New York Times
ROCKEFELLER WAY TO DEAL WITH VICE
First Authorized Announcement of What Is Being Done to Solve New York’s
BUREAU OF SOCIAL HYGIENE
Formed of Workers for the Public Good, and Study Is Its Present Aim.
A PLAN MAY COME LATER
Expert Investigators Now Looking Into Conditions and Methods Here and
NO HYSTERIA, NO SENSATION
No Criticism of Officials — Constructive Suggestion Sought In a Great
John D. Rockefeller, Jr., regarding whose activities for the suppression of the "white slave" traffic there have been many unauthorized rumors ever since the termination of the service of the so-called "white slave" Grand Jury, of which he was foreman, gave out a formal statement yesterday intended to rectify various inaccuracies in the reports about what is being done in that direction.
Mr. Rockefeller’s statement makes the first authorized announcement of the formation of an independent organization, called the Bureau of Social Hygiene, for the study of the evils disclosed by the investigations of this Grand Jury of two years ago. The statement sets forth the origin, present aims and plans of this organization of social workers for the public good, and makes known its membership and the nature of the work upon which it is at present engaged.
Nothing whatever is said in the statement about the source or the extent of the financial backing of the bureau, but Mr. Rockefeller has previously denied the report that a special fund "of millions" has been devoted to its purpose. It is understood that as a matter of fact the expenses incurred in the study of the evils under consideration are being taken car of as they arise.
His statement bears the simple caption "The Origin, Work and Plans of the Bureau of Social Hygiene." Here it is.
Mr. Rockefeller’s Statement
New York, Jan. 27, 1913.
The Bureau of Social Hygiene came into existence about two years ago, as a result of the work of the Special Grand Jury appointed to investigate the white slave traffic in New York City, which served during the first half of the year 1910. One of the recommendations made by it in the presentment handed up at the termination of its labors was that a public commission be appointed to study the social evil. The foreman of that body subsequently gave careful consideration to the character of the work which might properly be don by such a commission and limitations under which it would operate.
In this connection, separate, personal conferences were held with over a hundred leading men and women in the city, among whom were lawyers, physicians, business men, bank presidents, presidents of commercial organizations, clergymen, settlement workers, social workers, labor leaders, and reformers. These conferences developed the feeling that a public commission would labor under a number of disadvantages, such as the fact that it would be short lived; that its work would be done publicly; that at best it could hardly do more than present recommendations. The conviction also grew that the main reason why more permanent results had not been obtained by the various organizations which had dealt with the subject of the social evil during the past ten or fifteen years was that most of them were temporary. While active, they materially improved the situation, but as their efforts were relaxed, there came the inevitable return to much the same conditions as before.
The forces of evil are never greatly alarmed at the organization of investigating or reform bodies, for they know that they are generally composed of busy people, who cannot turn aside from their own affairs for any great length of time to carry on reforms, and that sooner or later their efforts will cease, and the patient denizens of the underworld and their exploiters can then reappear and continue the traffic as formerly.
Must be a Permanent War
So the conviction grew that in order to make a real and lasting improvement in conditions, a permanent organization should be created, the continuation of which would not be dependent upon a temporary wave of reform, nor upon the life of any man or group of men, but which would go on, generation after generation, continuously making warfare against the forces of evil. It also appeared that a private organization would have, among other advantages, a certain freedom from publicity and from political bias, which a publicly appointed commission could not so easily avoid.
Therefore, as the initial step, in the Winter of 1911 the Bureau of Social Hygiene was formed. Its present membership are Miss Katharine Bement Davis, Superintendent of the New York State Reformatory for Women at Bedford Hills, N. Y.; Paul M. Warburg of the firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Co.; Starr J. Murphy of the New York bar, and John
(2) D. Rockefeller, Jr. As the work develops new members may be added.
One of the first things undertaken by the bureau was the establishment at Bedford Hills, adjacent to the reformatory, of a Laboratory of Social Hygiene, under Miss Davis’s Direction. In this laboratory it is proposed to study from the physical, mental, social and moral side each person committed to the reformatory. This study will be carried on by experts, and each case will be kept under observation for from three weeks to three months, as may be required. When the diagnosis is completed it is hoped that the laboratory will be in position to recommend the treatment most likely to reform the individual, or if reformation is impossible, to recommend permanent custodial care. Furthermore, reaching out beyond the individuals involved, it is believed that thus important contributions may be made to a fuller knowledge of the conditions ultimately responsible for vice.
If this experiment is successful, the principle may prove applicable to all classes of criminals and the conditions antecedent to crime, and lead to lines of action not only more scientific and humane, but also less wasteful than those at present followed.
Study of Vice Here and Abroad
In entering upon its labors the bureau regarded it of fundamental importance to make a careful study of the social evil in this country and in Europe, feeling that this problem, like any other great and difficult one, can be intelligently approached only by means of a thorough and complete knowledge of all the factors involved, as well as all the methods and experiences of other cities and countries in dealing with it. Arrangements were made, therefore, in the early part of last Winter to secure the services of George J. Kneeland, who had directed the Chicago Vice Commission investigation. Since that time, Mr. Kneeland, with a corps of assistants, has been making a thorough and comprehensive survey of conditions of vice in New York City. This survey covered not only houses of prostitution, Raines law hotels, disorderly saloons, cafés and restaurants, massage parlors, and other places where vicious people congregate, but also the personal histories of some 2,000 prostitutes; and a study of all the case records for one year of a great majority of the hospitals and dispensaries in New York City, with a view of ascertaining the prevalence of venereal diseases. Mr. Kneeland’s report is now in progress of preparation and will be published within the next two months.
At the same time the bureau was fortunate in securing the services of Abraham Flexner, whose reports on the Medical schools in this country and in Europe are so well known, to study the social evil and the various methods of dealing with it in the leading cities of Europe. Mr. Flexner spent the greater part of a year abroad, making a searching and exhaustive inquiry into the subject, and is now working on his report, which will be ready for publication this Winter.
Working Toward a Plan
These studies are to be followed by others, in those cities in the United States where different conditions exist or where special methods of dealing with the social evil have been introduced, the object being to become familiar with all phases of the subject and all methods of handling it which have been tried in this country and in Europe.
Based upon all of these studies, which will probably be published by December of this year, it is the hope of the bureau is not sensational or sentimental or hysterical; that it is not a spirit of criticism of public officials but that it is essentially a spirit of constructive suggestion and of deep scientific as well as humane interest in a great world problem.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.,
For the Bureau of Social Hygiene,
P.O. Box 579, New York City.