New York Times

American Vigilance Society, Backed by Plenty of Money, Starts in Many Cities.
Plans Practical Warfare
Men Specially Trained to Combat the Evil Will Be Employed to Clean Up American Towns.

Aiming to concentrate all the forces in this country that are working for the eradication of white slavery and the suppression of vice, the American Vigilance Association has been organized by business men and women of New York, Chicago, and other American cities, and offices have been opened in this city, in Chicago and in Washington. While a concerted and continuous attack on the traffic, back by all the financial support that is needed, is the most conspicuous purpose of the new organization, it will go further, and take up the various phases of the social evil.

It is peculiarly a business men’s movement. The Executive Committee is largely made up of business men of high position and wide experience; the funds already provided for the establishment and work of the association come for the most part from men of affairs; the efforts of the association, so it is announced, will be directed toward making clear to the public mind that the wiping out of the white slave traffic and the ills that accompany it is demanded by common sense and the necessity of conserving the public health and eliminating economic waste, aside from any question of morality or religion. In thus shifting the ground of attack to practical considerations, the association is said to be taking an entirely new attitude on these problems, thereby emphasizing the disposition of the leaders of the movement to avoid the faddists and sensationalist who have attempted at various time to exploit such matters for personal or fanatical reasons.

Men behind the Movement

On the Executive Committee of the association, which was formally organized at a meeting in Chicago last month, are: John G. Shedd, head of Marshall Field & Co. of Chicago; Julius Rosenwald, head of Sears, Roebuck & Co. of Chicago; Henry P. Crowell of Chicago, President of the Quaker Oats Company; A. C. Bartlett of Hibbert, Spencer & Bartlett, hardware merchants of Chicago; Miss Jane Addams, of Hull House; Clifford W. Barnes, capitalist, of Chicago; Miss Grace H. Dodge of New York; James Bronson Reynolds of the District Attorney’s office, New York; Dr. O. Edward Janney of Baltimore; Wallace Simmons of St. Louis, President of the Simmons Hardware Company; Charles Bentley of San Francisco, and Henry J. Dannenbaum of Houston. To this list it is intended to add several more names, especially from New York, when plans now on foot are nearer fruition. The President of the association is David Starr Jordan, President of Leland Stanford University. Two of the Vice Presidents are the Very Rev. Dean Walter T. Sumner of the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint. Peter and St. Paul, Chicago and Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore. Charles L. Hutchinson, President of the Corn Exchange National Bank of Chicago, is Treasurer, while the Executive Secretary and General Counsel is Clifford G. Roe, who is a recognized authority on white slavery, from long experience in Chicago.

The association is at present not incorporated, but a National charter is being sought to enable it to conduct it wide operations with ease.

An income of $30,000 for the new association is already pledged to meet the first year’s budget, and it is stated that more funds will be available as the need arises. Aside from paying for its officers and other permanent force, and for the maintenance of its offices, the association expects to be largely self-supporting. Its purposes to do little of its own initiative for the present to solve the local vice problems of American municipalities, but will act as a clearing house of information and experience, much after the fashion of the Sage Foundation in its work for social reform. In the new organization has been merged the former National Vigilance Committee, the American Purity Alliance, and various State and city committees and societies, which have been fighting the white slave traffic alone or without close co-operation.

Whenever a town or city shows a desire to join the campaign against white slavery and commercialized vice, the officers of the association will be given to any extent requested, as, for instance, by what might be called a moral "survey" to determine the exact character and extent of the evil, then by a campaign to arouse the public conscience to its moral and civic duty and with the aid of the awakened public opinion to obtain convictions by lawyers, skilled in conducting this particular class of prosecutions, and lastly, so far as it is practicable, to conduct an educational campaign to maintain and increase the gain that has been made. The communities which obtain this assistance, will be asked to meet the expense of investigation.

In order to carry on its work the association has organized eight different departments with well-defined spheres of effort. These departments are: Organization and Promotion, Legislation and Law Enforcement, International Co-operation, Investigation, Library and Editorial, Literature, Education, and Rescue and Promotion.

Modern Methods of Investigation

At the head of the Department of Investigation is George J. Kneeland, who conducted the inquiry into vice conditions in this city for the Committee of Fourteen and made the investigation in Chicago that bore fruit in the recent report of the Vice Commission of that city. His studies cover not merely the obvious details of local moral conditions, but also the effectiveness of State statutes and city ordinances touching such matters, and the general disposition of the courts and the police, which in many cities serve to aid the traffic through the laxity of law enforcement, where they do not actually cloak and protect it.

Co-operation with city and State committees is to be carried on though the Department of Organization and Promotion. Winston Churchill, the writer, is interested in a movement for a State organization in New Hampshire. Walter Camp of Yale University is similarly co-operating in the plans for forming a Connecticut society.

Through the Department of International Co-operation, headed by Dr. Janney of Baltimore, the American association will be closely linked with the many organizations of similar character in European countries. Thanks to the agitation of the last few years and the vigorous efforts of the immigration officials and the Department of Justice, there has been a marked decrease of late in the importation of women into this country for immoral purposes, but officials of the association will join the Government authorities in keeping a watchful eye on this branch of the social evil.

The department of legislation and law enforcement is maintained in Washington, but a school where young lawyers will be given special training for the peculiar requirements of the successful prosecution of dealers in white slaves and commercialized vice, has been started at the Chicago headquarters. These men are to be made available for service in communities where the police are either unwilling or unable to bring the offenders to justice by obtaining proper evidence.

At the New York offices of the association, at 156 Fifth Avenue, the nucleus of a library has been established which already has an extent that is somewhat startling to the average layman unacquainted with the vast literature that has accumulated through recent decades in particular in relation to sex problems and correlated subjects. From these sources it is planned to arm local committees for their campaigns and publish reports on various phases of the work. A monthly magazine is published by the association to further general publicity for its work.

The Department of Education will give particular attention to the promotion of the widening movement for special hygienic instruction in the upper grades of public schools. Plans are already being made for the establishment of a Summer school in this city where teachers may receive a careful training for tactful and effective presentation of the subject to the boys and girls who are nearing maturity.

Trained Staff Available

As the new organization is an amalgamation of older societies, there are already in active service a trained staff of lawyers, investigators, and educators. Supervision of the entire work is in the hands of Mr. Roe as Executive Secretary and General Counsel.

A graduate of Michigan University in both the general and the law courses, Mr. Roe was for nearly three years from 1906, Assistant State’s Attorney in Chicago, and had for his special work the prosecution of white slave cases, the city at that time being the central market for an immense traffic. Later he served as prosecutor for two Chicago committees engaged in a study of local conditions in respect to white slavery. During the five years of service in Chicago dealing with this one phase of vice, he handled nearly 300 cases. In the latter portion of the time after a change in the Illinois law relative to this kind of offense, convictions were especially numerous and according to recent investigations the whit slave evil has been reduced greatly from its former proportions.

In the last year, when the interested public in the West thought he was on an extended lecture tour, Mr. Roe was really gathering practical material and evidence for the great movement against the traffic which was recently launched. Even his nearest friends lost track of him for several months.

Most of this time he was in New York, attending meetings with a view to the formation of the new continent-wide organization, and also making a secret study of white slave conditions here.

Mr. Roe says there is white slavery in New York and plenty of it. He bases this conclusion on actual evidence, some of which was submitted to the Grand Jury through Assistant District Attorney James Bronson Reynolds.

The traffic in girls, Mr. Roe says, is not so open in New York as it is in the Western cities, but more insidious. Further there are not many country girls brought to New York for immoral purposes. The reason for that condition is the dense population in and about New York. Most of the girls are from the poorer sections of this immense city, and the milling and factory cities, immediately adjacent. The foreign traffic has been greatly lessened by the alertness of the Federal authorities, who, as he points out, have obtained 148 conviction of white slavers in this country within one year.

Hard to Convict White Slavers.

If public sentiment is to be estimated by its juries, says Mr. Roe, there is great need of a moral awakening here. He has found it next to impossible to indict, not to say anything about convicting, a white slaver in New York if his victim happens to be over 17 or 18 years of age. Moreover, if the girl has made one misstep, the prevailing sentiment among jurors, he finds, is to let her look out for herself, and they will not protect her.

Since he has been here Mr. Roe says he has aided Assistant District Attorney Reynolds in preparing cases for trial. All these cases, in his opinion, have been unqualifiedly strong white slave cases. The evidence was complete and the corroboration excellent, according to his judgment, yet the Grand Juries failed to indict. In almost any other American city, he asserts, these cases would have resulted in convictions, and in the few cases that did finally reach the courts, the juries failed to convict with one or two possible exceptions.

If there is one impression that Mr. Roe has obtained from his investigation, now completed of this one phase of the vice question in this city in the last ten months or so, he says, it is on this particular matter the moral conscience of New York is deadened and there is need of a widespread awakening to the extent of the white slave trade in this community.


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