A NEW CONSCIENCE AND AN ANCIENT EVIL
By JANE ADDAMS
HULL HOUSE, CHICAGO
Author of Democracy and Social Ethics, Newer Ideals of Peace The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets Twenty Years at Hull-House
New York THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1912
To the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, whose superintendent and field officers have collected much of the material for this book, and whose president, Mrs. Joseph T. Bowen, has so ably and sympathetically collaborated in its writing.
CHAPTER I As inferred from An Analogy CHAPTER II As indicated by Recent Legal Enactments CHAPTER III As indicated by the Amelioration of Economic Conditions CHAPTER IV As indicated by the Moral Education and Legal Protection of Children CHAPTER V As indicated by Philanthropic Rescue and Prevention CHAPTER VI As indicated by Increased Social Control
The following material, much of which has been published in McClure's Magazine, was written, not from the point of view of the expert, but because of my own need for a counter-knowledge to a bewildering mass of information which came to me through the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago. The reports which its twenty field officers daily brought to its main office adjoining Hull House became to me a revelation of the dangers implicit in city conditions and of the allurements which are designedly placed around many young girls in order to draw them into an evil life.
As head of the Publication Committee, I read the original documents in a series of special investigations made by the Association on dance halls, theatres, amusement parks, lake excursion boats, petty gambling, the home surroundings of one hundred Juvenile Court children and the records of four thousand parents who clearly contributed to the delinquency of their own families. The Association also collected the personal histories of two hundred department-store girls, of two hundred factory girls, of two hundred immigrant girls, of two hundred office girls, and of girls employed in one hundred hotels and restaurants.
While this experience was most distressing, I was, on the other hand, much impressed and at times fairly startled by the large and diversified number of people to whom the very existence of the white slave traffic had become unendurable and who promptly responded to any appeal made on behalf of its victims. City officials, policemen, judges, attorneys, employers, trades unionists, physicians, teachers, newly arrived immigrants, clergymen, railway officials, and newspaper men, as under a profound sense of compunction, were unsparing of time and effort when given an opportunity to assist an individual girl, to promote legislation designed for her protection, or to establish institutions for her rescue.
I therefore venture to hope that in serving my own need I may also serve the need of a rapidly growing public when I set down for rational consideration the temptations surrounding multitudes of young people and when I assemble, as best I may, the many indications of a new conscience, which in various directions is slowly gathering strength and which we may soberly hope will at last successfully array itself against this incredible social wrong, ancient though it may be.
Hull House, Chicago.
In every large city throughout the world thousands of women are so set aside as outcasts from decent society that it is considered an impropriety to speak the very word which designates them. Lecky calls this type of woman "the most mournful and the most awful figure in history": he says that "she remains, while creeds and civilizations rise and fall, the eternal sacrifice of humanity, blasted for the sins of the people." But evils so old that they are imbedded in man's earliest history have been known to sway before an enlightened public opinion and in the end to give way to a growing conscience, which regards them first as a moral affront and at length as an utter impossibility. Thus the generation just before us, our own fathers, uprooted the enormous upas of slavery, "the tree that was literally as old as the race of man," although slavery doubtless had its beginnings in the captives of man's earliest warfare, even as this existing evil thus originated.
Those of us who think we discern the beginnings of a new conscience in regard to this twin of slavery, as old and outrageous as slavery itself and even more persistent, find a possible analogy between certain civic, philanthropic and educational efforts directed against the very existence of this social evil and similar organized efforts which preceded the overthrow of slavery in America. Thus, long before slavery was finally declared illegal, there were international regulations of its traffic, state and federal legislation concerning its extension, and many extra legal attempts to control its abuses; quite as we have the international regulations concerning the white slave traffic, the state and interstate legislation for its repression, and an extra legal power in connection with it so universally given to the municipal police that the possession of this power has become one of the great sources of corruption in every American city.
Before society was ready to proceed against the institution of slavery as such, groups of men and women by means of the underground railroad cherished and educated individual slaves; it is scarcely necessary to point out the similarity to the rescue homes and preventive associations which every great city contains.
It is always easy to overwork an analogy, and yet the economist who for years insisted that slave labor continually and arbitrarily limited the wages of free labor and was therefore a detriment to national wealth was a forerunner of the economist of to-day who points out the economic basis of the social evil, the connection between low wages and despair, between over-fatigue and the demand for reckless pleasure.
Before the American nation agreed to regard slavery as unjustifiable from the standpoint of public morality, an army of reformers, lecturers, and writers set forth its enormity in a never-ceasing flow of invective, of appeal, and of portrayal concerning the human cruelty to which the system lent itself. We can discern the scouts and outposts of a similar army advancing against this existing evil: the physicians and sanitarians who are committed to the task of ridding the race from contagious diseases, the teachers and lecturers who are appealing to the higher morality of thousands of young people; the growing literature, not only biological and didactic, but of a popular type more closely approaching "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Throughout the agitation for the abolition of slavery in America, there were statesmen who gradually became convinced of the political and moral necessity of giving to the freedman the protection of the ballot. In this current agitation there are at least a few men and women who would extend a greater social and political freedom to all women if only because domestic control has proved so ineffectual.
We may certainly take courage from the fact that our contemporaries are fired by social compassions and enthusiasms, to which even our immediate predecessors were indifferent. Such compunctions have ever manifested themselves in varying degrees of ardor through different groups in the same community. Thus among those who are newly aroused to action in regard to the social evil are many who would endeavor to regulate it and believe they can minimize its dangers, still larger numbers who would eliminate all trafficking of unwilling victims in connection with it, and yet others who believe that as a quasi-legal institution it may be absolutely abolished. Perhaps the analogy to the abolition of slavery is most striking in that these groups, in their varying points of view, are like those earlier associations which differed widely in regard to chattel slavery. Only the so-called extremists, in the first instance, stood for abolition and they were continually told that what they proposed was clearly impossible. The legal and commercial obstacles, bulked large, were placed before them and it was confidently asserted that the blame for the historic existence of slavery lay deep within human nature itself. Yet gradually all of these associations reached the point of view of the abolitionist and before the war was over even the most lukewarm unionist saw no other solution of the nation's difficulty. Some such gradual conversion to the point of view of abolition is the experience of every society or group of people who seriously face the difficulties and complications of the social evil. Certainly all the national organizations—the National Vigilance Committee, the American Purity Federation, the Alliance for the Suppression and Prevention of the White Slave Traffic and many others—stand for the final abolition of commercialized vice. Local vice commissions, such as the able one recently appointed in Chicago, although composed of members of varying beliefs in regard to the possibility of control and regulation, united in the end in recommending a law enforcement looking towards final abolition. Even the most sceptical of Chicago citizens, after reading the fearless document, shared the hope of the commission that "the city, when aroused to the truth, would instantly rebel against the social evil in all its phases." A similar recommendation of ultimate abolition was recently made unanimous by the Minneapolis vice commission after the conversion of many of its members. Doubtless all of the national societies have before them a task only less gigantic than that faced by those earlier associations in America for the suppression of slavery, although it may be legitimate to remind them that the best-known anti-slavery society in America was organized by the New England abolitionists in 1836, and only thirty-six years later, in 1872, was formally disbanded because its object had been accomplished. The long struggle ahead of these newer associations will doubtless claim its martyrs and its heroes, has indeed already claimed them during the last thirty years. Few righteous causes have escaped baptism with blood; nevertheless, to paraphrase Lincoln's speech, if blood were exacted drop by drop in measure to the tears of anguished mothers and enslaved girls, the nation would still be obliged to go into the struggle.
Throughout this volume the phrase "social evil" is used to designate the sexual commerce permitted to exist in every large city, usually in a segregated district, wherein the chastity of women is bought and sold. Modifications of legal codes regarding marriage and divorce, moral judgments concerning the entire group of questions centring about illicit affection between men and women, are quite other questions which are not considered here. Such problems must always remain distinct from those of commercialized vice, as must the treatment of an irreducible minimum of prostitution, which will doubtless long exist, quite as society still retains an irreducible minimum of murders. This volume does not deal with the probable future of prostitution, and gives only such historical background as is necessary to understand the present situation. It endeavors to present the contributory causes, as they have become registered in my consciousness through a long residence in a crowded city quarter, and to state the indications, as I have seen them, of a new conscience with its many and varied manifestations.
Nothing is gained by making the situation better or worse than it is, nor in anywise different from what it is. This ancient evil is indeed social in the sense of community responsibility and can only be understood and at length remedied when we face the fact and measure the resources which may at length be massed against it. Perhaps the most striking indication that our generation has become the bearer of a new moral consciousness in regard to the existence of commercialized vice is the fact that the mere contemplation of it throws the more sensitive men and women among our contemporaries into a state of indignant revolt. It is doubtless an instinctive shrinking from this emotion and an unconscious dread that this modern sensitiveness will be outraged, which justifies to themselves so many moral men and women in their persistent ignorance of the subject. Yet one of the most obvious resources at our command, which might well be utilized at once, if it is to be utilized at all, is the overwhelming pity and sense of protection which the recent revelations in the white slave traffic have aroused for the thousands of young girls, many of them still children, who are yearly sacrificed to the "sins of the people." All of this emotion ought to be made of value, for quite as a state of emotion is invariably the organic preparation for action, so it is certainly true that no profound spiritual transformation can take place without it.
After all, human progress is deeply indebted to a study of imperfections, and the counsels of despair, if not full of seasoned wisdom, are at least fertile in suggestion and a desperate spur to action. Sympathetic knowledge is the only way of approach to any human problem, and the line of least resistance into the jungle of human wretchedness must always be through that region which is most thoroughly explored, not only by the information of the statistician, but by sympathetic understanding. We are daily attaining the latter through such authors as Sudermann and Elsa Gerusalem, who have enabled their readers to comprehend the so-called "fallen" woman through a skilful portrayal of the reaction of experience upon personality. Their realism has rescued her from the sentimentality surrounding an impossible Camille quite as their fellow-craftsmen in realism have replaced the weeping Amelias of the Victorian period by reasonable women transcribed from actual life.
The treatment of this subject in American literature is at present in the pamphleteering stage, although an ever-increasing number of short stories and novels deal with it. On the other hand, the plays through which Bernard Shaw constantly places the truth before the public in England as Brieux is doing for the public in France, produce in the spectators a disquieting sense that society is involved in commercialized vice and must speedily find a way out. Such writing is like the roll of the drum which announces the approach of the troops ready for action.
Some of the writers who are performing this valiant service are related to those great artists who in every age enter into a long struggle with existing social conditions, until after many years they change the outlook upon life for at least a handful of their contemporaries. Their readers find themselves no longer mere bewildered spectators of a given social wrong, but have become conscious of their own hypocrisy in regard to it, and they realize that a veritable horror, simply because it was hidden, had come to seem to them inevitable and almost normal.
Many traces of this first uneasy consciousness regarding the social evil are found in contemporary literature, for while the business of literature is revelation and not reformation, it may yet perform for the men and women now living that purification of the imagination and intellect which the Greeks believed to come through pity and terror.
Secure in the knowledge of evolutionary processes, we have learned to talk glibly of the obligations of race progress and of the possibility of racial degeneration. In this respect certainly we have a wider outlook than that possessed by our fathers, who so valiantly grappled with chattel slavery and secured its overthrow. May the new conscience gather force until men and women, acting under its sway, shall be constrained to eradicate this ancient evil!
RECENT LEGAL ENACTMENTS
At the present moment even the least conscientious citizens agree that, first and foremost, the organized traffic in what has come to be called white slaves must be suppressed and that those traffickers who procure their victims for purely commercial purposes must be arrested and prosecuted. As it is impossible to rescue girls fraudulently and illegally detained, save through governmental agencies, it is naturally through the line of legal action that the most striking revelations of the white slave traffic have come. For the sake of convenience, we may divide this legal action into those cases dealing with the international trade, those with the state and interstate traffic, and the regulations with which the municipality alone is concerned.
First in value to the white slave commerce is the girl imported from abroad who from the nature of the case is most completely in the power of the trader. She is literally friendless and unable to speak the language and at last discouraged she makes no effort to escape. Many cases of the international traffic were recently tried in Chicago and the offenders convicted by the federal authorities. One of these cases, which attracted much attention throughout the country, was of Marie, a French girl, the daughter of a Breton stone mason, so old and poor that he was obliged to take her from her convent school at the age of twelve years. He sent her to Paris, where she became a little household drudge and nurse-maid, working from six in the morning until eight at night, and for three years sending her wages, which were about a franc a day, directly to her parents in the Breton village. One afternoon, as she was buying a bottle of milk at a tiny shop, she was engaged in conversation by a young man who invited her into a little patisserie where, after giving her some sweets, he introduced her to his friend, Monsieur Paret, who was gathering together a theatrical troupe to go to America. Paret showed her pictures of several young girls gorgeously arrayed and announcements of their coming tour, and Marie felt much flattered when it was intimated that she might join this brilliant company. After several clandestine meetings to perfect the plan, she left the city with Paret and a pretty French girl to sail for America with the rest of the so-called actors. Paret escaped detection by the immigration authorities in New York, through his ruse of the "Kinsella troupe," and took the girls directly to Chicago. Here they were placed in a disreputable house belonging to a man named Lair, who had advanced the money for their importation. The two French girls remained in this house for several months until it was raided by the police, when they were sent to separate houses. The records which were later brought into court show that at this time Marie was earning two hundred and fifty dollars a week, all of which she gave to her employers. In spite of this large monetary return she was often cruelly beaten, was made to do the household scrubbing, and was, of course, never allowed to leave the house. Furthermore, as one of the methods of retaining a reluctant girl is to put her hopelessly in debt and always to charge against her the expenses incurred in securing her, Marie as an imported girl had begun at once with the huge debt of the ocean journey for Paret and herself. In addition to this large sum she was charged, according to universal custom, with exorbitant prices for all the clothing she received and with any money which Paret chose to draw against her account. Later, when Marie contracted typhoid fever, she was sent for treatment to a public hospital and it was during her illness there, when a general investigation was made of the white slave traffic, that a federal officer visited her. Marie, who thought she was going to die, freely gave her testimony, which proved to be most valuable.
The federal authorities following up her statements at last located Paret in the city prison at Atlanta, Georgia, where he had been convicted on a similar charge. He was brought to Chicago and on his testimony Lair was also convicted and imprisoned.
Marie has since married a man who wishes to protect her from the influence of her old life, but although not yet twenty years old and making an honest effort, what she has undergone has apparently so far warped and weakened her will that she is only partially successful in keeping her resolutions, and she sends each month to her parents in France ten or twelve dollars, which she confesses to have earned illicitly. It is as if the shameful experiences to which this little convent-bred Breton girl was forcibly subjected, had finally become registered in every fibre of her being until the forced demoralization has become genuine. She is as powerless now to save herself from her subjective temptations as she was helpless five years ago to save herself from her captors.
Such demoralization is, of course, most valuable to the white slave trader, for when a girl has become thoroughly accustomed to the life and testifies that she is in it of her own free will, she puts herself beyond the protection of the law. She belongs to a legally degraded class, without redress in courts of justice for personal outrages.
Marie, herself, at the end of her third year in America, wrote to the police appealing for help, but the lieutenant who in response to her letter visited the house, was convinced by Lair that she was there of her own volition and that therefore he could do nothing for her. It is easy to see why it thus becomes part of the business to break down a girl's moral nature by all those horrible devices which are constantly used by the owner of a white slave. Because life is so often shortened for these wretched girls, their owners degrade them morally as quickly as possible, lest death release them before their full profit has been secured. In addition to the quantity of sacrificed virtue, to the bulk of impotent suffering, which these white slaves represent, our civilization becomes permanently tainted with the vicious practices designed to accelerate the demoralization of unwilling victims in order to make them commercially valuable. Moreover, a girl thus rendered more useful to her owner, will thereafter fail to touch either the chivalry of men or the tenderness of women because good men and women have become convinced of her innate degeneracy, a word we have learned to use with the unction formerly placed upon original sin. The very revolt of society against such girls is used by their owners as a protection to the business.
The case against the captors of Marie, as well as twenty-four other cases, was ably and vigorously conducted by Edwin W. Sims, United States District Attorney in Chicago. He prosecuted under a clause of the immigration act of 1908, which was unfortunately declared unconstitutional early the next year, when for the moment federal authorities found themselves unable to proceed directly against this international traffic. They could not act under the international white slave treaty signed by the contracting powers in Paris in 1904, and proclaimed by the President of the United States in 1908, because it was found impossible to carry out its provisions without federal police. The long consideration of this treaty by Congress made clear to the nation that it is in matters of this sort that navies are powerless and that as our international problems become more social, other agencies must be provided, a point which arbitration committees have long urged. The discussion of the international treaty brought the subject before the entire country as a matter for immediate legislation and for executive action, and the White Slave Traffic Act was finally passed by Congress in 1910, under which all later prosecutions have since been conducted. When the decision on the immigration clause rendered in 1909 threw the burden of prosecution back upon the states, Mr. Clifford Roe, then assistant State's Attorney, within one year investigated 348 such cases, domestic and foreign, and successfully prosecuted 91, carrying on the vigorous policy inaugurated by United States Attorney Sims. In 1908 Illinois passed the first pandering law in this country, changing the offence from disorderly conduct to a misdemeanor, and greatly increasing the penalty. In many states pandering is still so little defined as to make the crime merely a breach of manners and to put it in the same class of offences as selling a street-car transfer.
As a result of this vigorous action, Chicago became the first city to look the situation squarely in the face, and to make a determined business-like fight against the procuring of girls. An office was established by public-spirited citizens where Mr. Roe was placed in charge and empowered to follow up the clues of the traffic wherever found and to bring the traffickers to justice; in consequence the white slave traders have become so frightened that the foreign importation of girls to Chicago has markedly declined. It is estimated by Mr. Roe that since 1909 about one thousand white slave traders, of whom thirty or forty were importers of foreign girls, have been driven away from the city.
Throughout the Congressional discussions of the white slave traffic, beginning with the Howell-Bennett Act in 1907, it was evident that the subject was closely allied to immigration, and when the immigration commission made a partial report to Congress in December, 1909, upon "the importation and harboring of women for immoral purposes," their finding only emphasized the report of the Commissioner General of Immigration made earlier in the year. His report had traced the international traffic directly to New York, Chicago, Boston, Buffalo, New Orleans, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Butte. As the list of cities was comparatively small, it seemed not unreasonable to hope that the international traffic might be rigorously prosecuted, with the prospect of finally doing away with it in spite of its subtle methods, its multiplied ramifications, and its financial resources. Only officials of vigorous conscience can deal with this traffic; but certainly there can be no nobler service for federal and state officers to undertake than this protection of immigrant girls.
It is obvious that a foreign girl who speaks no English, who has not the remotest idea in what part of the city her fellow-countrymen live, who does not know the police station or any agency to which she may apply, is almost as valuable to a white slave trafficker as a girl imported directly for the trade. The trafficker makes every effort to intercept such a girl before she can communicate with her relations. Although great care is taken at Ellis Island, the girl's destination carefully indicated upon her ticket and her friends communicated with, after she boards the train the governmental protection is withdrawn and many untoward experiences may befall a girl between New York and her final destination. Only this year a Polish mother of the Hull House neighborhood failed to find her daughter on a New York train upon which she had been notified to expect her, because the girl had been induced to leave the New York train at South Chicago, where she was met by two young men, one of them well known to the police, and the other a young Pole, purporting to have been sent by the girl's mother.
The immigrant girl also encounters dangers upon the very moment of her arrival. The cab-men and expressmen are often unscrupulous. One of the latter was recently indicted in Chicago upon the charge of regularly procuring immigrant girls for a disreputable hotel. The non-English speaking girl handing her written address to a cabman has no means of knowing whither he will drive her, but is obliged to place herself implicitly in his hands. The Immigrants' Protective League has brought about many changes in this respect, but has upon its records some piteous tales of girls who were thus easily deceived.
An immigrant girl is occasionally exploited by her own lover whom she has come to America to marry. I recall the case of a Russian girl thus decoyed into a disreputable life by a man deceiving her through a fake marriage ceremony. Although not found until a year later, the girl had never ceased to be distressed and rebellious. Many Slovak and Polish girls, coming to America without their relatives, board in houses already filled with their countrymen who have also preceded their own families to the land of promise, hoping to earn money enough to send for them later. The immigrant girl is thus exposed to dangers at the very moment when she is least able to defend herself. Such a girl, already bewildered by the change from an old world village to an American city, is unfortunately sometimes convinced that the new country freedom does away with the necessity for a marriage ceremony. Many others are told that judgment for a moral lapse is less severe in America than in the old country. The last month's records of the Municipal Court in Chicago, set aside to hear domestic relation cases, show sixteen unfortunate girls, of whom eight were immigrant girls representing eight different nationalities. These discouraged and deserted girls become an easy prey for the procurers who have sometimes been in league with their lovers.
Even those girls who immigrate with their families and sustain an affectionate relation with them are yet often curiously free from chaperonage. The immigrant mothers do not know where their daughters work, save that it is in a vague "over there" or "down town." They themselves were guarded by careful mothers and they would gladly give the same oversight to their daughters, but the entire situation is so unlike that of their own peasant girlhoods that, discouraged by their inability to judge it, they make no attempt to understand their daughters' lives. The girls, realizing this inability on the part of their mothers, elated by that sense of independence which the first taste of self-support always brings, sheltered from observation during certain hours, are almost as free from social control as is the traditional young man who comes up from the country to take care of himself in a great city. These immigrant parents are, of course, quite unable to foresee that while a girl feels a certain restraint of public opinion from the tenement house neighbors among whom she lives, and while she also responds to the public opinion of her associates in a factory where she works, there is no public opinion at all operating as a restraint upon her in the hours which lie between the two, occupied in the coming and going to work through the streets of a city large enough to offer every opportunity for concealment. So much of the recreation which is provided by commercial agencies, even in its advertisements, deliberately plays upon the interest of sex because it is under such excitement and that of alcohol that money is most recklessly spent. The great human dynamic, which it has been the long effort of centuries to limit to family life, is deliberately utilized for advertising purposes, and it is inevitable that many girls yield to such allurements.
On the other hand, one is filled with admiration for the many immigrant girls who in the midst of insuperable difficulties resist all temptations. Such admiration was certainly due Olga, a tall, handsome girl, a little passive and slow, yet with that touch of dignity which a continued mood of introspection so often lends to the young. Olga had been in Chicago for a year living with an aunt who, when she returned to Sweden, placed her niece in a boarding-house which she knew to be thoroughly respectable. But a friendless girl of such striking beauty could not escape the machinations of those who profit by the sale of girls. Almost immediately Olga found herself beset by two young men who continually forced themselves upon her attention, although she refused all their invitations to shows and dances. In six months the frightened girl had changed her boarding-place four times, hoping that the men would not be able to follow her. She was also obliged constantly to look for a cheaper place, because the dull season in the cloak-making trade came early that year. In the fifth boarding-house she finally found herself so hopelessly in arrears that the landlady, tired of waiting for the "new cloak making to begin," at length fulfilled a long-promised threat, and one summer evening at nine o'clock literally put Olga into the street, retaining her trunk in payment of the debt. The girl walked the street for hours, until she fancied that she saw one of her persecutors in the distance, when she hastily took refuge in a sheltered doorway, crouching in terror. Although no one approached her, she sat there late into the night, apparently too apathetic to move. With the curious inconsequence of moody youth, she was not aroused to action by the situation in which she found herself. The incident epitomized to her the everlasting riddle of the universe to which she could see no solution and she drearily decided to throw herself into the lake. As she left the doorway at daybreak for this pitiful purpose, she attracted the attention of a passing policeman. In response to his questions, kindly at first but becoming exasperated as he was convinced that she was either "touched in her wits" or "guying" him, he obtained a confused story of the persecutions of the two young men, and in sheer bewilderment he finally took her to the station on the very charge against the thought of which she had so long contended.
The girl was doubtless sullen in court the next morning; she was resentful of the policeman's talk, she was oppressed and discouraged and therefore taciturn. She herself said afterwards that she "often got still that way." She so sharply felt the disgrace of arrest, after her long struggle for respectability, that she gave a false name and became involved in a story to which she could devote but half her attention, being still absorbed in an undercurrent of speculative thought which continually broke through the flimsy tale she was fabricating.
With the evidence before him, the judge felt obliged to sustain the policeman's charge, and as Olga could not pay the fine imposed, he sentenced her to the city prison. The girl, however, had appeared so strangely that the judge was uncomfortable and gave her in charge of a representative of the Juvenile Protective Association in the hope that she could discover the whole situation, meantime suspending the sentence. It took hours of patient conversation with the girl and the kindly services of a well-known alienist to break into her dangerous state of mind and to gain her confidence. Prolonged medical treatment averted the threatened melancholia and she was at last rescued from the meaningless despondency so hostile to life itself, which has claimed many young victims.
It is strange that we are so slow to learn that no one can safely live without companionship and affection, that the individual who tries the hazardous experiment of going without at least one of them is prone to be swamped by a black mood from within. It is as if we had to build little islands of affection in the vast sea of impersonal forces lest we be overwhelmed by them. Yet we know that in every large city there are hundreds of men whose business it is to discover girls thus hard pressed by loneliness and despair, to urge upon them the old excuse that "no one cares what you do," to fill them with cheap cynicism concerning the value of virtue, all to the end that a business profit may be secured.
Had Olga yielded to the solicitations of bad men and had the immigration authorities in the federal building of Chicago discovered her in the disreputable hotel in which her captors wanted to place her, she would have been deported to Sweden, sent home in disgrace from the country which had failed to protect her. Certainly the immigration laws might do better than to send a girl back to her parents, diseased and disgraced because America has failed to safeguard her virtue from the machinations of well-known but unrestrained criminals. The possibility of deportation on the charge of prostitution is sometimes utilized by jealous husbands or rejected lovers. Only last year a Russian girl came to Chicago to meet her lover and was deceived by a fake marriage. Although the man basely deserted her within a few weeks he became very jealous a year later when he discovered that she was about to be married to a prosperous fellow-countryman, and made charges against her to the federal authorities concerning her life in Russia. It was with the greatest difficulty that the girl was saved from deportation to Russia under circumstances which would have compelled her to take out a red ticket in Odessa, and to live forevermore the life with which her lover had wantonly charged her.
May we not hope that in time the nation's policy in regard to immigrants will become less negative and that a measure of protection will be extended to them during the three years when they are so liable to prompt deportation if they become criminals or paupers?
While it may be difficult for the federal authorities to accomplish this protection and will doubtless require an extension of the powers of the Department of Immigration, certainly no one will doubt that it is the business of the city itself to extend much more protection to young girls who so thoughtlessly walk upon its streets. Yet, in spite of the grave consequences which lack of proper supervision implies, the municipal treatment of commercialized vice not only differs in each city but varies greatly in the same city under changing administrations.
The situation is enormously complicated by the pharisaic attitude of the public which wishes to have the comfort of declaring the social evil to be illegal, while at the same time it expects the police department to regulate it and to make it as little obvious as possible. In reality the police, as they themselves know, are not expected to serve the public in this matter but to consult the desires of the politicians; for, next to the fast and loose police control of gambling, nothing affords better political material than the regulation of commercialized vice. First in line is the ward politician who keeps a disorderly saloon which serves both as a meeting-place for the vicious young men engaged in the traffic and as a market for their wares. Back of this the politician higher up receives his share of the toll which this business pays that it may remain undisturbed. The very existence of a segregated district under police regulation means, of course, that the existing law must be nullified or at least rendered totally inoperative. When police regulation takes the place of law enforcement a species of municipal blackmail inevitably becomes intrenched. The police are forced to regulate an illicit trade, but because the men engaged in an unlawful business expect to pay money for its protection, the corruption of the police department is firmly established and, as the Chicago vice commission report points out, is merely called "protection to the business." The practice of grafting thereafter becomes almost official. On the other hand, any man who attempts to show mercy to the victims of that business, or to regulate it from the victim's point of view, is considered a traitor to the cause. Quite recently a former inspector of police in Chicago established a requirement that every young girl who came to live in a disreputable house within a prescribed district must be reported to him within an hour after her arrival. Each one was closely questioned as to her reasons for entering into the life. If she was very young, she was warned of its inevitable consequences and urged to abandon her project. Every assistance was offered her to return to work and to live a normal life. Occasionally a girl was desperate and it was sometimes necessary that she be forcibly detained in the police station until her friends could be communicated with. More often she was glad to avail herself of the chance of escape; practically always, unless she had already become romantically entangled with a disreputable young man, whom she firmly believed to be her genuine lover and protector.
One day a telephone message came to Hull House from the inspector asking us to take charge of a young girl who had been brought into the station by an older woman for registration. The girl's youth and the innocence of her replies to the usual questions convinced the inspector that she was ignorant of the life she was about to enter and that she probably believed she was simply registering her choice of a boarding-house. Her story which she told at Hull House was as follows: She was a Milwaukee factory girl, the daughter of a Bohemian carpenter. Ten days before she had met a Chicago young man at a Milwaukee dance hall and after a brief courtship had promised to marry him, arranging to meet him in Chicago the following week. Fearing that her Bohemian mother would not approve of this plan, which she called "the American way of getting married," the girl had risen one morning even earlier than factory work necessitated and had taken the first train to Chicago. The young man met her at the station, took her to a saloon where he introduced her to a friend, an older woman, who, he said, would take good care of her. After the young man disappeared, ostensibly for the marriage license, the woman professed to be much shocked that the little bride had brought no luggage, and persuaded her that she must work a few weeks in order to earn money for her trousseau, and that she, an older woman who knew the city, would find a boarding-house and a place in a factory for her. She further induced her to write postal cards to six of her girl friends in Milwaukee, telling them of the kind lady in Chicago, of the good chances for work, and urging them to come down to the address which she sent. The woman told the unsuspecting girl that, first of all, a newcomer must register her place of residence with the police, as that was the law in Chicago. It was, of course, when the woman took her to the police station that the situation was disclosed. It needed but little investigation to make clear that the girl had narrowly escaped a well-organized plot and that the young man to whom she was engaged was an agent for a disreputable house. Mr. Clifford Roe took up the case with vigor, and although all efforts failed to find the young man, the woman who was his accomplice was fined one hundred and fifty dollars and costs.
The one impression which the trial left upon our minds was that all the men concerned in the prosecution felt a keen sense of outrage against the method employed to secure the girl, but took for granted that the life she was about to lead was in the established order of things, if she had chosen it voluntarily. In other words, if the efforts of the agent had gone far enough to involve her moral nature, the girl, who although unsophisticated, was twenty-one years old, could have remained, quite unchallenged, in the hideous life. The woman who was prosecuted was well known to the police and was fined, not for her daily occupation, but because she had become involved in interstate white slave traffic. One touch of nature redeemed the trial, for the girl suffered much more from the sense that she had been deserted by her lover than from horror over the fate she had escaped, and she was never wholly convinced that he had not been genuine. She asserted constantly, in order to account for his absence, that some accident must have befallen him. She felt that he was her natural protector in this strange Chicago to which she had come at his behest and continually resented any imputation of his motives. The betrayal of her confidence, the playing upon her natural desire for a home of her own, was a ghastly revelation that even when this hideous trade is managed upon the most carefully calculated commercial principles, it must still resort to the use of the oldest of the social instincts as its basis of procedure.
This Chicago police inspector, whose desire to protect young girls was so genuine and so successful, was afterward indicted by the grand jury and sent to the penitentiary on the charge of accepting "graft" from saloon-keepers and proprietors of the disreputable houses in his district. His experience was a dramatic and tragic portrayal of the position into which every city forces its police. When a girl who has been secured for the life is dissuaded from it, her rescue represents a definite monetary loss to the agency which has secured her and incurs the enmity of those who expected to profit by her. When this enmity has sufficiently accumulated, the active official is either "called down" by higher political authority, or brought to trial for those illegal practices which he shares with his fellow-officials. It is, therefore, easy to make such an inspector as ours suffer for his virtues, which are individual, by bringing charges against his grafting, which is general and almost official. So long as the customary prices for protection are adhered to, no one feels aggrieved; but the sentiment which prompts an inspector "to side with the girls" and to destroy thousands of dollars' worth of business is unjustifiable. He has not stuck to the rules of the game and the pack of enraged gamesters, under full cry of "morality," can very easily run him to ground, the public meantime being gratified that police corruption has been exposed and the offender punished. Yet hundreds of girls, who could have been discovered in no other way, were rescued by this man in his capacity of police inspector. On the other hand, he did little to bring to justice those responsible for securing the girls, and while he rescued the victim, he did not interfere with the source of supply. Had he been brought to trial for this indifference, it would have been impossible to find a grand jury to sustain the indictment. He was really brought to trial because he had broken the implied contract with the politicians; he had devised illicit and damaging methods to express that instinct for protecting youth and innocence, which every man on the police force doubtless possesses. Were this instinct freed from all political and extra legal control, it would in and of itself be a tremendous force against commercialized vice which is so dependent upon the exploitation of young girls. Yet the fortunes of the police are so tied up to those who profit by this trade and to their friends, the politicians, that the most well-meaning man upon the force is constantly handicapped. Several illustrations of this occur to me. Two years ago, when very untoward conditions were discovered in connection with a certain five-cent theatre, a young policeman arrested the proprietor, who was later brought before the grand jury, indicted and released upon bail for nine thousand dollars. The crime was a heinous one, involving the ruin of fourteen little girls; but so much political influence had been exerted on behalf of the proprietor, who was a relative of the republican committeeman of his ward, that although the license of the theatre was immediately revoked, it was reissued to his wife within a very few days and the man continued to be a menace to the community. When the young policeman who had made the arrest saw him in the neighborhood of the theatre talking to little girls and reported him, the officer was taken severely to task by the highest republican authority in the city. He was reprimanded for his activity and ordered transferred to the stockyards, eleven miles away. The policeman well understood that this was but the first step in the process called "breaking;" that after he had moved his family to the stockyards, in a few weeks he would be transferred elsewhere, and that this change of beat would be continued until he should at last be obliged to resign from the force. His offence, as he was plainly told, had been his ignorance of the fact that the theatre was under political protection. In short, the young officer had naively undertaken to serve the public without waiting for his instructions from the political bosses.
A flagrant example of the collusion of the police with vice is instanced by United States District Attorney Sims, who recently called upon the Chicago police to make twenty-four arrests on behalf of the United States government for violations of the white slave law, when all of the men liable to arrest left town two hours after the warrants were issued. To quote Mr. Sims: "We sent the secret service men who had been working in conjunction with the police back to Washington and brought in a fresh supply. These men did not work with the police, and within two weeks after the first set of secret service men had left Chicago, the men we wanted were back in town, and without the aid of the city police we arrested all of them."
When the legal control of commercialized vice is thus tied up with city politics the functions of the police become legislative, executive and judicial in regard to street solicitation: in a sense they also have power of license, for it lies with them to determine the number of women who are allowed to ply their trade upon the street. Some of these women are young earthlings, as it were, hoping to earn money for much-desired clothing or pleasure. Others are desperate creatures making one last effort before they enter a public hospital to face a miserable end; but by far the larger number are sent out under the protection of the men who profit by their earnings, or they are utilized to secure patronage for disreputable houses. The police regard the latter "as regular," and while no authoritative order is ever given, the patrolman understands that they are protected. On the other hand, "the straggler" is liable to be arrested by any officer who chooses, and she is subjected to a fine upon his unsupported word. In either case the police regard all such women as literally "abandoned," deprived of ordinary rights, obliged to live in specified residences, and liable to have their personal liberties invaded in a way that no other class of citizens would tolerate.
The recent establishment of the Night Court in New York registers an advance in regard to the treatment of these wretched women. Not only does the public gradually become cognizant of the treatment accorded them, but some attempt at discrimination is made between the first offenders and those hardened by long practice in that most hideous of occupations. Furthermore, an adult probation system is gradually being substituted for the system of fines which at present are levied in such wise as to virtually constitute a license and a partnership with the police department.
While American cities cannot be said to have adopted a policy either of suppression or one of regulation, because the police consider the former impracticable and the latter intolerable to public opinion, we may perhaps claim for America a little more humanity in its dealing with this class of women, a little less ruthlessness than that exhibited by the continental cities where regimentation is relentlessly assumed.
The suggestive presence of such women on the streets is perhaps one of the most demoralizing influences to be found in a large city, and such vigorous efforts as were recently made by a former chief of police in Chicago when he successfully cleared the streets of their presence, demonstrates that legal suppression is possible. At least this obvious temptation to young men and boys who are idly walking the streets might be avoided, for in an old formula one such woman "has cast down many wounded; yea, many strong men have been slain by her." Were the streets kept clear, many young girls would be spared familiar knowledge that such a method of earning money is open to them. I have personally known several instances in which young girls have begun street solicitation through sheer imitation. A young Polish woman found herself in dire straits after the death of her mother. Her only friends in America had moved to New York, she was in debt for her mother's funeral, and as it was the slack season of the miserable sweat-shop sewing she had been doing, she was unable to find work. One evening when she was quite desperate with hunger, she stopped several men upon the street, as she had seen other girls do, and in her broken English asked them for something to eat. Only after a young man had given her a good meal at a restaurant did she realize the price she was expected to pay and the horrible things which the other girls were doing. Even in her shocked revolt she could not understand, of course, that she herself epitomized that hideous choice between starvation and vice which is perhaps the crowning disgrace of civilization.
The legal suppression of street solicitation would not only protect girls but would enormously minimize the risk and temptation to boys. The entire system of recruiting for commercialized vice is largely dependent upon boys who are scarcely less the victims of the system than are the girls themselves. Certainly this aspect of the situation must be seriously considered.
In 1908, when Mr. Clifford Roe conducted successful prosecutions against one hundred and fifty of these disreputable young men in Chicago, nearly all of them were local boys who had used their personal acquaintance to secure their victims. The accident of a long acquaintance with one of these boys, born in the Hull-House neighborhood, filled me with questionings as to how far society may be responsible for these wretched lads, many of them beginning a vicious career when they are but fifteen or sixteen years of age. Because the trade constantly demands very young girls, the procurers require the assistance of immature boys, for in this game above all others "youth calls to youth." Such a boy is often incited by the professional procurer to ruin a young girl, because the latter's position is much safer if the character of the girl is blackened before he sells her, and if he himself cannot be implicated in her downfall. He thus keeps himself within the letter of the law, and when he is even more cautious, he induces the boy to go through the ceremony of a legal marriage by promising him a percentage of his wife's first earnings.
Only yesterday I received a letter from a young man whom I had known from his early boyhood, written in the state penitentiary, where he is serving a life sentence. His father was a drunkard, but his mother was a fine woman, devoted to her children, and she had patiently supported her son Jim far beyond his school age. At the time of his trial, she pawned all her personal possessions and mortgaged her furniture in order to get three hundred dollars for his lawyer. Although Jim usually led the life of a loafer and had never supported his mother, he was affectionately devoted to her and always kindly and good-natured. Perhaps it was because he had been so long dependent upon a self-sacrificing woman that it became easy for him to be dependent upon his wife, a girl whom he met when he was temporarily acting as porter in a disreputable hotel. Through his long familiarity with vice, and the fact that many of his companions habitually lived upon the earnings of "their girls," he easily consented that his wife should continue her life, and he constantly accepted the money which she willingly gave him. After his marriage he still lived in his mother's house and refused to take more money from her, but she had no idea of the source of his income. One day he called at the hotel, as usual, to ask for his wife's earnings, and in a quarrel over the amount with the landlady of the house, he drew a revolver and killed her. Although the plea of self-defense was urged in the trial, his abominable manner of life so outraged both judge and jury that he received the maximum sentence. His mother still insists that he sincerely loved the girl, whom he so impulsively married and that he constantly tried to dissuade her from her evil life. Certain it is that Jim's wife and mother are both filled with genuine sorrow for his fate and that in some wise the educational and social resources in the city of his birth failed to protect him from his own lower impulses and from the evil companionship whose influence he could not withstand. He is but one of thousands of weak boys, who are constantly utilized to supply the white slave trafficker with young girls, for it has been estimated that at any given moment the majority of the girls utilized by the trade are under twenty years of age and that most of them were procured when younger. We cannot assume that the youths who are hired to entice and entrap these girls are all young fiends, degenerate from birth; the majority of them are merely out-of-work boys, idle upon the streets, who readily lend themselves to these base demands because nothing else is presented to them.
All the recent investigations have certainly made clear that the bulk of the entire traffic is conducted with the youth of the community, and that the social evil, ancient though it may be, must be renewed in our generation through its younger members. The knowledge of the youth of its victims doubtless in a measure accounts for the new sense of compunction which fills the community.
AMELIORATION OF ECONOMIC CONDITIONS
It may be possible to extract some small degree of comfort from the recent revelations of the white slave traffic when we reflect that at the present moment, in the midst of a freedom such as has never been accorded to young women in the history of the world, under an economic pressure grinding down upon the working girl at the very age when she most wistfully desires to be taken care of, it is necessary to organize a widespread commercial enterprise in order to procure a sufficient number of girls for the white slave market.
Certainly the larger freedom accorded to woman by our changing social customs and the phenomenal number of young girls who are utilized by modern industry, taken in connection with this lack of supply, would seem to show that the chastity of women is holding its own in that slow-growing civilization which ever demands more self-control and conscious direction on the part of the individuals sharing it.
Successive reports of the United States census indicate that self-supporting girls are increasing steadily in number each decade, until 59 per cent. of all the young women in the nation between the ages of sixteen and twenty, are engaged in some gainful occupation. Year after year, as these figures increase, the public views them with complacency, almost with pride, and confidently depends upon the inner restraint and training of this girlish multitude to protect it from disaster. Nevertheless, the public is totally unable to determine at what moment these safeguards, evolved under former industrial conditions, may reach a breaking point, not because of economic freedom, but because of untoward economic conditions.
For the first time in history multitudes of women are laboring without the direct stimulus of family interest or affection, and they are also unable to proportion their hours of work and intervals of rest according to their strength; in addition to this for thousands of them the effort to obtain a livelihood fairly eclipses the very meaning of life itself. At the present moment no student of modern industrial conditions can possibly assert how far the superior chastity of woman, so rigidly maintained during the centuries, has been the result of her domestic surroundings, and certainly no one knows under what degree of economic pressure the old restraints may give way.
In addition to the monotony of work and the long hours, the small wages these girls receive have no relation to the standard of living which they are endeavoring to maintain. Discouraged and over-fatigued, they are often brought into sharp juxtaposition with the women who are obtaining much larger returns from their illicit trade. Society also ventures to capitalize a virtuous girl at much less than one who has yielded to temptation, and it may well hold itself responsible for the precarious position into which, year after year, a multitude of frail girls is placed.
The very valuable report recently issued by the vice commission of Chicago leaves no room for doubt upon this point. The report estimates the yearly profit of this nefarious business as conducted in Chicago to be between fifteen and sixteen millions of dollars. Although these enormous profits largely accrue to the men who conduct the business side of prostitution, the report emphasizes the fact that the average girl earns very much more in such a life than she can hope to earn by any honest work. It points out that the capitalized value of the average working girl is six thousand dollars, as she ordinarily earns six dollars a week, which is three hundred dollars a year, or five per cent. on that sum. A girl who sells drinks in a disreputable saloon, earning in commissions for herself twenty-one dollars a week, is capitalized at a value of twenty-two thousand dollars. The report further estimates that the average girl who enters an illicit life under a protector or manager is able to earn twenty-five dollars a week, representing a capital of twenty-six thousand dollars. In other words, a girl in such a life "earns more than four times as much as she is worth as a factor in the social and industrial economy, where brains, intelligence, virtue and womanly charm should bring a premium." The argument is specious in that it does not record the economic value of the many later years in which the honest girl will live as wife and mother, in contrast to the premature death of the woman in the illicit trade, but the girl herself sees only the difference in the immediate earning possibilities in the two situations.
Nevertheless the supply of girls for the white slave traffic so far falls below the demand that large business enterprises have been developed throughout the world in order to secure a sufficient number of victims for this modern market. Over and over again in the criminal proceedings against the men engaged in this traffic, when questioned as to their motives, they have given the simple reply "that more girls are needed", and that they were "promised big money for them". Although economic pressure as a reason for entering an illicit life has thus been brought out in court by the evidence in a surprising number of cases, there is no doubt that it is often exaggerated; a girl always prefers to think that economic pressure is the reason for her downfall, even when the immediate causes have been her love of pleasure, her desire for finery, or the influence of evil companions. It is easy for her, as for all of us, to be deceived as to real motives. In addition to this the wretched girl who has entered upon an illicit life finds the experience so terrible that, day by day, she endeavors to justify herself with the excuse that the money she earns is needed for the support of some one dependent upon her, thus following habits established by generations of virtuous women who cared for feeble folk. I know one such girl living in a disreputable house in Chicago who has adopted a delicate child afflicted with curvature of the spine, whom she boards with respectable people and keeps for many weeks out of each year in an expensive sanitarium that it may receive medical treatment. The mother of the child, an inmate of the house in which the ardent foster-mother herself lives, is quite indifferent to the child's welfare and also rather amused at such solicitude. The girl has persevered in her course for five years, never however allowing the little invalid to come to the house in which she and the mother live. The same sort of devotion and self-sacrifice is often poured out upon the miserable man who in the beginning was responsible for the girl's entrance into the life and who constantly receives her earnings. She supports him in the luxurious life he may be living in another part of the town, takes an almost maternal pride in his good clothes and general prosperity, and regards him as the one person in all the world who understands her plight.
Most of the cases of economic responsibility, however, are not due to chivalric devotion, but arise from a desire to fulfill family obligations such as would be accepted by any conscientious girl. This was clearly revealed in conversations which were recently held with thirty-four girls, who were living at the same time in a rescue home, when twenty-two of them gave economic pressure as the reason for choosing the life which they had so recently abandoned. One piteous little widow of seventeen had been supporting her child and had been able to leave the life she had been leading only because her married sister offered to take care of the baby without the money formerly paid her. Another had been supporting her mother and only since her recent death was the girl sure that she could live honestly because she had only herself to care for.
The following story, fairly typical of the twenty-two involving economic reasons, is of a girl who had come to Chicago at the age of fifteen, from a small town in Indiana. Her father was too old to work and her mother was a dependent invalid. The brother who cared for the parents, with the help of the girl's own slender wages earned in the country store of the little town, became ill with rheumatism. In her desire to earn more money the country girl came to the nearest large city, Chicago, to work in a department store. The highest wage she could earn, even though she wore long dresses and called herself "experienced," was five dollars a week. This sum was of course inadequate even for her own needs and she was constantly filled with a corroding worry for "the folks at home." In a moment of panic, a fellow clerk who was "wise" showed her that it was possible to add to her wages by making appointments for money in the noon hour at down-town hotels. Having earned money in this way for a few months, the young girl made an arrangement with an older woman to be on call in the evenings whenever she was summoned by telephone, thus joining that large clandestine group of apparently respectable girls, most of whom yield to temptation only when hard pressed by debt incurred during illness or non-employment, or when they are facing some immediate necessity. This practice has become so general in the larger American cities as to be systematically conducted. It is perhaps the most sinister outcome of the economic pressure, unless one cites its corollary—the condition of thousands of young men whose low salaries so cruelly and unjustifiably postpone their marriages. For a long time the young saleswoman kept her position in the department store, retaining her honest wages for herself, but sending everything else to her family. At length however, she changed from her clandestine life to an openly professional one when she needed enough money to send her brother to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where she maintained him for a year. She explained that because he was now restored to health and able to support the family once more, she had left the life "forever and ever", expecting to return to her home in Indiana. She suspected that her brother knew of her experience, although she was sure that her parents did not, and she hoped that as she was not yet seventeen, she might be able to make a fresh start. Fortunately the poor child did not know how difficult that would be.
It is perhaps in the department store more than anywhere else that every possible weakness in a girl is detected and traded upon. For while it is true that "wherever many girls are gathered together more or less unprotected and embroiled in the struggle for a livelihood, near by will be hovering the procurers and evil-minded", no other place of employment is so easy of access as the department store. No visitor is received in a factory or office unless he has definite business there, whereas every purchaser is welcome at a department store, even a notorious woman well known to represent the demi-monde trade is treated with marked courtesy if she spends large sums of money. The primary danger lies in the fact that the comely saleswomen are thus easy of access. The disreputable young man constantly passes in and out, making small purchases from every pretty girl, opening an acquaintance with complimentary remarks; or the procuress, a fashionably-dressed woman, buys clothing in large amounts, sometimes for a young girl by her side, ostensibly her daughter. She condoles with the saleswoman upon her hard lot and lack of pleasure, and in the role of a kindly, prosperous matron invites her to come to her own home for a good time. The girl is sometimes subjected to temptation through the men and women in her own department, who tell her how invitations to dinners and theatres may be procured. It is not surprising that so many of these young, inexperienced girls are either deceived or yield to temptation in spite of the efforts made to protect them by the management and by the older women in the establishment.
The department store has brought together, as has never been done before in history, a bewildering mass of delicate and beautiful fabrics, jewelry and household decorations such as women covet, gathered skilfully from all parts of the world, and in the midst of this bulk of desirable possessions is placed an untrained girl with careful instructions as to her conduct for making sales, but with no guidance in regard to herself. Such a girl may be bitterly lonely, but she is expected to smile affably all day long upon a throng of changing customers. She may be without adequate clothing, although she stands in an emporium where it is piled about her, literally as high as her head. She may be faint for want of food but she may not sit down lest she assume "an attitude of inertia and indifference," which is against the rules. She may have a great desire for pretty things, but she must sell to other people at least twenty-five times the amount of her own salary, or she will not be retained. Because she is of the first generation of girls which has stood alone in the midst of trade, she is clinging and timid, and yet the only person, man or woman, in this commercial atmosphere who speaks to her of the care and protection which she craves, is seeking to betray her. Because she is young and feminine, her mind secretly dwells upon a future lover, upon a home, adorned with the most enticing of the household goods about her, upon a child dressed in the filmy fabrics she tenderly touches, and yet the only man who approaches her there acting upon the knowledge of this inner life of hers, does it with the direct intention of playing upon it in order to despoil her. Is it surprising that the average human nature of these young girls cannot, in many instances, endure this strain? Of fifteen thousand women employed in the down-town department stores of Chicago, the majority are Americans. We all know that the American girl has grown up in the belief that the world is hers from which to choose, that there is ordinarily no limit to her ambition or to her definition of success. She realizes that she is well mannered and well dressed and does not appear unlike most of her customers. She sees only one aspect of her countrywomen who come shopping, and she may well believe that the chief concern of life is fashionable clothing. Her interest and ambition almost inevitably become thoroughly worldly, and from the very fact that she is employed down town, she obtains an exaggerated idea of the luxury of the illicit life all about her, which is barely concealed.
The fifth volume of the report of "Women and Child Wage Earners" in the United States gives the result of a careful inquiry into "the relation of wages to the moral condition of department store women." In connection with this, the investigators secured "the personal histories of one hundred immoral women," of whom ten were or had been employed in a department store. They found that while only one of the ten had been directly induced to leave the store for a disreputable life, six of them said that they had found "it was easier to earn money that way." The report states that the average employee in a department store earns about seven dollars a week, and that the average income of the one hundred immoral women covered by the personal histories, ranged from fifty dollars a week to one hundred dollars a week in exceptional cases. It is of these exceptional cases that the department store girl hears, and the knowledge becomes part of the unreality and glittering life that is all about her.
Another class of young women which is especially exposed to this alluring knowledge is the waitress in down-town cafes and restaurants. A recent investigation of girls in the segregated district of a neighboring city places waiting in restaurants and hotels as highest on the list of "previous occupations." Many waitresses are paid so little that they gratefully accept any fee which men may offer them. It is also the universal habit for customers to enter into easy conversation while being served. Some of them are lonely young men who have few opportunities to speak to women. The girl often quite innocently accepts an invitation for an evening, spent either in a theatre or dance hall, with no evil results, but this very lack of social convention exposes her to danger. Even when the proprietor means to protect the girls, a certain amount of familiarity must be borne, lest their resentment should diminish the patronage of the cafe. In certain restaurants, moreover, the waitresses doubtless suffer because the patrons compare them with the girls who ply their trade in disreputable saloons under the guise of serving drinks.
The following story would show that mere friendly propinquity may constitute a danger. Last summer an honest, straightforward girl from a small lake town in northern Michigan was working in a Chicago cafe, sending every week more than half of her wages of seven dollars to her mother and little sister, ill with tuberculosis, at home. The mother owned the little house in which she lived, but except for the vegetables she raised in her own garden and an occasional payment for plain sewing, she and her younger daughter were dependent upon the hard-working girl in Chicago. The girl's heart grew heavier week by week as the mother's letters reported that the sister was daily growing weaker. One hot day in August she received a letter from her mother telling her to come at once if she "would see sister before she died." At noon that day when sickened by the hot air of the cafe, and when the clatter of dishes, the buzz of conversation, the orders shouted through the slide seemed but a hideous accompaniment to her tormented thoughts, she was suddenly startled by hearing the name of her native town, and realized that one of her regular patrons was saying to her that he meant to take a night boat to M. at 8 o'clock and get out of this "infernal heat." Almost involuntarily she asked him if he would take her with him. Although the very next moment she became conscious what his consent implied, she did not reveal her fright, but merely stipulated that if she went with him he must agree to buy her a return ticket. She reached home twelve hours before her sister died, but when she returned to Chicago a week later burdened with the debt of an undertaker's bill, she realized that she had discovered a means of payment.
All girls who work down town are at a disadvantage as compared to factory girls, who are much less open to direct inducement and to the temptations which come through sheer imitation. Factory girls also have the protection of working among plain people who frankly designate an irregular life, in harsh, old-fashioned terms. If a factory girl catches sight of the vicious life at all, she sees its miserable victims in all the wretchedness and sordidness of their trade in the poorer parts of the city. As she passes the opening doors of a disreputable saloon she may see for an instant three or four listless girls urging liquor upon men tired out with the long day's work and already sodden with drink. As she hurries along the street on a rainy night she may hear a sharp cry of pain from a sick-looking girl whose arm is being brutally wrenched by a rough man, and if she stops for a moment she catches his muttered threats in response to the girl's pleading "that it is too bad a night for street work." She sees a passing policeman shrug his shoulders as he crosses the street, and she vaguely knows that the sick girl has put herself beyond the protection of the law, and that the rough man has an understanding with the officer on the beat. She has been told that certain streets are "not respectable," but a furtive look down the length of one of them reveals only forlorn and ill-looking houses, from which all suggestion of homely domesticity has long since gone; a slovenly woman with hollow eyes and a careworn face holding up the lurching bulk of a drunken man is all she sees of its "denizens," although she may have known a neighbor's daughter who came home to die of a mysterious disease said to be the result of a "fast life," and whose disgraced mother "never again held up her head."
Yet in spite of all this corrective knowledge, the increasing nervous energy to which industrial processes daily accommodate themselves, and the speeding up constantly required of the operators, may at any moment so register their results upon the nervous system of a factory girl as to overcome her powers of resistance. Many a working girl at the end of a day is so hysterical and overwrought that her mental balance is plainly disturbed. Hundreds of working girls go directly to bed as soon as they have eaten their suppers. They are too tired to go from home for recreation, too tired to read and often too tired to sleep. A humane forewoman recently said to me as she glanced down the long room in which hundreds of young women, many of them with their shoes beside them, were standing: "I hate to think of all the aching feet on this floor; these girls all have trouble with their feet, some of them spend the entire evening bathing them in hot water." But aching feet are no more usual than aching backs and aching heads. The study of industrial diseases has only this year been begun by the federal authorities, and doubtless as more is known of the nervous and mental effect of over-fatigue, many moral breakdowns will be traced to this source. It is already easy to make the connection in definite cases: "I was too tired to care," "I was too tired to know what I was doing," "I was dead tired and sick of it all," "I was dog tired and just went with him," are phrases taken from the lips of reckless girls, who are endeavoring to explain the situation in which they find themselves.
Only slowly are laws being enacted to limit the hours of working women, yet the able brief presented to the United States supreme court on the constitutionality of the Oregon ten-hour law for women, based its plea upon the results of overwork as affecting women's health, the grave medical statement constantly broken into by a portrayal of the disastrous effects of over-fatigue upon character. It is as yet difficult to distinguish between the results of long hours and the results of overstrain. Certainly the constant sense of haste is one of the most nerve-racking and exhausting tests to which the human system can be subjected. Those girls in the sewing industry whose mothers thread needles for them far into the night that they may sew without a moment's interruption during the next day; those girls who insert eyelets into shoes, for which they are paid two cents a case, each case containing twenty-four pairs of shoes, are striking victims of the over-speeding which is so characteristic of our entire factory system.
Girls working in factories and laundries are also open to the possibilities of accidents. The loss of only two fingers upon the right hand, or a broken wrist, may disqualify an operator from continuing in the only work in which she is skilled and make her struggle for respectability even more difficult. Varicose veins and broken arches in the feet are found in every occupation in which women are obliged to stand for hours, but at any moment either one may develop beyond purely painful symptoms into crippling incapacity. One such girl recently returning home after a long day's work deliberately sat down upon the floor of a crowded street car, explaining defiantly to the conductor and the bewildered passengers that "her feet would not hold out another minute." A young woman who only last summer broke her hand in a mangle was found in a rescue home in January, explaining her recent experience by the phrase that she was "up against it when leaving the hospital in October."
In spite of many such heart-breaking instances the movement for safeguarding machinery and securing indemnity for industrial accidents proceeds all too slowly. At a recent exhibition in Boston the knife of a miniature guillotine fell every ten seconds to indicate the rate of industrial accidents in the United States. Grisly as was the device, its hideousness might well have been increased had it been able to demonstrate the connection between certain of these accidents and the complete moral disaster which overtook their victims.
Yet factory girls who are subjected to this overstrain and overtime often find their greatest discouragement in the fact that after all their efforts they earn too little to support themselves. One girl said that she had first yielded to temptation when she had become utterly discouraged because she had tried in vain for seven months to save enough money for a pair of shoes. She habitually spent two dollars a week for her room, three dollars for her board, and sixty cents a week for carfare, and she had found the forty cents remaining from her weekly wage of six dollars inadequate to do more than re-sole her old shoes twice. When the shoes became too worn to endure a third soling and she possessed but ninety cents towards a new pair, she gave up her struggle; to use her own contemptuous phrase, she "sold out for a pair of shoes."
Usually the phrases are less graphic, but after all they contain the same dreary meaning: "Couldn't make both ends meet," "I had always been used to having nice things," "Couldn't make enough money to live on," "I got sick and ran behind," "Needed more money," "Impossible to feed and clothe myself," "Out of work, hadn't been able to save." Of course a girl in such a strait does not go out deliberately to find illicit methods of earning money, she simply yields in a moment of utter weariness and discouragement to the temptations she has been able to withstand up to that moment. The long hours, the lack of comforts, the low pay, the absence of recreation, the sense of "good times" all about her which she cannot share, the conviction that she is rapidly losing health and charm, rouse the molten forces within her. A swelling tide of self-pity suddenly storms the banks which have hitherto held her and finally overcomes her instincts for decency and righteousness, as well as the habit of clean living, established by generations of her forebears.
The aphorism that "morals fluctuate with trade" was long considered cynical, but it has been demonstrated in Berlin, in London, in Japan, as well as in several American cities, that there is a distinct increase in the number of registered prostitutes during periods of financial depression and even during the dull season of leading local industries. Out of my own experience I am ready to assert that very often all that is necessary to effectively help the girl who is on the edge of wrong-doing is to lend her money for her board until she finds work, provide the necessary clothing for which she is in such desperate need, persuade her relatives that she should have more money for her own expenditures, or find her another place at higher wages. Upon such simple economic needs does the tried virtue of a good girl sometimes depend.
Here again the immigrant girl is at a disadvantage. The average wage of two hundred newly arrived girls of various nationalities, Poles, Italians, Slovaks, Bohemians, Russians, Galatians, Croatians, Lithuanians, Roumanians, Germans, and Swedes, who were interviewed by the Immigrants' Protective League, was four dollars and a half a week for the first position which they had been able to secure in Chicago. It often takes a girl several weeks to find her first place. During this period of looking for work the immigrant girl is subjected to great dangers. It is at such times that immigrants often exhibit symptoms of that type of disordered mind which alienists pronounce "due to conflict through poor adaptation." I have known several immigrant young men as well as girls who became deranged during the first year of life in America. A young Russian who came to Chicago in the hope of obtaining the freedom and self-development denied him at home, after three months of bitter disillusionment, with no work and insufficient food, was sent to the hospital for the insane. He only recovered after a group of his young countrymen devotedly went to see him each week with promises of work, the companionship at last establishing a sense of unbroken association. I also recall a Polish girl who became utterly distraught after weeks of sleeplessness and anxiety because she could not repay fifty dollars which she had borrowed from a countryman in Chicago for the purpose of bringing her sister to America. Her case was declared hopeless, but when the creditor made reassuring visits to the patient she began to mend and now, five years later, is not only free from debt, but has brought over the rest of the family, whose united earnings are slowly paying for a house and lot. Psychiatry is demonstrating the after-effects of fear upon the minds of children, but little has yet been done to show how far that fear of the future, arising from economic insecurity in the midst of new surroundings, has superinduced insanity among newly arrived immigrants. Such a state of nervous bewilderment and fright, added to that sense of expectation which youth always carries into new surroundings, often makes it easy to exploit the virtue of an immigrant girl. It goes without saying that she is almost always exploited industrially. A Russian girl recently took a place in a Chicago clothing factory at twenty cents a day, without in the least knowing that she was undercutting the wages of even that ill-paid industry. This girl rented a room for a dollar a week and all that she had to eat was given her by a friend in the same lodging house, who shared her own scanty fare with the newcomer.
In the clothing industry trade unionism has already established a minimum wage limit for thousands of women who are receiving the protection and discipline of trade organization and responding to the tonic of self-help. Low wages will doubtless in time be modified by Minimum Wage Boards representing the government's stake in industry, such as have been in successful operation for many years in certain British colonies and are now being instituted in England itself. As yet Massachusetts is the only state which has appointed a special commission to consider this establishment for America, although the Industrial Commission of Wisconsin is empowered to investigate wages and their effect upon the standard of living.
Anyone who has lived among working people has been surprised at the docility with which grown-up children give all of their earnings to their parents. This is, of course, especially true of the daughters. The fifth volume of the governmental report upon "Women and Child Wage Earners in the United States," quoted earlier, gives eighty-four per cent. as the proportion of working girls who turn in all of their wages to the family fund. In most cases this is done voluntarily and cheerfully, but in many instances it is as if the tradition of woman's dependence upon her family for support held long after the actual fact had changed, or as if the tyranny established through generations when daughters could be starved into submission to a father's will, continued even after the roles had changed, and the wages of the girl child supported a broken and dissolute father.
An over-restrained girl, from whom so much is exacted, will sometimes begin to deceive her family by failing to tell them when she has had a raise in her wages. She will habitually keep the extra amount for herself, as she will any overtime pay which she may receive. All such money is invariably spent upon her own clothing, which she, of course, cannot wear at home, but which gives her great satisfaction upon the streets.
The girl of the crowded tenements has no room in which to receive her friends or to read the books through which she shares the lives of assorted heroines, or, better still, dreams of them as of herself. Even if the living-room is not full of boarders or children or washing, it is comfortable neither for receiving friends nor for reading, and she finds upon the street her entire social field; the shop windows with their desirable garments hastily clothe her heroines as they travel the old roads of romance, the street cars rumbling noisily by suggest a delectable somewhere far away, and the young men who pass offer possibilities of the most delightful acquaintance. It is not astonishing that she insists upon clothing which conforms to the ideals of this all-absorbing street and that she will unhesitatingly deceive an uncomprehending family which does not recognize its importance.
One such girl had for two years earned money for clothing by filling regular appointments in a disreputable saloon between the hours of six and half-past seven in the evening. With this money earned almost daily she bought the clothes of her heart's desire, keeping them with the saloon-keeper's wife. She demurely returned to her family for supper in her shabby working clothes and presented her mother with her unopened pay envelope every Saturday night. She began this life at the age of fourteen after her Polish mother had beaten her because she had "elbowed" the sleeves and "cut out" the neck of her ungainly calico gown in a vain attempt to make it look "American." Her mother, who had so conscientiously punished a daughter who was "too crazy for clothes," could never of course comprehend how dangerous a combination is the girl with an unsatisfied love for finery and the opportunities for illicit earning afforded on the street. Yet many sad cases may be traced to such lack of comprehension. Charles Booth states that in England a large proportion of parents belonging to the working and even lower middle classes, are unacquainted with the nature of the lives led by their own daughters, a result doubtless of the early freedom of the street accorded city children. Too often the mothers themselves are totally ignorant of covert dangers. A few days ago I held in my hand a pathetic little pile of letters written by a desperate young girl of fifteen before she attempted to commit suicide. These letters were addressed to her lover, her girl friends, and to the head of the rescue home, but none to her mother towards whom she felt a bitter resentment "because she did not warn me." The poor mother after the death of her husband had gone to live with a married daughter, but as the son-in-law would not "take in two" she had told the youngest daughter, who had already worked for a year as an apprentice in a dressmaking establishment, that she must find a place to live with one of her girl friends. The poor child had found this impossible, and three days after the breaking up of her home she had fallen a victim to a white slave trafficker, who had treated her most cruelly and subjected her to unspeakable indignities. It was only when her "protector" left the city, frightened by the unwonted activity of the police, due to a wave of reform, that she found her way to the rescue home, and in less than five months after the death of her father she had purchased carbolic acid and deliberately "courted death for the nameless child" and herself.
Another experience during which a girl faces a peculiar danger is when she has lost one "job" and is looking for another. Naturally she loses her place in the slack season and pursues her search at the very moment when positions are hardest to find, and her un-employment is therefore most prolonged. Perhaps nothing in our social order is so unorganized and inchoate as our method, or rather lack of method, of placing young people in industry. This is obvious from the point of view of their first positions when they leave school at the unstable age of fourteen, or from the innumerable places they hold later, often as high as ten a year, when they are dismissed or change voluntarily through sheer restlessness. Here again a girl's difficulty is often increased by the lack of sympathy and understanding on the part of her parents. A girl is often afraid to say that she has lost her place and pretends to go to work each morning while she is looking for a new one; she postpones telling them at home day by day, growing more frantic as the usual pay-day approaches. Some girls borrow from loan sharks in order to take the customary wages to their parents, others fall victims to unscrupulous employment agencies in their eagerness to take the first thing offered.
The majority of these girls answer the advertisements in the daily papers as affording the cheapest and safest way to secure a position. These out-of-work girls are found, sometimes as many as forty or fifty at a time, in the rest rooms of the department stores, waiting for the new edition of the newspapers after they have been the rounds of the morning advertisements and have found nothing.
Of course such a possible field as these rest rooms is not overlooked by the procurer, who finds it very easy to establish friendly relations through the offer of the latest edition of the newspaper. Even pennies are precious to a girl out of work and she is also easily grateful to anyone who expresses an interest in her plight and tells her of a position. Two representatives of the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, during a period of three weeks, arrested and convicted seventeen men and three women who were plying their trades in the rest rooms of nine department stores. The managers were greatly concerned over this exposure and immediately arranged both for more intelligent matrons and greater vigilance. One of the less scrupulous stores voluntarily gave up a method of advertising carried on in the rest room itself where a demonstrator from "the beauty counter" made up the faces of the patrons of the rest room with the powder and paint procurable in her department below. The out-of-work girls especially availed themselves of this privilege and hoped that their search would be easier when their pale, woe-begone faces were "made beautiful." The poor girls could not know that a face thus made up enormously increased their risks.
A number of girls also came early in the morning as soon as the rest rooms were open. They washed their faces and arranged their hair and then settled to sleep in the largest and easiest chairs the room afforded. Some of these were out-of-work girls also determined to take home their wages at the end of the week, each pretending to her mother that she had spent the night with a girl friend and was working all day as usual. How much of this deception is due to parental tyranny and how much to a sense of responsibility for younger children or invalids, it is impossible to estimate until the number of such recorded cases is much larger. Certain it is that the long habit of obedience, as well as the feeling of family obligation established from childhood, is often utilized by the white slave trafficker.
Difficult as is the position of the girl out of work when her family is exigent and uncomprehending, she has incomparably more protection than the girl who is living in the city without home ties. Such girls form sixteen per cent. of the working women of Chicago. With absolutely every penny of their meagre wages consumed in their inadequate living, they are totally unable to save money. That loneliness and detachment which the city tends to breed in its inhabitants is easily intensified in such a girl into isolation and a desolating feeling of belonging nowhere. All youth resents the sense of the enormity of the universe in relation to the insignificance of the individual life, and youth, with that intense self-consciousness which makes each young person the very centre of all emotional experience, broods over this as no older person can possibly do. At such moments a black oppression, the instinctive fear of solitude, will send a lonely girl restlessly to walk the streets even when she is "too tired to stand," and when her desire for companionship in itself constitutes a grave danger. Such a girl living in a rented room is usually without any place in which to properly receive callers. An investigation was recently made in Kansas City of 411 lodging-houses in which young girls were living; less than 30 per cent. were found with a parlor in which guests might be received. Many girls quite innocently permit young men to call upon them in their bedrooms, pitifully disguised as "sitting-rooms," but the danger is obvious, and the standards of the girl gradually become lowered.
Certainly during the trying times when a girl is out of work she should have much more intelligent help than is at present extended to her; she should be able to avail herself of the state employment agencies much more than is now possible, and the work of the newly established vocational bureaus should be enormously extended.