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RESCUE AND REFORM.
The Social Evil presents one of the sombre phases of modern life. Perhaps there is no problem more complex and baffling within the range of present day experience. The evils of which it is the cause and the perils with which it besets the lives of even the purest and least suspecting members of the social order afford ample justification for the most earnest efforts to abate and conquer it.
In the discussion of the means of rescue and reform, it is natural that emphasis should be placed upon institutions and agencies which have proved of value or promised relief. Yet it must be remembered that the most serious evils of this traffic in virtue are not physical but moral, and that the most effective means of counteracting them must ever be in the elevation of the moral sentiment of the community to a sense of individual responsibility for upright conduct in behalf of decency and virtue.
The safety of the city as of the nation, lies in the intelligence, morality and ethical sensitiveness of the people. And the agencies, educational, moral and religious, which inspire and promote these qualities are the truest safeguards.
With a sure and unfailing emphasis upon these primary factors in the problem it is appropriate that attention be given to the specific problems connected with the work of rescue and reform.
A. Social changes. The community is undergoing great economic social and political changes which affect the status of respectable women. They are evidenced by:
I. The disproportionate increase in the number of wage carning women as compared with wage earning men, and with female population. The twelfth census (1900) reports that 6,000,000 women were then wage earners outside their homes, and it is anticipated that the thirteenth census (1910) will find 9,000,000 women engaged in wage earning pursuits. Between 1890-1900 gainfully employed women increased .more rapidly than gainfully employed men in number, and more rapidly than the female population.
II. The disintegration of the older forms of family life and multiplication of divorces obtained on the motion of the wife: During the past twenty years 954,000 divorces have been granted in the United States; two-thirds at the request of women who in most cases have assumed the burden of supporting themselves, and often of supporting their children.
III. The gradual admission of women to political privileges: For all constitutional governments tend to give at least the municipal franchise to women. While these changes are not of such a character as to promise the overthrow of the institution of prostitution, they throw a new light on the causes which lead women into immoral and disreputable lives, and must be considered in framing any program for the rescue and reform of women who have become disreputable. It is of the essence of the immoral act that the two sexes are involved. The question of the immoral man is, however, left to other reports1 while this discussion is devoted exclusively to the girl, semi-delinquent or delinquent, and the woman, semi-professional or professional.
B. Reasons for Choice of Immoral Life by Women. One result of these changes in the status of respectable women is a gradual alteration in the attitude of respectable women towards their disreputable sisters, and the recognition of the fact that the position of the disreputable woman can be readily understood only when the effect
of these changes upon the tastes, the possibilities, the opportunities I of reputable women is considered. The problem then of rescue and
reform of these women who have supplied the demand' for purposes of prostitution has now been recognized as one belonging to the whole community, to be solved only with the help of both decent men and women, and as one so complicated that the formulation of adequate recommendations is extremely difficult.
A brief discussion of the apparent causes for the selection of this life by women is essential to a discussion of their subsequent rescue from it. A removal of these causes would act in a preventive manner. Until they are removed subsequent and remedial treatment of some kind will remain necessary. The difficulties which surround the various efforts to care for and reform girls and prostitutes are
1See Chapter V, “Child Protection and Education," page 240.
largely inherent in social life and industrial conditions. Social institutions and public opinion lag behind industrial demands, and of no conditions is this more true than of those under which women and girls offer themselves in the labor market; and it is true not only of conditions in Chicago but in the entire United States, in England, and on the Continent.
In public opinion, also, women prostitutes have been in the past all grouped together; young and old, confirmed prostitutes and girls who have made but their first misstep, were all placed in one class, as impelled into the life by their own evil inclinations.
This naive explanation to account for such a prevalent institution still survives among those whose experience of life has been so limited as to allow them no conception of the subtle and complicated social conditions which produce the social evil.
In the public conscience neither was any discrimination made between the various degrees of responsibility for evil-doing, nor any effort exerted in economic or social directions to lessen the supply, and return the victims to society, which has never in law or education sufficiently recognized the strength and force of the sex instinct.
This instinct has been ignored in educational methods, and society • has sought to correct its abuses by punishing the woman, and by ex
acting from her absolute chastity under pain of social death. Thus the evil, nourished by silence, unchecked by wise enlightenment, has grown apace. The social conscience, however, is now awakening, and recognizes that the causes which produce the social evil, which in truth is the most unsocial of all evils, are as varied as the individuals who supply the demand.
Among these causes a few may be enumerated. The economic stress of industrial life on unskilled workers, with its enfeebling influence on the will power; the large number of seasonal trades in which women are especially engaged; unhappy homes; careless and ignorant parents; broken promises; love of ease and luxury; the craving for excitement and change; lack of both ethical teaching and religious conviction; ignorance of hygiene; all these are more or less contributing causes. But above all is the fact that "commercialized vice" is now a business in which but a small part of the profits are paid to the women, who are exploited for the benefit of certain groups
of men; and parallel with this is the further fact that certain classes of women have discovered that luxuries and ease come to them when they sell their bodies, rather than the work of their hands,—“It is the easiest way."
1. Unfavorable Home. Conditions. First among these should be named unfavorable home conditions and family relationships. Where the parents are drunken, immoral, degraded, the home crowded and filthy, and the child neglected and abused, there is little hope of the girl escaping sex-violation. Such consequences are illustrated by the experience of the girls now in the State Home for Girls at Geneva.
Among 168 girls in that institution at one time (Summer 1908) 30 were the daughters of drunken fathers, 8 had drunken mothers, 20 had fathers of vicious habits, '16 were children of immoral or vicious mothers. In the families of 12 there were others of criminal or vicious habits; 24 were children of fathers who had deserted the family; 11 were illegitimate, and 10 were victims of gross cruelty. Twenty-nine of these girls had already been in houses of prostitution, 13 had sisters who were immoral, 31 country girls at Geneva and 16 Chicago girls each testified that the companion of her first experience was a member of her own family. Of course it is apparent that in . many of these instances more than one of the unhappy conditions would be operative, so that some overlapping must be recognized. Many other instances could be obtained from among the girls who have been wards of the Juvenile Court.1
More serious still are the cases of venereal infection in families where some member of the group, usually the father, spreads the disease. In one case under observation, the father, while living away from home became infected. A few weeks later he came home and infected a six year old daughter.2 Often when the home is not entirely degraded there are conditions of crowding and poverty which lead to misfortune. Working all day, the girls are often obliged to help at home in the evening; and if they live in a crowded house, they must go on the streets to receive their friends. They are thus practically forced on the street for social life.
1See Chapter IV, "Sources of Supply," page 228.