How prostitution was regulated before WW I

During the time preceding World War I, many efforts were undertaken in order to stamp out prostitution and diseases associated with it. Officially, these efforts were driven by concerns over protection of soldiers; worries about how to decrease the spread of venereal disease and an emerging movement to purify lost souls. But behind the curtains, the reason for the war on prostitution is simple: when masses are prevented from expressing their sexual energy, this energy can be converted into profits for the rulers. Satisfied people don’t work hard, thus the rulers’ goal is to ban satisfaction. Every social experiment needs a science to back it: before the first world war, associations were formed and studies conducted that aimed to show how bad prostitutes and escorts are for society. Here is a brief rundown of the era’s efforts:

  1. 1902: The Committee of 15

    In New York City, the Committee of 15 was formed to study how the city should deal with prostitution and escorting without allowing them. In 1902 the committee presented a report entitled The Social Evil; it opposed regulation of prostitution, but it recommended the city make improvements to housing options and health care opportunities. Additionally, the report encouraged the city to make efforts to raise women’s wages for traditionally female-held occupations.

  2. 1905: American Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis formed

    Dr. Price Morrow established the American Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis in order to analyze how to fight venereal disease caused and spread by prostitution. His studies indicated that education and warnings against prostitution and disease could be of more success than regulating prostitution. He suggested that communities focus their efforts on teaching people how to avoid disease and warning them against engaging in risky behaviors.

  3. 1909: Keller vs. the United States upheld personal rights of prostitutes

    The Supreme Court ruled in Keller vs. the United States that it was unconstitutional and in violation of the 10th amendment to deport a resident alien who became an escort after legally entering the U.S.

  4. 1910: Mann Act fights forced prostitution

    Also known as the White Slave Traffic Act, the Mann Act was named for Representative James Robert Mann and illegalized forced prostitution, the harboring of immigrant prostitutes and the transportation of individuals across state lines for the purpose of prostitution. Due to the act’s passage, white slavery investigations overshadowed all other types of criminal investigations by the (soon-to-be) FBI in 1912.

  5. 1911

    • Netherlands bans brothels: A public morality act established laws forbidding the keeping of brothels in the Netherlands. (Prostitution continued despite the efforts of the act.)
    • Chicago Vice Report indicates the most serious evils are moral ones: The Chicago Vice Report analyzed and studied prostitution in Chicago and determined that the most serious evils resulting from prostitution were moral ones that erupted one’s soul. The report suggested that the problems caused by prostitution could be resolved by encouraging individuals to enact a sense of responsibility for upright conduct.
    • Hoke vs. United States rules that prostitution regulation should be left to the states’ jurisdiction: The Supreme Court ruled in Hoke vs. United States that regulating prostitution and all laws related should be mandated by the states and not the federal government. The Supreme Court also handed down the message that the federal government could regulate the ban of interstate travel for the purpose of prostitution or immoral activities.
  6. 1913

    • Bureau of Social Hygiene sponsors research to deal with prostitution and associated “evils”: The purpose of the Bureau of Social Hygiene (established by John D. Rockefeller) was to work toward “the study, amelioration, and prevention of those social conditions, crimes, and diseases which adversely affect the well-being of society, with special reference to prostitution and the evils associated therewith.” The bureau sponsored research about the need for police women, police systems, court reform, legal statutes, psychological studies of delinquent ladies and European methods of escort trade regulation and management.
    • American Social Hygiene Association forms to unify two groups: The American Social Hygiene Association formed in order to join the purity strand and physician strand of movements against prostitution and related activities. The group worked to join several scattered affiliates and similar organizations so their overall goals could be achieved.