Social Evil In Chicago

Introduction and Summary

Vice Commission of the City of Chicago

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Such is the recommendation of this Commission. That it may be put in force effectually and unremittingly we further recommend:



THE honor of Chicago, the fathers and mothers of her children, the physical and moral integrity of the future generation demand that she repress public prostitution. Prostitution is pregnant with disease, a disease infecting not only the guilty, but contaminating the innocent wife and child in the home with sickening certainty almost inconceivable; a disease to be feared with as great horror as a leprous plague; a disease scattering misery broadcast, and leaving in its wake sterility, insanity, paralysis, the blinded eyes of little babes, the twisted limbs of deformed children, degradation, physical rot and mental decay.

That there must be constant repression of this curse on human society is the conclusion of this Commission after months of exhaustive study and investigation—a study which has included the academic with the practical; moral ideals with human weaknesses; honesty of administration with corruption; the possible with the impossible. It has sought to meet all question fairly; it has made every effort to work with intelligence; it has kept constantly in mind that to offer a contribution of any value such an offering must be, first, moral; second, reasonable and practical; third, possible under the Constitutional powers of our Courts; fourth, that which will square with the public conscience of the American people.

We believe that Chicago has a public conscience which, when aroused, cannot be easily stilled—a conscience built upon moral and

(26) ethical teachings of the purest American type—a conscience which when aroused to the truth will instantly rebel against the Social Evil in all its phases.

Some who have a superficial knowledge of the "Continental System" of segregation and regulation based on a cursory reading or surface investigation might bring it forward as a method of relief. One has but to read scientific works on the subject; to study the reports of international conferences held in Europe, and to hear the findings of careful investigators to see the unreliability and futility of such a system, and to learn of its failures as a permanent institution wherever it has been undertaken in this country or abroad. The Commission is convinced that the so-called System has proved itself degenerating and ineffective.

Furthermore the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Chicago, and the fathers and mothers of her children will never countenance the recognition or legalization of a commercial business which spells only ruin to the race. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to take a bold stand against this curse of society. It behooves us to raise social life to the highest possible standard of righteousness—to teach the youth of our land loyalty and honor to womanhood.

The immensity of the Social Evil problem is no excuse for us to stand idly by and do nothing in an attempt to solve it. The sin of impurity may not be cured in a day, a year, or perhaps in generations. But that prostitution as a commercialized business or anything akin to it, is necessary, can never be conceded. We assume that by earnest, wise, united, and persistent effort on the part of individuals and organized groups in society, we can do something—how much we can only discover by trial. To say we can do nothing may be left to the morally inert; of course, they can do nothing—but evil.

As plagues, epidemics and contagious diseases old as the world have given way before the onslaught of medical science; as slavery in this country has been rooted out by the gradually growing conviction of an American conscience; so may the Social Evil be repressed proportionately as the American people grow in righteousness and in the knowledge of this curse, which is more blasting than any plague or epidemic; more terrible than any black slavery that ever existed in this or any other country; more degenerating to the morals

(27) and ideals of the nation than all other agencies against decency combined.

We may enact laws ; we may appoint Commissions; we may abuse Civic administrations for their handling of the problem; but the problem will remain just as long as the public conscience is dead to the issue or is indifferent to its solution.

The law is only so powerful as the public opinion which supports it. It is the habit of Americans when they make laws to insist on ethical ideals. They will not compromise. They have been endowed, however, with a fine ability to be inconsistent, and having once declared their ideals to find no difficulty, when it comes to the administration of the laws, to allow officials to ignore them; to do things not in the laws; and to substitute a practice which is a de facto law, though technically illegal. This is the basis of graft and the greatest evil in Municipal government.

Commissions may be appointed. However valuable their findings and recommendations may be, unless the public insist no changes in the situation will obtain.

The Social Evil in its worst phases may be repressed. So long as there is lust in the hearts of men it will seek out some method of expression. Until the hearts of men are changed we can hope for no absolute annihilation of the Social Evil. Religion and education alone can correct the greatest curse which today rests upon mankind. For this there is a mighty work for agencies and institutions of righteousness in our land.

With these facts in mind the Commission has squarely faced the problem. It has tried to do its duty by placing before the public the true situation in Chicago. It presents recommendations carefully and conscientiously drawn. Its contribution to the subject of the Social Evil has to do most particularly with Chicago and her problems. The Commission entertains the hope, however, that its findings, its discussions, and its recommendations may help other similar Municipal Commissions in their work and deliberations. The first Commission to be appointed by a municipality and financed from the City Treasury, it has begun by blazing the way. Other Commissions with the experience and knowledge gained from this first municipal effort may go farther and present greater contributions to the subject. We sincerely hope that such will be the case.


Attitude of Commission. Throughout this report the Commission has made every effort to publish only such results as would give the municipality a correct and unexaggerated idea of conditions. At all times, while honest in the statement of conditions, it has assumed an ultra-conservative attitude in its criticisms. It believes that only through such an honest and conservative study can the true situation be given to the citizens of the city. Its statements, therefore, are not made to bring discredit upon the city. Loyalty is a prime requisite of good citizenship. In that loyalty which is based upon a thorough knowledge of its conditions and without seeking to condemn other cities, the Commission desires to state its belief that, in contrast, Chicago is far better proportionately to its population than most of the other large cities of the country. This statement is made after a careful study of conditions in fifty-two of the largest cities of the country—a study based on the replies received from, first, the City Clerk, second, the head of the Health Department, and third, Superintendent of Police in these fifty-two municipalities. In addition personal investigation by the Commission was conducted in some fifteen of the largest of these cities. Much data is in the possession of the Commission showing the conditions existing elsewhere upon which to base its conclusions.

Criticism. The Commission has refrained from unnecessary criticism of public officials. Present day conditions are better in respect to open vice than the city has known in many years. But they are by no means a credit to Chicago. However, this must be remembered; they are not unique in the history of the city. Present day public officials are no more lax in their handling of the problem than their predecessors for years; as a matter of fact, the regulations respecting flagrant and open prostitution under the present police administration are more strict in tone and repressive in execution than have been issued or put in operation for many years. Public opinion has made no united demand for a change in the situation. The Commission feels, therefore, that all public officials who are equally responsible for the present conditions are equally open to criticism. Further, that the greatest criticism is due the citizens of Chicago, first, for the constant evasion of the problem, second, for their ignorance and indifference to the situation, and third, for their lack of united

(29) effort in demanding a change in the intolerable conditions as they now exist.

The Police. No one will doubt that in many instances such an attitude on the part of the public and their officials leads to the breaking down of the morale of the police. But to make the sweeping statement of general inefficiency and dishonesty would be unjust to a large number of men endeavoring to do their duty. The Commission believes, therefore, that the large majority of the police are honest and efficient; it believes that some are neither honest nor efficient. For the former it has the warmest praise—for the latter it has the most severe condemnation. If the citizens cannot depend upon the men appointed to protect their property, and to maintain order, then chaos and disorganization resulting in vice and crime must follow. In the interest of good government and a competent police regime, and in justice to the honest and conscientious men of the department who desire to do their duty, the dishonest and incompetent should be driven out most speedily. For the type of officer who frequents saloons and drinks openly with prostitutes, who acts as a guide to houses of assignation, and who recommends certain women for the purpose of prostitution—for this type of police officer Chicago has no place.

As above stated, the Commission does not condemn the personnel of the police as a whole, but it does condemn the System—a System which has grown notoriously inactive in the handling of the Social Evil, partly because of the tolerative attitude of the citizens of Chicago, and partly because of its own desire to perpetuate itself as a System: A System which makes it easier for the police to accept graft from the tremendous profits reaped from the sale in women's bodies than to honestly do their duty. All credit to the great body of men who have withstood these temptations, and who some day will find a condition where their courage will be amply rewarded.

A Word of Appreciation. To the Honorable Fred A. Busse, Mayor of Chicago, belongs the honor and distinction of having appointed this, the first Municipal Commission to study the existing conditions of a great city respecting vice and to report such recommendations as it may deem advisable for the suppression thereof. This fact in itself speaks more forcibly than any mere words of appre-

(30) -ciation which this Commission might offer for the honor and privilege extended to its members.

Credit likewise belongs to the members of the City Council in that they unanimously concurred in the recommendation of the Mayor and appropriated the funds used in the preparation and the printing of this report.

Reports of Committees. The plan of work as outlined in the beginning of the Commission's study was to give certain subjects to different Committees asking them to inquire into their subjects and report to the Commission as a whole. It was found, however, that the subjects overlapped and as a result the different Committees reported on subjects assigned to other Committees. It has been necessary, therefore, to classify this material and bring it all under proper headings. This has meant a re-arrangement of the reports, so that the separate chapters are not the work of any special Committee, but a compilation of the work of several Committees. In other words the full report stands as the report of the Commission as a whole, and no one chapter can be designated as the findings of any special Committee, although the title of the chapter is the same as the name of the Committee given in the preface.

Scope of Commission's Work. The Commission is an investigating and not a prosecuting body. The ordinance by which it was created gave it no powers of prosecution and specifically stated the object in view to be—to obtain the results of a scientific study of existing conditions and to point out methods of relief for such.

The Commission has carefully omitted from the report all names of offenders against the law, as well as addresses. It has also refrained from publishing the numbers of police officers who have been actually seen violating police rules regarding conduct while on duty as well as overlooking the violation of the law and of police regulations. In place of these the Commission has used the letter "X" with a number following. These definite addresses, names and numbers, however, are on file in the records of the Commission.

It must be remembered that the typical cases throughout the report are taken from the daily reports of the field investigators in the employ of the Commission, and are given as their findings. Investigations. The Commission entering upon its duties decided

(31) that the first step was to learn of present conditions in the City of Chicago. Mr. George J. Kneeland was secured as Director of Investigation to take charge of the investigation, organize the work and assist in the preparation of the final report. Mr. Kneeland is a college graduate, a social worker of experience, and has had charge of important investigations in other cities. It was in connection with the work of the Research Committee of the Committee of Fourteen of New York, for which he had charge of the field investigation, that the Commission came in touch with him. The Commission desires to express the deep obligation which the Commission and the community are under for his painstaking, efficient, and conscientious efforts, and the Commission does so in these, its opening paragraphs.

Trained expert investigators, both men and women, highly recommended for their efficiency and reliability, were placed in the field. The full results of their findings it is impossible to publish; first, because of the volume, and, second, because of their unprintable character.

Two Standards of Morality. Unfortunately there are two standards of morality in Chicago. One standard permits and applauds dances by women almost naked in certain public places under the guise of art, and condemns dances no worse before audiences from the less prosperous walks of life. This same hypocritical attitude drives the unfortunate and often poverty stricken prostitute from the street, and at the same time tolerates and often welcomes the silken clad prostitute in the public drinking places of several of the most pretentious hotels and restaurants of the city. Houses of prostitution patronized by the lowly are closed at various times for various reasons, but the gilded palaces of sin patronized by the wealthy are immune from punishment, even to the extent of being saved the humiliation of appearing upon a police list.

Ignorance of Conditions—Certainty Concerning Methods. This Commission has been greatly impressed in its studies with these two facts: first, the citizen's wilful ignorance of the immoral conditions within the city, and second, his off-hand advice as to the proper methods of handling the vice problem, given with absolute confidence and finality. The Commission has met this latter fault with real sympathy. Its members entered upon the initial deliberations and investigations with a similiar certainty. As time went on and facts were

(32) presented this certainty as to the best solution of the problem gradually disappeared. A period of revulsion against conditions and of doubt as to the best course to pursue followed. Then began the constructive period, months filled with progressive studies based upon incontrovertible facts, with never a backward step, illuminating conferences, wide-spread investigations in other cities as well as Chicago, the fullest possible discussion and debate amongst its members in frequent meetings often times from four to twelve hours in duration, with the result that new uncertainty was changed to a final certainty and thirty minds were absolutely unanimous in their conclusions. We believe such harmonious unanimity on the part of men and women representing so many diversified callings in life, and so many groups of society, must be a fair indication of the public mind and conscience of the citizens of Chicago. Again, this unanimity gives to the decision a weight which it could not have possessed had there been a decided difference of opinion amongst its members with the possible presentation of a minority report.

What is the situation today in Chicago? In detail, this may be learned in the first Chapter of this report; as a summary we call especial attention to the facts which follow.

Prostitution a Commercialized Business. The first truth that the Commission desires to impress upon the citizens of Chicago is the fact that prostitution in this city is a Commercialized Business of large proportions with tremendous profits of more than Fifteen Million Dollars per year, controlled largely by men, not women. Separate the male exploiter from the problem, and we minimize its extent and abate its flagrant outward expression. In addition we check an artificial stimulus which has been given the business so that larger profits may be made by the men exploiters. It is abhorrent to the moral sense of a community like Chicago—the second largest city in the country—a city rightly ambitious to stand high in the world's achievements for civic and social betterment—that there should be within its borders a group or groups of men, vicious and ignorant to a degree—who are

(33) openly and defiantly breaking the laws of the State, and bringing into ill repute the honor of the city.[1]

In juxtaposition with this group of professional male exploiters stand ostensibly respectable citizens, both men and women, who are openly renting and leasing property for exorbitant sums, and thus sharing, through immorality of investments, the profits from this Business. A Business which demands a supply of five thousand souls from year to year to satisfy the lust and greed of men in this city alone. These statements may seem exaggerated and highly colored, but a careful, ultra conservative study of conditions in this municipahty has put the Commission in possession of absolute facts upon which to base these conclusions. No language can be too strong, no condemnation too severe, for those who have brought upon Chicago this intolerable situation.

Present Laws Not Enforced. In the second place the Commission believes that something can be done by law honestly and efficiently administered. Practically no attempt has been made in Chicago to enforce the present laws.[2] In place of enforcing the law the police have been allowed to adopt arbitrary rules and uncertain regulations of their own, whereby certain sections of the city have become restricted districts. Here they established their own regulations which were without adequate legal foundation. We have, then, a combined administrative and legislative power in the hands of a department of the local government, which, in turn, is in closest touch with, and influenced by, the political factors within the city. With the tremendous financial profits from the Social Evil Business from which to draw funds, is it any wonder that the administrative function is tempered and exceptions made? Where one makes a rule which is known to be in itself contrary to law, is it not to be expected that a corresponding sense of freedom will result where the question of leniency is raised as to its enforcement. Again, it must not be forgotten that the law cannot be made subservient to any rules and regulations by any group of officials, whether they believe the law wise or unwise, effective in operation or futile in execution.

Number of Prostitutes. What is the number of prostitutes in the

(34) City of Chicago? The Commission, after careful deliberation, fixes the number as approximately, Five Thousand. This includes those who do nothing else for a livelihood. The clandestine and casual groups made up of immoral girls and women, married and otherwise, it makes no attempt to estimate as there are no definite figures upon which to base an assumption. In the instance of professionals figures were obtainable. The police lists, supplemented with the lists furnished by the Commission investigators, give a total of Four Thousand, One Hundred and Ninety-four.[3] Eight hundred is not too large a number to allow for those omitted from the police list and not discovered by the Commission for lack of time and money for a more thorough census.

Assignation Houses. The Commission feels that one of the greatest menaces to young people, and an evil for which there is absolutely no excuse and for which there should be no room in Chicago, is the assignation hotels in the loop district and on the main streets leading from the same to the three sides of the city. They furnish a place of ruin for young girls who are living at home as well as for those at work, and enable men to wreck many lives without fear of danger to themselves. They are large in number and flagrant and bold in operation.

Prostitution and the Saloon. The Commission has found in its investigation that the most dangerous immoral influence, and the most important financial interest, outside of the business of prostitution as carried on in houses, is the disorderly saloons. The proprietors of these places are using prostitutes as an adjunct to the sale of beer and liquor, and are allowing them to openly solicit for immoral purposes in their rear rooms. This is done in spite of the constant statements of the brewers and wholesale liquor dealers that they are against the use of prostitutes in saloons which they supply.[4]

During the period of its investigation the Commission has secured definite information regarding 445 saloons in different parts of the city. The investigators have counted 929 unescorted women in these saloons, who by their actions and conversation were believed to be prostitutes. In fact they were solicited by more than 236 women in

(35) 236 different saloons, all of whom, with the exception of 98, solicited for rooms, "hotels," and houses of prostitution over the saloons.

Another feature of the saloon which is pernicious, is the vaudeville shows of lewd nature conducted in the rear rooms. This is so widespread in the saloons mentioned in the class above that the public and police seem to have taken the attitude that because it exists, it should be allowed to continue. Many young men, to say nothing of women, have been lured by the entertainment provided in these resorts to acts which they never contemplated when they entered the saloon for drinks only. Could the general public know the extent of the saloon's degrading influence in so many instances it would insistently demand an immediate and permanent change in the situation. The Commission is absolutely convinced that there should be a complete separation of the saloon and the business of prostitution, and this immediately.

Protection of Children. We often forget that society owes much to the protection of the children. Those of mature years can be left generally to guard themselves; but in the case of youth and ignorance, society must take the part of the elder brother, and in many cases, the part of the father as an educator and guardian.

From its study of existing conditions in Chicago the Commission feels that if there is to be any permanent gain in the fight against the Social Evil in this city, much care and thought must be given the problem of child protection and education. In the Chapter devoted to this situation it is shown that the children in certain sections of the city are surrounded by many immoral influences and dangers. They are compelled by reason of poverty to live within, or in close proximity to, restricted prostitute districts. Even -in residential sections children come in contact with immoral persons, and gain an early knowledge of things which may influence their whole life and guide them in the wrong direction.

One of the sad spectacles in this great city is the night children who sell gum, candy and papers on the streets. These little vendors become creatures of independent habits before they reach the age of puberty. Through habits learned by loitering near saloons, and even in the rear rooms frequented by prostitutes and vile men, they become familiar with the vulgarity and immorality of the street and

(36) learn their language and ways of life. All of this knowledge, far beyond their years, results in defiance on the part of these children against parental will and authority. That children should be kept off the streets at night by the police, and that parents should be impressed with the importance of the most strict supervision of the child's recreational hours, are two matters of the greatest moment in the protection of the child.

The investigations by the Commission show that messengers and newsboys have an intimate knowledge of the ways of the underworld. Their moral sense is so blunted as to be absolutely blind to the depredation of women and the vile influence of vicious men. Thus early in life they become diseased both in body and soul and grow up to enter upon a career of crime and lust.

Much good is being accomplished by various philanthropic organizations, particularly the Juvenile Protective Association, in calling the public attention to these grave dangers, and caring for children who are victims of such environments.[5]

The Commission heartily endorses all attempts to provide healthful and carefully guarded places of recreation for the children. It does not sympathize with those who simply stand by to criticize without doing anything in a constructive way to provide something wholesome for that which may demoralize. Children must and should have amusement and recreation, and they will find it in some way. Let Chicago increase her small parks and recreation centers. Let the churches give of their facilities to provide amusement for children. Let the Board of Education extend its efforts in establishing more social centers in the public schools. Let the city provide clean dances, well chaperoned—as they are now in the public schools Social Centers.

Sex Education. Many of the immoral influences and dangers which are constantly surrounding young children on the street, in their amusements, and in business life, may be counteracted and minimized by proper moral teaching and scientific instruction. Educators have come to feel something should be done directly by teachers in schools and elsewhere to impart some kind of instruction to counteract the evil knowledge which children acquire from evil sources.

The Commission believes that in the case of children beyond the

(37) age of puberty sex hygiene may be taught in schools under carefully trained and scientifically instructed teachers. For younger children the parents should do the teaching as the part of a sacred duty. In the case of the father being unwilling to do so, let the family physician be asked to teach the son. The mother, with her maternal instinct, will find the way and means to warn the daughter of the dangers which may beset her. In colleges and universities sex hygiene should be universally taught. The Commission feels that the teaching of sex hygiene in schools is an important movement which, while not yet past the experimental stage, promises great advances in the promotion of child protection for the future. But it is certain that knowledge of sex hygiene alone can never be successful in saving the child until it is based upon religious conviction and sound moral training.

The lack of home instruction in the use and abuse of sex organs and relationship leads many children to a knowledge gained in sad ways with unhappy results. Fortunate, indeed, is the boy or girl, who has a father or mother as a confidant with whom there may be free conversation concerning the natural functions of the body—a conversation raised almost to a point of spirituality because of the parent's pure love for the child, and the child's unfaltering trust in the parent. If more fathers and mothers could be companions and comrades with their children there would be far less need of Commissions of this kind to solve perplexing problems for the parents.

We record our conviction that while intelligence regarding sexual matters, if dictated by moral sentiment, is a safeguard to the youth of the community, yet the indiscriminate circulation of sexual information among children by means of books and pamphlets suggests a danger which ought not to escape attention. These publications are of two sorts. The first includes the vicious prints which even assume the guise of helpful instruction to accomplish their purpose. The second comprises those works on sexual science which, with the best intent, are prepared for the use of children. We are firmly of the opinion that such material should be used by parents and other instructors of the children in securing information which they may impart to those in their care, rather than by the children themselves in whose hands it is liable to awaken morbid curiosity and to result in harm.


We recommend the careful examination of all material of this nature offered to children for purchase and the suppression of such evidently vicious in intent. Publishers and booksellers of the objectionable material should not be allowed to sell to children.

The Situation in Colored Communities. The history of the social evil in Chicago is intimately connected with the colored population. Invariably the larger vice districts have been created within or near the settlements of colored people. In the past history of the city, nearly every time a new vice district was created down town or on the South Side, the colored families were in the district, moving in just ahead of the prostitutes. The situation along State street from 16th street south is an illustration.

So whenever prostitutes, cadets and thugs were located among white people and had to be moved for commercial or other reasons, they were driven to undesirable parts of the city, the so-called colored residential sections. A former Chief of Police gave out a semi-official statement to the effect that so long as this degenerate group of persons confined their residence to districts west of Wabash avenue and east of Wentworth avenue they would not be apprehended. This part of the city is the largest residence section of colored families. Their churches, Sunday schools and societies, are within these boundaries. In this colored community there is a large number of disorderly saloons, gambling houses, assignation rooms and houses of ill-fame. An investigation shows that there are several thousand colored people in the First, Second and Third Wards where these vicious conditions obtain. Under these conditions in the Second and Third Wards there are 1,475 young colored boys and girls.

In addition to this proximity to immoral conditions young colored girls are often forced into idleness because of a prejudice again* them, and they are eventually forced to accept positions as maids in houses of prostitution.

Employment agents do not hesitate to send colored girls as servants to these houses. They make the astounding statement that the law does not allow them to send white girls but they will furnish colored help I

In summing up it is an appalling fact that practically all of the male and female servants connected with houses of prostitution in vice

(39) districts and in disorderly flats in residential sections are colored. The majority of entertainers in disorderly saloons on the South Side are colored men who live with, and in part upon, the proceeds of white women.

The apparent discrimination against the colored citizens of the city in permitting vice to be set down in their very midst is unjust, and abhorrent to all fair minded people. Colored children should receive the same moral protection that white children receive.

The prejudice against colored girls who are ambitious to earn an honest living is unjust. Such an attitude eventually drives them into immoral surroundings. They need special care and protection on the maxim that it is the duty of the strong to help the weak. Any effort, therefore, to improve conditions in Chicago should provide more wholesome surroundings for the families of its colored citizens who now live in communities of colored people.

Perversion. As the very outset of the Commission's investigation its attention was called by several persons to the practice of sexual perversion which was said to be very prevalent and growing in Chicago. The investigation of the Commission bears out this assertion.

It must be understood that the perpetrators of these various forms of sexual perversion can be regarded as those who may be punished under the law relating to infamous crimes. The result of the investigation of this evil has been incorporated in the chapter on "The Social Evil and Its Medical Aspects."[6]

Sources of Supply. The investigation of the Commission on the sources of supply has resulted in a large amount of illuminating data, sad and pitiful in its details. This information has been supplemented by the results of other investigations undertaken by various protective organizations, including the Juvenile Court, which has been compiled by the Commission. The chapter on "Sources of Supply" is one of the most important in this report and it is suggested that it be read in full. On account of its length, it is difficult to make a summary; some prominent features may be noted, however, as bearing upon the general problem.

Wherever there is a demand, artificial or otherwise, there must he a supply. In another part of this report the conservative estimate

(40) is made that there are at least five thousand professional prostitutes in Chicago. Medical men affirm that the average life of these unfortunate women for service is from five to seven years. Thus it follows that fresh young girls must be continually supplied to take the place of those who die or are rendered useless by disease. Where do these new victims come from? Is the demand supplied?

From the mass of evidence we learn that the path which leads down to disease and death is constantly filled with young recruits who go stumbling on, blinded by the want of necessities of life, by a desire for some simple luxuries, by ignorance, by vain hopes, by broken promises, by the deceit and lust of men.

The Immigrant. The immigrant woman furnishes a large supply to the demand. Generally virtuous when she comes to this country, she is ruined and exploited because there is no adequate protection and assistance given her after she reaches the United States. That some prostitutes come from foreign countries is of course true, but the Federal Government, especially through its officials in Chicago, has done considerable to stop this importation. The White Slave Act, recently passed by Congress, has been most effective in minimizing the traffic in foreign women. Much needs to be done, however, to protect the innocent immigrant who is betrayed and led into an immoral life after landing in New York or elsewhere. The care of immigrant women, upon their arrival in Chicago, needs supervision. Immigrant girls should not be left to private expressmen and cab drivers, to be lost to their relatives and friends in the city, because of incorrect addresses or the carelessness or vicious intent of the drivers.

Bad Home Conditions. The subject under consideration should bring forward most prominently, too, the fact that the supply comes largely from bad home conditions and lack of recreational privileges. In a large number of cases investigated, the home conditions have contributed to, if not caused, the downfall of many a wife and daughter. As will be seen in the chapter on "Sources of Supply," [7] the perversion of the natural sex relationships by immorality of the guardian, by the evil example of a brother, sister, or other relative, and by the abuse of the marriage relation is the specific source of the ruin of many lives.


Statements are often made and, in some instances warranted by facts, that the excessive demands upon the mother because of a large family of children, without sufficient income or help to care for them, is also the occasion for many neglected children going astray. The statement is also made and supported by facts, learned from long and faithful experience in caring for dependent and delinquent children, that more delinquent girls come from small families where they are spoiled, than from large families where there may be poverty, but a sort of unconscious protective union of the children shielding one another.

White Slave Traffic. The subject of the so-called White Slave Traffic has attracted much attention throughout this and foreign countries. The term "white slave,"-is a misnomer. As a matter of fact the traffic is not confined to white girls, but to all unfortunate girls and women of all colors, races and nationalities. The use of this term, however, is authorized by the National Government and was incorporated in the international law on the subject. A "white slaver" in reality is a man who employs men or women or goes out himself to secure girls upon some false pretense, or misrepresentation, or when the girl, intoxicated or drugged, and not in possession of her senses, is conveyed to any place for immoral purposes.

If the girl is wayward and goes of her own free will she would not be a white slave in the true sense of the word ; nor the man or woman who induced her to go or accompanied her to an immoral place a "white slaver." However, any man or woman who induces or accompanies any woman to enter an immoral place is guilty under the Illinois Pandering Act.

It has been demonstrated that men and women engaged in the "white slave traffic" are not organized. Their operations, however, are so similar and they use the same methods to such an extent that it is safe to infer that they are in some way working together.

Divorce. The Vice Commission, after exhaustive consideration of the vice question, records itself of the opinion that divorce to a large extent is a contributory factor to sexual vice. No study of this blight upon the social and moral life of the country would be comprehensive without consideration of the causes which lead to the application for divorce. These are too numerous to mention at length in such a report

(42) as this, but the Commission does wish to emphasize the great need of more safeguards against the marrying of persons physically, mentally and morally unfit to take up the responsibilities of family life, including the bearing of children.

Selection Guarded. An application for a license of any kind, whether it be to construct a house, run a push cart, peddle shoe strings, or keep a dog, must be accompanied with evidences that the applicants are responsible and reliable agents. But for a marriage license, one person, unattended and unknown and, as far as one can know, an epileptic, a degenerate, or who has in his blood a loathsome venereal disease, may pass his name through a window with that of a similarly questionable female, likewise unknown, and be granted the divine right to perpetuate his kind and in turn thereby placing a burden and a blight on society and the community for generations to come. The whole subject of selection in connection with the institution of marriage is of vital importance in connection with the social evil. Unwise selection produces innumerable contributory agencies through unhappy marriages, inherited degeneracy and disease, and the divorce evil.

The Economic Side of the Question. The life of an unprotected girl who tries to make a living in a great city is full of torturing temptations. First, she faces the problem of living on an inadequate wage : Six dollars a week is the average in mercantile establishments. If she were living at home where the mother and sister could help her with mending, sewing and washing, where her board would be small—perhaps only a dollar or two towards the burden carried by the other members of the family—where her lunch would come from the family larder—then her condition might be as good as if she earned eight dollars per week.

The girl who has no home soon learns of "city poverty" all the more cruel to her because of the artificial contrasts. She quickly learns of the possibilities about her, of the joys of comfort, good food, entertainment, attractive clothes. Poverty becomes a menace and a snare. One who has not beheld the struggle or come in personal contact with the tempted soul of the underpaid girl can never realize what the poverty of the city means to her. One who has never seen her bravely fighting against such fearful odds will ever understand. A day's sickness or a week out of work are tragedies in her life. They mean trips

(43) to the pawn brokers, meagre dinners, a weakened will, often a plunge into the abyss from which she so often never escapes.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of girls from country towns, and those born in the city but who have been thrown on their own resources, are compelled to live in cheap boarding or rooming houses on the average wage of six dollars. How do they exist on this sum? It is impossible to figure it out on a mathematical basis. If the wage were eight dollars per week, and the girl paid two and a half dollars for her room, one dollar for laundry, and sixty cents for car fare, she would have less than fifty cents left at the end of the week. That is provided she ate ten cent breakfasts, fifteen cent luncheons and twenty-five cent dinners. But there is no doubt that many girls do live on even six dollars and do it honestly, but we can affirm that they do not have nourishing food, or comfortable shelter, or warm clothes, or any amusement, except perhaps free public dances, without outside help, either from charity in the shape of girls' clubs, or friends in the country home; How can she possibly exist to say nothing of live?

Is it any wonder that a tempted girl who receives only six dollars per week working with her hands sells her body for twenty-five dollars per week when she learns there is a demand for it and men are willing to pay the price? On the one hand her employer demands honesty, faithfulness and a "clean and neat appearance," and for all this he contributes from his profits an average of six dollars for every week. Her honesty alone is worth this inadequate wage disregarding the consideration of her efficiency. In the sad life of prostitution, on the other hand, we find here the employer demanding the surrender of her virtue, pays her an average of twenty-five dollars per week. Which employer wins the half starved child to his side in this unequal battle? It would be unjust, however, to cast any reflection upon those girls who are brave and pure, by intimating that because they earn so small a wage they must necessarily he in the same class with those other girls who, unable to survive longer the heroic battle against poverty and self-sacrifice, have succumbed and gone down.

Prostitution demands youth for its perpetration. On the public rests the mighty responsibility of seeing to it that the demand is not supplied through the breaking down of the early education of the young girl or her exploitation in the business world? What show

(44) has she in the competitive system which exists today? Whatever her chances may be, to stand or to fall, she is here in hordes in the business world as our problem. Let us do something to give her at least a living wage. If she is not sufficiently skilled to earn it let us mix some religious justice with our business and do something to increase her efficiency which she has never been able to develop through no fault of her own.

Are flesh and blood so cheap, mental qualifications so common and honesty of so little value, that the manager of one of our big department stores feels justified in paying a high school girl, who has served nearly one year as an inspector of sales, the beggarly wage of $4.00 per week? What is the natural result of such an industrial condition? Dishonesty and immorality, not from choice, but necessity—in order to live. We can forgive the human frailty which yields to temptation under such conditions—but we cannot forgive the soulless corporation, which arrests and prosecutes this girl—a first offender—when she takes some little articles for personal adornment.

The Man's Part. The end of the battle is not yet for those girls who struggle on alone and unprotected with their more pressing financial problems. The greatest menace is before her—the Man. See her as he meets her at the door of her place of employment! See her as she returns to her cheap boarding house! Huddled away among coarse and vulgar male companions, lonely, underfed and hungry—hungry not only for food, but for a decent shelter, for a home, for friends, for a sympathetic touch or word; tired from a hard day's toil even to the point of recklessness—starving for honest pleasures and amusements — and with what does she meet? The advances of men without either a spark of bravery or honor, who hunt as their unlawful prey this impoverished girl, this defenseless child of poverty, unprotected, unloved and uncared for as she is plunged into the swirling, seething stream of humanity; the advances of men who are so low that they have lost even a sense of sportsmanship, and who seek as their game an underfed, a tired, and a lonely girl.

She suffers, but what of him? She goes down, and is finally sacrificed to a life of shame, but what of him? He escapes as a "romancer." It is not just!


Rescue and Reform. One of the most important tasks undertaken by the Commission was that of reporting on the subject of the rescue and reform of immoral girls and women. This problem presents many interesting phases, and can only be solved by wise methods and with the help of good men and women. Too often this help is withheld by the very ones who should extend it. The feeling against these unfortunate women is still very strong in these days, and it is seldom that persons can be found who will furnish a wholesome Christian home environment which is so much needed in any plan to touch the lives so troubled and degraded. Outside of this very effective method of reaching this class of women there has not been any scheme suggested for their reformation. One of the chief reasons for this, no doubt, is that no system of reformation substitutes anything for the abnormal impulses to which these women are subjected. Some life must be devised whereby the abnormality of their existence can be controlled. Unless this is done it would seem that the reformation of the professional prostitute is almost hopeless.

Causes Which Lead to Downfall. Any plan of reformation must take into consideration the causes which lead to the downfall of these unfortunates. After an exhaustive study of the whole field the Commission feels that among the causes which influence girls and women to enter upon a life of semi-professional and professional prostitution are the following: First, lack of ethical teaching and religious instruction; second, the economic stress of industrial life on unskilled workers, with the enfeebling influences on the will power; third, the large number of seasonal trades in which women are especially engaged; fourth, abnormality; fifth, unhappy home conditions; sixth, careless and ignorant parents; seventh, broken promises; eighth, love of ease and luxury; ninth, the craving for excitement and change; tenth, ignorance of hygiene.

Once plunged into this life through these or any other causes the prostitute sinks lower and lower. She finds herself a part of a cruel commercialized business. She is driven to excessive indulgence in all kinds of vice, besides the one particular vice so abhorrent, in order to bring extra profits to her keeper, and to the men who profit off her sin and shame. These attendant vices, such as drink and the use of drugs, coupled with the demands upon her nervous system in per-

(46) forming the services demanded of her, soon render her the most pitiful of all beings. As one physician who has had a large practice in venereal disease wards put it, "The life is against biology as well as sociology, they are in most cases gone physically, gone nervously, gone socially."

How Can Unfortunate Women Be Rescued? How can these unfortunate women be helped and saved to society? Some well meaning persons declare that they should be left to their fate; that they are criminals, and should be treated as such. The Commission does not feel that this is an answer to the problem. They are human beings still, for a time stumbling in the depths of sin and shame, but notwithstanding how low they have sunken in the social scale they can be rescued, if by some method they can be made to feel the touch of divine sympathy and human love.

No doubt, during the coming months many of these women, now in houses, and on the streets, and in the saloons, will be cut loose from their surroundings by the effective operation of the law. Some wise provision must be made to help them. To put them in prison with no provisions for their spiritual or physical needs would only tend to degrade them still lower and send them back to a life of shame in some other community in a worse condition than they were before.

Abolish Fining System. Two very practical things can be done. The first is to abolish the fining system now in vogue against the semiprofessional and professional prostitutes. This system leads to many abuses and is in no way reformatory. If the girl does not have the money to pay her fine or secure bail, she must borrow, often from men, and this generally adds a link in the chain which binds her to an immoral life. If she has money the fine or the cost of the bail bond will probably make her penniless. In either case she must return to the street, the house or the saloon, and plunge into reckless excesses in order to earn the money. First offenders, especially, instead of being fined or imprisoned should be placed on probation finder the care of intelligent and sympathetic women officially connected with the court. These women can not only watch over these unfortunate girls and advise with them, but can secure employment for them or return them to their homes. This adult probation system has proved to be most successful in other cities in reaching this class of cases. The following is suggested in the form of relief::


Industrial Homes. Old and hardened offenders, weakened by disease, their wills sapped and gone by drugs and the artificial excitement of their degraded lives, should be sent to an industrial farm with hospital accommodations on an indeterminate sentence. Obviously it is necessary that some such measures of almost drastic control should obtain, if such women are to be permanently helped and society served. Such women are described by one writer as : "These dubious divinities of the gas light and the pavement represent the eternal sacrifice of woman, the tragedy of her abasement, her obedience to the world."

To Men—A Closing Word. In closing this introduction the Commission desires to say one more word to those who support this business of women's souls, whether as barterers of the body, or those who demand the service—the Man. There is only one moral law—it is alike for men and women. Again, there is a contract called matrimony which is a solemn contract made between those who love. It carries with it the elements of vested rights—even a solemn promise before God. A signature represents honor—it is there— likewise a promise—it is there. Has this contract been kept inviolate? If not, why not?

To one who hears the ghastly life story of fallen women it is ever the same—the story of treachery, seduction and downfall—the flagrant act of man—the ruin of a soul by man.

It is a man and not a woman problem which we face today—commercialized by man—supported by man—the supply of fresh victims furnished by men—men who have lost that fine instinct of chivalry and that splendid honor for womanhood where the destruction of a woman's soul is abhorrent, and where the defense of a woman's purity is truly the occasion for a valiant fight.


  1. See Chapter I, "Existing Conditions"
  2. See Chapter III, "Social Evil and the Police."
  3. See Chapter I, "Existing Conditions."
  4. See Chapter II, "Social Evil and Saloon."
  5. See Chapter V, "Child Protection and Education."
  6. See Chapter VII, page 295.
  7. See Chapter IV, "Sources of Supply."  

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