The Unadjusted Girl


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MODERN psychology is throwing so much light upon human behavior that concerning delinquency one cannot do better than follow the teaching of Spinoza, "Neither condemn nor ridicule but try to understand." Such an attitude led to the establishment of the first mental clinic in connection with a court, where Doctor William Healy revealed astonishing facts regarding causes and cures of delinquency; such an attitude led to this sociological study of delinquency.

Having learned from Doctor Healy the relation between mental conflict and misconduct and the possibility of cure by the freeing of blocked emotion, social workers were somewhat prepared for one of the unusual situations brought about by the war, -- namely, the wholesale arrests of girls and women on suspicion of venereal disease, with effort on the part of the government not only to cure the physical disease but to rehabilitate the individual. The gathering of data by the Girls' Protective Bureau of the United States Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board gave a basis for study which years of private practice or philanthropy could not assemble. One felt about these Young prostitutes that mere suppression by force would not .-,each the root of the matter, - that causes and conditions must be studied. With this in mind certain lines of research were undertaken, primarily to gather and interpret data which would lead to less unjust

(vi) treatment than is at present accorded so-called delinquent women, by changing public opinion and especially altering procedure in our courts, jails and hospitals. It was hoped that such data might also tend toward a better understanding of human relations and indicate marriage standards based upon biology and psychology rather than on economics.

A profound statement of Mr. Thomas's is, "Statistics in themselves are nothing more than the symptoms of unknown causal processes. A social institution can be understood and modified only if we do not limit ourselves to the study of its formal organization but analyze the way in which it appears in the personal experience of various members of the group and follow the influence it has on their lives." It was just the sudden knowledge of the effect of our custom, law and court procedure as they influenced the lives of individual girls which brought critical questioning of such justice as had been meted out to them. It seemed as if society had been systematically wrecking women.

The government program acted as a searchlight flashed upon the farce of our dual system of morality. In the case of a child suffering assault or rape she might be detained in an old type of reform school till her majority gave her freedom -- a poor preparation for later life -- while the man, were he convicted, rarely had a long sentence. Of two parents of a child conceived out of wedlock, for the girl abortion is classed as crime; motherhood brings shame and condemnation; while the part of the man passes as a biological necessity. Whereas in some hospitals fifty per cent of the women arrested on suspicion of disease were found to be not infected, it was suggested in one city that prophylactic stations be established in men's clubs and even in

(vii) boys' schools, -the futility of fine and jail for the woman, freedom for the man.

This war measure brought hundreds of girls to our courts for whom in some States there was no proper provision. This emergency developed rapid establishment of correctional schools of most approved type, showing marked success in the rehabilitation of girls, even with some seeming psychopathic cases. Little girls unfortunate enough to have a sex experience called to the attention of the court, who in the past would have been confined behind bars, are now placed in the country, given good food and opportunity for free happy activity. Formerly for the unmarried mothers the psychological values of pregnancy were ignored, and in the effort to save the reputation by concealing motherhood the mind and character were often weakened.

If fear in soldiers could produce pathological symptoms both mental and physical, curable by psychiatry, might not some of this apparent feeble-mindedness be a hysteria resulting from shock? Most case histories showed early sex experience treated, especially when pregnancy resulted, with utmost scorn, contempt and condemnation. Surely the world offers to these little unmarried mothers as menacing a front as was faced by the soldiers in France. For girls passing through Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles, right environment is provided where they receive friendly care and encouragement. As a psychologist said of the soldiers, "'Morale is pumped into them." The fact that they have shown during pregnancy an advance in intelligence quotient amounting in some cases to ten points demands a reconsideration of opinion till further data give scientific basis for judgment.


In the introduction to Kammerer's study of "The Unmarried Mother", Doctor Healy questions whether such a constructive act as bringing a child into the world should ever be classed as a crime. Life, legal or illegal, must be respected.

One grows to love the incorrigible girl. She has many fine qualities. A protective officer was escorting to a State institution a girl thought too bad for a House of the Good Shepherd. A train wreck occurred and she thought, "Here is where my girl escapes me." On the contrary, the "incorrigible" turned to and helped as many as possible of those injured. The biologist tells us it is just this superabundant vitality that is necessary for the evolution of higher types.

In the autumn of 1919 at the International Conference of Women Physicians held in New York under the auspices of the National Y. W. C. A. for discussion of the physical, mental and social health of women, many valuable contributions were made to our problem. The relation between sex shock and nervous disease was plainly given by the psychoanalysts, and their theory of retarded emotion and fixation of infantile affection explained varied phases of behavior. Most encouraging of all was Freud's hypothesis of sublimation.

Those who, in Freud's teaching of the danger of sex repression to mental health, find merely sanction for license miss the point of his wonderful message. This theory that life force, libido, creative energy, follows the Law of Conservation true of Physical force -- that as motion may become heat, light or electricity, so this inner power may be transmuted from procreative effort to creative work of hand and brain --would seem to explain much of the modern success in the re-

(ix) -habilitation of the young prostitute. This transmutation of sex force into art and religion had been noted in the past by Jacob Boehme and James Hinton. Myers hinted it in a line of poetry, "Forge and transform my passion into power", but it remained for Freud to bring it to common understanding. James Hinton, the English surgeon, said just after our Civil War, "Prostitution will pass as has slavery when it becomes too great a burden for humanity to carry." That time has come and prostitution must pass. Prostitution and promiscuity will be eliminated not by force but through sublimation.

Further analysis of this hypothesis of sublimation shows that life energy or libido may be manifested physically, psychically, socially, spiritually:

Physically in motion, eating, drinking and in sex acts ;
Psychically in art, science, literature, anything which uses one's wits;
Socially in service to others;
Spiritually in meditating upon Infinite Power or seeking one's relation to The Whole.

Though these divisions give somewhat roughly general group types, humanity shows infinite variety of expression, and individuals may change from time to time according to influence and environment. Each may be developed through her special abilities. One notes with interest that associated with physical sex expression there is frequently great cleverness in cookery and crochet. Each must be stabilized on her own level.

An interesting report comes from El Retiro, the experimental school for correctional education established by the city and county of Los Angeles during

(x) the war. Of two hundred girls passing through this institution during the first three years, only two have drifted to the underworld, these being drug addicts when they came from the court. One hundred and ninety-eight are functioning socially in the community. These girls were all under twenty-one years. On arriving at El Retiro each girl is studied by a group consisting of the referee of the court, the psychologist, the superintendent, the teacher and the head of student government. So soon as her interests and special abilities are discovered, a project is chosen which will prepare her for constructive living in the community. The girls are stimulated to mental expression of energy, not set to hours of dull routine, scrubbing floors or paring potatoes. Not punishment but responsibility develops power and leads to higher expression and achievement. Science is teaching us that man is an epitome of the past, -- that in each human being is retained the impress of prehuman behavior. As one analyst puts it, "Each day is an adjustment between the higher nerve centers and the spinal column." We must study this conservation of life force that we may strengthen those manifestations which show ascending effort and decrease the tendency to revert to action patterns of earlier forms.

A dictum of the percipient mind of the biologist-sociologist, Lester Ward, should startle us into fresh appraisal of life's values. Shortly before his death he said, "The day will come when society shall be as much shocked at the crime of perpetuating the least taint of hereditary disease, insanity or other serious defect, as it is now at the comparatively harmless crime of incest."

As an equation is solved more simply by algebra

(xi) than arithmetic, so any subject carried up into the next higher universe of discourse becomes clarified, falls into proper perspective, and is more easily understood. This thought in conjunction with the statement of Lester Ward shows the need of extending our discussion to include women both in and out of wedlock, and instead of differentiating the good from the bad by legal definition, the ethics of human mating must be based upon those laws of nature which secure the finest human values, the essential aim being an ever better next generation.

The fundamental function of woman being motherhood, this with its secondary manifestations explains much of her behavior. The devotion of the young girl to the cadet who enslaves her reveals the same instinct which holds a wife faithful through difficulties and degradation, - the instinct from which have developed the virtues of loyalty, endurance and self-sacrifice. The period of pregnancy should be (if the imagination be not filled with old wives' tales) one of health, exhilaration, development of psychic values and social consciousness. Any woman experiencing this wonderful functioning should be aided to as complete psycho-biological fulfillment as her personality and the social situation permit. Should the higher love and association of the father of her child be lacking, so much the greater is her need of genuine help and encouragement. Given this, she may be strengthened and stabilized whether the man desert or become disaffected before or after a legal ceremony.

Though mating and its resulting responsibilities have evolved our highest virtues, marriage is now under attack. Not only are divorce and illegitimacy evidenced as showing its failure, but intellectual women

(xii) are demanding freedom and self-expression which they find doubtful in marriage. In Paris one woman who believed the relation of the unmarried mother to her child more ethical under French law than that of the married mother, lived out of wedlock for years of monogamous mating, her daughter bearing her name. She and the father of her child were leaders in La Ligue pour le Droit des Femmes, of which Victor Hugo was an early president. Fundamentally this attack is encouraging, indicating effort to bring law up to newer ideals of ethical mating. Man's marriage law was based upon economics, upon the idea of possession and inheritance of possessions. In Scandinavia, where woman has for some time been voting, there is a tendency to make the law conform to biology. In Norway all births are registered. The father as well as the mother must be held responsible and there are no illegitimate children. Under their law for children born out of wedlock which went into effect in 1915, in only nine out of the first five thousand cases was paternity contested. Here law is conforming to biologic fact. Before science can offer a new marriage law the psychology of mating must be further studied. Women are classifying as prostitution a marriage in which psychical values are ignored. They seek chastity in marriage according to the definition given in Doctor S. Herbert's Fundamentals in Sexual Ethics, "Chastity true chastity - has reference not so much to actions as to feelings and motives. It is the quality of the emotion in relation to sexual acts that constitutes a state of purity or impurity."

Mr. Thomas's study quite disproves the former theory of psychologists and criminologists that the prostitute is a type and can live no other way. Girls

(xiii) may come through a measure of prostitution, marry and make successes of their lives. In China a girl will sometimes earn through prostitution the money which makes marriage possible. In that country, where the seclusion of wives necessitates the entertainment of men guests at public places, the so-called prostitute may be called to act as hostess at dinner, to provide music or dancing at regular stipulated prices, according to the class to which she belongs, this not necessarily including the barter of the body. Even dominoes are played at so much a game. It would seem strange to our Y. W. C. A. hostesses at the army camps that their hospitality to the soldiers would in China have been classed as activities of the prostitute.

One of the surprises of the war work was the definite number of married women carrying on not commercial prostitution, but clandestine relationships. They were not vicious but immature. Their husbands being away, they seemed unable to get on without the aid of a friendly man. The need was not money but affectionate companionship. In some cases women were glad to escape from conditions of marital cruelty, yet they were so simple-minded as to accept instead most casual relationships.

Few people are able to live without some affectional affiance. An unmarried woman may establish a permanent friendship with another woman; one of less stable personality may pass from one "crush" to another, leaving havoc in her wake as does the promiscuous male, yet for this she way not be haled into court. If affection be lacking it takes a strong purpose in life to steady either a man or woman.

To claim that a girl need not be ruined or may rer from sex conflict expressed or repressed is not

(xiv) advocating promiscuity. Far from it. Nor in this effort of women to free themselves from the blunders hidden under the sanction of marriage should young people be encouraged to believe that to repeat those same blunders freely is the ideal of mating. Much nervous disease and delinquency are traceable to early emotional shock. Each case requires special study of personality. The results of any conflict are dependent upon previous environment, training, characteristics, interests, ideals. Freud says that if two little girls, one the daughter of intellectual parents, the other the child of the janitor, should have some sex experience, the former might later suffer neurosis while the latter would probably be unharmed. Cases of disease and of delinquency show the persistence. of the association of idea, the strange continuance of symptoms fixed as conditioned reflexes which hamper a human being for years. Recent study of pre-delinquent groups has revealed children " with normal or even superior native endowment who are prevented from showing their ability by factors acting upon their feelings." These illustrate the dangers of affectional wound, the sensitivity of personality to emotional shock. A conflict may make or break an individual.

Just what is it which differentiates between two lives of similar asocial behavior or suffering affectional wounds, one becoming disorganized, the other attaining higher levels of mental and social integration ? Certain psychoanalytic biographies show struggles of eminent men and women who passed through periods of mental strain or moral failure, yet rose superior to and even strengthened by their wrestling with life. Our revered Abraham Lincoln not only kept bride and guests waiting on the first date set for his wedding,

(xv) but disappeared from family and friends for three days. imagine the frenzy of the modern press over such an event.

Psychiatrists are interpreting to nervous patients symptoms of strain and sorrow, assisting them to assimilate such emotional experience and to regain poise. It is possible to minimize sexual blunder as unfortunate but not irreparable. One recovers from disease, from disappointment. One lie told may bring from the parent an explanation of the importance of truth and be a milestone on the upward path. Such lesson, however, should never be based on condemnation but must be linked with idealism. A wise physician said, "Nature tends toward meliorism." This accounts for the success of girls who pull themselves up without aid.

That nature has brought us up from the amoeba to man should give us confidence in Life Force. Life is not so simple as to have one " definition of the situation" solve the whole problem. This will take further trial and error. The scientific mind observes, differentiates, finds contrasts and resemblances. Bits of inorganic elements may be identical, but in the study of living organisms the higher the type the greater the possibility of variation, till in man no two are identical in finger print, still less so in emotional reaction. Even 'When a new period of socialization shall have simplified life, each individual must still be considered separately, each personality approached with utmost reverence, accepted for values and possibilities which when developed displace asocial behavior. The problems of sexual disharmony, retarded emotion, affectional distress, which send people of wealth to the sanitarium or divorce court, lead the poor to delinquency. The future court of domestic relations may become a clinic for all.


On the whole this period of individualization is more fortunate for women than otherwise. Their struggle for independence is winning higher standards of affectional association in friendships with both sexes, higher psychic and social levels of group cooperation. Though one deplores the necessity of divorce one watches its increase with the feeling that consecutive marriages are an advance upon simultaneous promiscuity. From marriage based upon possession there is evolving a fine comradeship in which psychic fertilization becomes ever more significant as is seen in the collaboration of man and woman in art, science, literature and social service. While marriage within the law may attain the highest level of human mating known today, and social sanction is necessary for right environment for children, it is not law which achieves this result but the ever evolving adjustments of fine personality shown by men and women in whom emotion and intellect and will have matured harmoniously and in whose lives sublimation begun in childhood has given stability.

Sex has always baffled humanity. Alternately it has been considered sacred and sinful, attached to temple worship or cast beyond the pale. In this day of scientific synthesis we are solving some at least of the fundamentals of this Welträtsel.

This present research of William 1. Thomas with his trenchant sociological analysis is a distinct contribution not only to the study of delinquency but to educational and industrial problems. As his conclusions point toward the practice of the most advanced experimental schools and also conform to the theories of certain leading psychiatrists, this triple concurrence of opinion indicates approach to scientific truth. Mr.

(xvii) Thomas's interpretation of today's unrest as a "period of individualization following and preceding periods of socialization" emphasizes our present opportunity to reorganize the administration of justice. Let such reorganization be based upon that emergent truth which Dean Pound has called "the most important change of the century, - the transference of the sense of value from property to humanity."



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