the dispatches the US Immigration Commission released, there were books. In 1858, William Sanger did the groundbreaking book The History of Prostitution. In 1911, The Social Evil in Chicago was released by the 30 members of the Chicago Vice Commission. Teddy Roosevelt recognized the work the document represented and said it was a “contribution to the cause of morality and decency.” Roe authored The Girl Who Disappeared.

Flyers were also prevalent. One entitled Have you a girl to spare? said “Sixty Thousand White Slaves die each year. The Vice Resorts cannot run without this number is replaced annually. Are you willing to give your daughter to keep up this terrible business?”

The mother of the future actress, Katharine Houghton Hepburn, passed out flyers in Hartford, Connecticut. Some said …



Vice Commissions
Many modeled their vice commissions after Chicago. The Cincinnati Vigilance Society, for example. Minneapolis, Lancaster (PA), among others also appeared on the scene. The American Vigilance Association was formed from the wealthiest men in the USA and included former Harvard University president, ministers, cardinals, etc.

In 1913 the Illinois State legislature founded the Senate Vice Committee. Every Chicago department store had to answer questions like …

How many women were employed?
How much were they paid?
What were the company’s profits?
Would it be a hardship on the company to raise women’s salaries?
Would they support a minimum wage legislation?

[Note: These questions were asked because a correlation was found between women being underpaid for employment and prostitution in order to make ends meet for their families.]

On 3 April 1912, Roe gave a 61 page report to Rockefeller on NYC.

“Until the public conscience has been aroused, it is my opinion that it is quite impossible to obtain indictments or convictions of procurers of girls in New York City. The hypocrisy of the double standard of morals is also very evident here. The cases which have been set forth are such cases that would result in convictions in almost any other city in America.”

Silent Movies & Theatrical Productions
Many films were being cranked out … The House of Bondage, The Inside of the White Slave Traffic, The Exposé of the White Slave Traffic, A Victim of Sin, The Traffic in Souls, etc.

Theatrical productions included The Black Traffic in White Girls and Why Girls go Wrong played in Defiance, Ohio. Chicago had its Little Lost Sister and it sold out in Detroit, MI.

• I cannot remember the title of the History Channel’s documentary, but it showed where the women were kept underground in Oregon while they were awaiting to be sent aboard ships for unknown parts overseas. Where the girls were kept was quite ingenius. There was no way to escape. All was underground.

(An aside … The imprisoned girls to be sent overseas was down the hall from where folks paid to use drugs. The drug abusers would rent slatted beds with no mattresses very expensively for a certain number of hours so they could get high.)

Again, the Victorian Era has a great deal to answer for.

In Britain, they began to recognize this phenomenon for what it truly was … evil … around the mid-1800s. Like the elimination of slavery, the UK led the way. The USA would continue its “dirty little secret” for a wee bit longer.

Due to excessive rules and regulations that the visible Church had fallen victim to, many Victorians did not want to deal with this issue … it just wasn’t proper to talk about! Those that did were Jezebels or worse.

A phenomenal book regarding this is called Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott

~ from the notes of Lady Victorian Historian