Vice was one of the primary shared interests of the global community at the turn of the twentieth century. Anti-vice activists worked to combat noxious substances such as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, and “immoral” sexual activities such as prostitution. Nearly all of these activists approached the issue of vice by expressing worries about the body, its physical health, and functionality. By situating anti-vice politics in their broader historical contexts, Global Anti-Vice Activism, 1890 – 1950 sheds fresh light on the initiatives of various actors, organizations and institutions which have previously been treated primarily within national and regional boundaries. Looking at anti-vice policy from both social and cultural historical perspectives, it illuminates the centrality of regulating vice in imperial and national modernization projects. The contributors argue that vice and vice regulation constitute an ideal topic for global history, because they bridge the gap between discourse and practice, and state and civil society.In addition to being available for purchase at the Cambridge UP website, you can also find it available at Amazon.com.
Policing Sexuality examines the origins and enforcement of the 1910 White Slave Traffic Act, which outlawed taking a woman or girl over state lines for prostitution, debauchery, or “any other immoral purpose.” Congress conceived of the law as an anti-sex trafficking measure, but the young FBI used the law to police a wide variety of illicit sexual relations. The enforcement of the Mann Act reveals the paternalist expansion of the state in the early 20th century, the centrality of policing sexuality to that expansion, and the importance of gendered habits of mind to American law enforcement. It illuminates the ties between sexual labor in the marketplace and care labor in the home. It demonstrates that when faced with sexual and domestic crises, many Americans turned to the government for help. It makes clear that the expansion of the FBI was predicated on policing women’s bodies and male respectability. Policing Sexuality shows the state’s interest in maintaining the racial caste system of the early twentieth century by ensuring that Jim Crow extended into the bedroom. And finally, it reminds us that laws intended to police sex trafficking rarely benefit those whom have been trafficked, instead these laws marked women as bodies to be policed.
Responding to international and domestic moral reformers, the U.S. Congress passed the 1910 White Slave Traffic Act (the Mann Act), outlawing the taking of women over state lines for “any immoral purpose.” Enforcement of this expansive anti-sex trafficking law fell to the young Federal Bureau of Investigation. This essay considers the activities of the FBI’s White Slave Division against a longer history of colonial regulation of prostitution.
In 1936, as part of the War on Crime, the FBI targeted elite prostitution in New York City, accusing several Vice Queens of trafficking young women into their luxurious Upper East Side brothels. This article traces how J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation used cases against vice to gain publicity for the FBI and to re-introduce older tropes of white slavery. The cases against the Vice Queens centered on the depiction of venal madams whose duplicitous nature cheated customers and whose facilitation of sexual deviancy undermined notions of morality and good taste. By profiting from vice, and the sexual labor of young women, these women lived in extreme wealth while the rest of the country suffered from the deprivation of the Great Depression.
In the early twentieth century anti-white slavery activists sought to construct a new position for women inspectors in the Immigration Bureau. These activists asserted that immigrant girls traveling without a family patriarch deserved the U.S. government’s paternal protection, yet they argued that women would be best suited to provide this protection because of women’s purported maternal abilities to perceive feminine distress. By wielding paternal government authority — marked by a badge, the ability to detain, and presumably the power to punish — these women could most effectively protect the nation’s moral boundaries from immoral prostitutes while also protecting innocent immigrant girls from the dangers posed by solitary travel. In 1903 the Immigration Bureau launched an experiment of placing women among the boarding teams at the port of New York. The experiment, however, was short lived as opponents to the placement of women in such visible positions campaigned against them. This episode reminds us, the ability to represent and exercise federal authority in the early twentieth century was profoundly gendered; and, women’s increased participation in government positions during the Progressive Era was deeply contested.
This article examines the League of Nations Advisory Committee on the Trafficking of Women and Children (CTW) to assess the impact of international feminists on the interwar anti-sex trafficking movement. It argues that women who were firmly embedded in the transnational and international women’s rights movement built a coalition on the CTW to ensure the prominence of the feminist abolitionist position of sex trafficking in the 1920s. This position was defined by calls for equal standards of morality between the sexes, resistance to laws that treated prostitutes as a group and infringed on their human rights, and unwavering demands for the abolition of state-regulated prostitution. Changes in the personnel and bureaucratic structure of the CTW and the rising tide of nationalism served to undermine the feminist abolitionists’ position in the League in the 1930s.
This article traces the defeat of the 1914 suffrage campaign in Ohio to uncover how Columbus-based suffragists used their social capital to full effect within a political context defined by opposition to women’s access to political processes. Suffragists’ organizational distance from the corridors of power colluded to undermine the efficiency of their social capital. The 1914 campaign for women’s suffrage in Columbus illustrates the unequal worth of the suffragists’ social capital while at the same time shows how it was further diminished when other issues, particularly Prohibition and images of British militant suffragists, were introduced into the political context. Though they faced defeat in 1914, by sustaining and strengthening their social networks and community ties, Columbus suffragists laid the foundation for electoral success in 1917.