Containing the Cesspool to Conspiracy of Silence

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Maintaining Social Superiority Of White Southern Female Patriotism Through The Destruction Of Legalized Prostitution, 1860-1917

Blair Hackett

Butler University

December 15, 2021

Introduction

The market for prostitution flourished in Southern cities occupied by the Union military during the Civil War, which parallels the growing importance of white Southern female patriotism that supported the war efforts of the South. The Confederacy relied on white Southern female patriotism to protect and maintain the racial hierarchy essential to the functioning of Southern society, which valued white superiority and feminine ideals of purity, vulnerability, and loyalty. White women played the valuable role of ensuring these expectations were met, especially as they had a stake in the hierarchy within their own homes. If the Confederacy were to lose, women would no longer have a position of power within their homes. Despite these values, Union military officials sanctioned the legalization of prostitution within occupied cities during the war to regulate the spread of disease. However, this threatened white women’s position and signaled for their advocacy of reform to regain a higher social position as morally superior. After a period of legalized prostitution in Southern Union-occupied cities during the Civil War, its subsequent recriminalization can be attributed to white women’s fears of losing power in the context of emancipation.

Civil War Era

The domestic sphere was a battlefield in which white women participated in the Civil War, solidifying white Southern patriotic womanhood and the expectations it carried. The context of the domestic sphere and domestic actions during the Civil War is important to understanding the recriminalization of prostitution after the war because it indicates an important defining moment for the creation of white Southern patriotic womanhood through the politicization of white women’s bodies.

The war for Southerners was deeply connected to the domestic sphere because slaves worked within white homes, interacting with the domestic sphere. Women held power within the domestic sphere by holding power over slaves who worked within their homes. However, if the war was lost and slavery abolished, women would have lost the power they held over someone else in the domestic sphere but remain in a subordinate position when compared to her husband or other men in both the public and domestic sphere. In the process of emancipation, white women recognized that they would lose power in their own homes and that remaining loyal to the Confederacy also meant ensuring that they remain in a power position within the home.[1] If not only freed black slaves, but black women, gained autonomy or, even worse for white women, if they gained respectability, white women had no class below them, stripping them of the only power they could have in the public and domestic sphere. Therefore, domestic actions were significant in the war efforts by shifting the domestic sphere into “the realm of public patriotism.”[2] White patriotism for women included protecting the institution of slavery to maintain power in the newly redefined domestic sphere as a public battlefield.

The Union military exploited the importance of the home and domestic sphere, transforming it from a symbolically significant site in the war to a physical site of political actions. Union soldiers would invade the home of Southern women and ransack their bedrooms, sometimes pulling out their intimate clothing to display. These soldiers showed a clear understanding of the way Southern women valued the intimacy of their own homes, especially their bedrooms, and they used this to their advantage.[3] The Union continuously forced Southern women to take on the burden of the war, expecting them to become more hostile towards their husbands for not protecting them. However, in most cases this made women more hostile towards the Union for choosing to violate social etiquette in the first place.[4] During the destruction of their homes by Union soldiers, women began hiding their most precious belongings on their bodies to protect them because the soldiers had displayed their willingness to violate the norms that governed the domestic sphere, but women “maintained their belief that gender norms, especially those that governed behavior in regards to a woman’s body, would be one thing that Yankees would not break.”[5] A woman’s body became a useful and powerful tool used for political acts.  

The use of a woman’s body was further politicized during the war as sex and relationships became political acts as well. In 1863, thirteen men and thirteen women were banished by order of the U.S. Secretary of War and sent across enemy lines for “corresponding with the enemy” through their relationships with someone on the opposing side.[6] The women punished “were all guilty of maintaining their domestic relationships to their men, even to the point of violating the stated regional and political lines” and in many cases the person they were communicating to was their spouse who went to fight for the opposing side’s military.[7] During this time, the actions of white women were highly politicized, including acts of a sexual nature. Therefore, hostility towards prostitution during the war is not only based on violations of Southern womanhood but also violations of Southern female patriotism.

The context of this white Southern female patriotism is important to the understanding of white women’s reactions to prostitution during the Civil War. Several Union-occupied Southern cities legalized prostitution during the war despite public opinion being primarily against prostitution. Some of the most notable cities include Nashville, New Orleans, and St. Louis. According to scholars like Clinton and Smolak, the legalization of prostitution in these cities was based in attempts to stop the spread of venereal diseases.[8] Clinton writes, “the Civil War was the primary cause of the largest increase in the sex trade in the nineteenth century, perhaps the single greatest spurt of growth in the nation’s history.”[9] Military officials were highly concerned with the spread of venereal diseases and the ways it would impact their soldiers. Resources show that “among white troops, 82 per thousand soldiers per year reported venereal diseases,” however death caused by venereal diseases were rare.[10] Recognizing the growing number of soldiers afflicted with these diseases, Lt. Col. George Spalding, an officer in Union occupied Nashville, made recommendations to regulate prostitution in order to mandate health inspections for prostitutes. These recommendations made Nashville the first city in the country to legalize prostitution. Legalization created mandatory health screenings for every prostitute and required registration with the threat of being prosecuted if found to be operating without a government-issued license.[11] In January 1864, 300 licenses were issued and by August the city had 456 licensed prostitutes.[12] Despite the military’s actions to legalize prostitution, it does not necessarily reflect the same reluctant acceptance of the public. The people of the South remained vehemently opposed to legalized prostitution.

Many Southern women during this time had been displaced by the war and were impoverished because of lost wages of themselves or someone they depended upon. Due to the influx of Union men in the cities they occupied, there was a lucrative market for prostitution. Therefore, prostitution was primarily Southern women selling sex to Union men. These “public women”[13] as they were called, violated every tenet of the previously established white Southern patriotic womanhood. In describing the prostitutes in Montana, Murphy writes, “They were ‘public women,’ belonging to all men, not one man, and therefore not quite women at all.”[14] While this description is used in the context of Montanan prostitutes, the same can be said for Southern prostitutes as well. With the value placed upon the female white Southerner’s body during the war, the use of their body to profit from Union men violated gender expectations, which made prostitution highly demonized.

Due to the South’s history with slavery, Southern society was familiar with the act of putting a price on a person, so this context plays an important role in the demonization of prostitution by white Southern women. Not only did prostitutes engage with the enemy, disregard the purity of femininity valued by Southern women, but they also used their bodies as property to exchange for money in the same way that black bodies had been used as property, violating the racial component of white Southern female patriotism. In the context of the Civil War and emancipation, “prostitution may have provided a way for women, especially enslaved and freed women of color, to seek an advantage in an economy that already defined them as a potential commodity.”[15] Unfortunately, not many statistics are available regarding black prostitution in the South during the war for a variety of reasons, primarily the lack of respect, humanity, and autonomy afforded to black women.[16] However, by 1900 in Storyville, a district with legalized prostitution in New Orleans, black prostitutes made up 38 percent of those working within the district and it can be inferred that there were black prostitutes beforehand as well.[17] Therefore, black women identified the market which had already exploited their labor and bodies and used it to their advantage to profit from a society that already viewed them with a price tag. The white women who engaged in prostitution in the South at this time took advantage of the same market, especially with black male clients. Faulkner writes, “In a society that excluded enslaved men from the prerogatives of manhood, visiting brothels offered fleeting access to the dominant male culture. For non-slaveholding white men, buying the services of prostitutes provided a brief chance at mastery over women and slaves.”[18] Black men frequented prostitutes in part to reclaim this power, similar to white women’s attempts to keep prostitutes in a subordinate position to claim their power in the domestic sphere.

Post-War

In 1965 the Union military evacuated the city and was no longer the governing body, so legalized prostitution in Nashville ended as the regulatory system faded.[19] However, even though it was no longer decriminalized, the police were generally permissive to prostitution within certain districts, as was the case in many other cities around the country. Districts known for a concentrated area of prostitution and other sex work –red-light districts –were selectively policed in many cities previously occupied by Union soldiers, such as Storyville, New Orleans and Black Bottom, Nashville. Newspapers during the time condemned the acceptance of prostitution in Southern cities. An 1886 article published in The Tennessean states that the citizens “demand of the city authorities that they at once enforce the law against all law-breakers alike, and that all low dives and houses of prostitution in Black Bottom be at once cleaned out in order that all respectable citizens may pass to and from their businesses without being assaulted by thieves and vagabonds.”[20] In the years after the Civil War, prostitution continued in these segregated districts, deregulated but not quite illegal. However, the public continued to express that it was vehemently against prostitution.

A dichotomy arose between the demonization of prostitution in the South for violating white Southern female patriotism and the victimization of the same women for the same thing. Foster argues, “Society at the turn of the century had created a paradox of ideals. Womanhood was viewed as a symbol of purity and virtue. Once fallen, however, women were regarded as evil, tainted, and a threat to common morals.”[21] Despite holding hostility towards prostitutes, white women and Southern society in general believed there was a higher power controlling women who entered prostitution: white slavery. This hostility was still informed by the violation of white Southern female patriotism, with an emphasis on nationalism. Since the war was lost, white women lost the power in their homes they were grasping to hold onto during the war. Instead, they were again on the bottom of the hierarchy. While prostitution was legal, white women could only blame a moral failing but not a criminal one. By recriminalizing prostitution, white women could assert their power over the lower, criminal class.

The decriminalization of prostitution during the Civil War informed the creation of a moral crusade in opposition of prostitution. A new threat to reformers appeared as military officers and physicians established the need for legalized and regulated prostitution. The threat grew when these cities did not immediately recriminalize and deregulate prostitution.[22] After having failed to prevent the abolition of slavery which would have protected white women’s status as not at the bottom of the social hierarchy, Southern society needed a new class at the bottom, which white women indicated would be the socially impure “fallen women” who had violated white Southern female patriotism. Afterall, Southern prostitutes had established their willingness to violate gender norms, patriotism, and race standards during Union occupation, so they had already proven their immorality to white women. During the National Purity Congress in 1896, where reformers gathered to discuss the social evil of prostitution, Antoinette Brown Blackwell stated, “The time must come when the bribery of female virtue will be thought more vile than any other suborning of the human conscience.”[23] Laura H. Satterthwaite later in the conference argued, “Fight as you never fought before to barricade unchaste woman from securing a stand where she can flaunt to the breeze the flag of defiance and our children taught to look upon her deference.”[24] Speaking about mixed race children, Martha Schofield Aiken stated that “the social evil is written everywhere in the color of the children born since the war.”[25] Advocates for the recriminalization of prostitution perceived it to be the utmost moral failing, occasionally using language that also indicated the belief that race-mixing was a moral failing as well. These violations of white Southern female patriotism, while not always being demonized by only white Southern women, were at the basis of the arguments for recriminalization.

This social evil perspective coincided with a shift away from the public health perspective that considered prostitution inevitable and its regulation necessary to slow the spread of disease. Many anti-prostitution activists sought to change the perspective that frequenting prostitutes was “male sexual necessity” once men were home from the war and believed that the spread of disease would cease when prostitution was recriminalized.[26] Soldiers returned home with venereal diseases and often infected their wives. It was so common that it became known as the “medical secret;” if a woman caught a venereal disease from her husband, it was common practice for doctors to fail to inform their patient how she could have contracted the disease.[27] When white women began to contract the same venereal diseases their husbands had caught from frequenting prostitutes during the war and, the rhetoric of opposition shifted from medical necessity to social evil.[28]

Most prominent of arguments in favor of the recriminalization of prostitution was the fear of “white slavery.” In terms of this fear, Murphy argues, “While repulsed by prostitution, many Victorians were sympathetic to prostitutes, imagining them to have been trapped by white slavers, driven to sexual commerce by dire economic need, or seduced, abandoned then ‘honor-bound’ to take the only course left open to a ruined woman –prostitution.”[29] After the pervasiveness of white Southern female patriotism in the South, there was a belief that women could not possibly willingly choose to engage in prostitution and that they must have been forced into it in some capacity. There was no way for a woman to have chosen to do these immoral things on her own. White slavery was a convenient way to explain how women who had been expected to uphold feminine ideals such as “helplessness, passivity, and notions of freedom from any association with sexual desire, initiative, or responsibility.”[30] Women were not abandoning white Southern female patriotism, they were being lured away from it. There were countless stories spread to make people aware of the evils of prostitution, including stories of very young girls to scare the public. Mary Charlton Edholm, a journalist writing about prostitution, recounted a story at the National Purity Congress where she had visited an elaborate home that housed prostitutes. She stated,

There sat eight or ten of the most beautiful little girls I ever saw, and not one of them was over sixteen years of age. There they sat, dressed in their little short dresses, just as mother dressed them… And as I looked at them I could think of nothing but a lot of little lambs waiting for the slaughterer’s knife. And, beloved, if some man had taken a knife and drawn it across the throat of every one and left her weltering in her blood on that splendid carpet it would not have been one ten-thousandth so bad as what she was waiting for[31]

It is important to acknowledge that young girls were trafficked and forced to participate in prostitution involuntarily. The 1870 Census in Nashville labeled one thirteen-year-old girl as a prostitute, along with her sisters.[32] Around this time, many states were creating and raising age of consent laws, so it may not have been illegal at the time, but the laws shifted soon after, indicating that there was a general recognition that thirteen is too young to consent.[33] However, stories of victims of trafficking were weaponized to support the white slavery argument against prostitution for the benefit of reformers while erasing the experiences of those who voluntarily chose prostitution. For white women in the South, the use of white slavery rhetoric was a way for them to save themselves from being placed in the lowest class of immoral criminals; they were able to become victims of a social evil rather than perpetrators of it.

The term “white slavery” extended beyond only white women. The complicated genealogy of the term in the late nineteenth century into the early twentieth century is rooted in “not only discourses of exploited white labor but also of the abolitionist strategy that emphasized the sexual exploitation of black women slaves.”[34] It also included vulnerable female immigrants who could be easily tricked into prostitution, such as in the film Traffic in Souls.[35] Therefore, a white slave could be a woman of nearly any race who was involuntarily involved in prostitution. However, there is no separating white slavery from race despite the claims of scholars. In the context of the South after the war, white women used the term to describe women who violated their perception of white Southern femininity, but the term was only used to include women of other races when the story of white slavery benefitted them. Non-white women were only categorized as white through the rhetoric of white slavery when white women wished for them to be perceived as victims, but as soon as non-white prostitutes were perpetrators, they no longer had the protection of whiteness. In these instances, immigrant prostitutes stopped being considered white when they threatened the nationalism woven in white Southern female patriotism.

Advocacy for the recriminalization of prostitution in previously Union occupied Southern cities was nationalistic. White Southern female patriotism remained strong in the early twentieth century as immigration indicated a threat to the nation and reinforced the concept that white women could not willingly abandon their ideals and instead it was forced upon them. When immigration threatened nationalism, white slavery no longer applied to immigrants and immigrants then became the perpetrators of the social evil being inflicted upon white women. Immigrant women were thought to have lower standards and be less respectable, being responsible for moral degradation related to prostitution.[36] Smolak argues,

Placing the blame on foreigners appears consistent with the social need of native-born Protestant elites to see prostitution as something coming from the outside and something that ‘our’ women would never be engaged in unless forced…The white slavery view of prostitution is that of women as victims in need of saving; however, there is an aspect of control and dominance that shows itself when the white slavery conservation includes concerns over the nation’s honor.[37]

 Framing women as victims of white slavery while blaming immigrant women for the immorality that causes prostitution is a symptom of white Southern female patriotism utilized by white women to reinforce their dominant position above a lower class of immigrants and prostitutes.

 Some activists saw anti-prostitution reform as an opportunity to advocate for women’s suffrage and fair working conditions. A 1912 article in The Tennessean states, “Every employer who does not give his woman worker a living wage is contributing to this evil.”[38] The article argues that women often turn to prostitution because women are not paid enough in legal occupations. Still using language of victimization, some argued that prostitutes were “victim of economic necessity” and turned to prostitution out of desperation and lack of options.[39] While this is not completely inaccurate, it also erases the agency of prostitutes like many of the other arguments do. This was also an opportunity to advocate for women’s suffrage because the public opinion was generally against prostitution. Women argued that if they were given the right to vote their vote would go towards ending legalized prostitution. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WTCU) advocated against prostitution by focusing on morality and white slavery. However, Smolak notes, “Concurrently, the WCTU advocated the vote for women as a means to elevate the status of women and reduce the impact of white slavery through what today could be thought of as an empowerment perspective.”[40] This argument once again was based in the attempts to promote white women’s dominant position because although not always explicitly stated, this reform was intended only for white women.

Storyville, New Orleans

 Storyville is a notable example of a legalized red-light district with its own unique history. Although it has a distinct history, it still follows the pattern laid out previously. As with other Union-occupied cities during the Civil War, prostitution was a profitable market and grew throughout its occupation. However, there was not an established segregated legalized red-light district until 1897 when Mayor Story issued an ordinance creating a legal vice district, naming it after himself.[41] It is unclear as to the exact reasoning behind the creation of this ordinance, but it can be assumed that it was both profitable, as seen in Crowley, Louisiana,[42] and faced similar issues with attempting to control the spread of disease as Nashville. Shumksy asserts that segregated red-light districts are accepted because although it may represent what many believed was a social evil, it also created a boundary between what was acceptable and unacceptable.[43] This would create a border based on disease, race, and social class that was beneficial to the position of white women within the social hierarchy.

As the public opinion was generally opposed to prostitution and perceived it to be a moral evil, segregation acted to isolate the “cesspool.”[44] Only those with the same sense of immorality would visit the location so instead of infecting the entire population, prostitutes would only have contact with people of the same morals. By making the district so visible it was also in a sense making prostitutes invisible. It would be much easier for people to avoid any interaction with prostitutes in general.[45] Shumsky argues, “The existence of the district allowed people to declare themselves openly –to accept or reject the new standard of morality.”[46] Avoiding segregated districts made those who chose to stay out of them visible, allowing white women who opposed prostitution to clearly distinguish themselves as morally superior.

Race also played a large role in Storyville’s segregated red-light district because as stated previously, in 1900, 38 percent of prostitutes in the district were black and white women wanted to create distance between themselves and black prostitutes.[47] By 1917, the “revulsion of interracial sex led city officials to segregate the already segregated,” creating two separate districts where black and white prostitutes would operate separately.[48] Much of the rhetoric around prostitution was already racialized, as madams and prostitutes capitalized on the fantasies based on power dynamics of subordinate nonwhite women and dominant white men.[49] White women wanted to clearly distinguish themselves from those selling sex, especially black women. However, they were still vocal about their disdain for prostitution.

In 1917, the rhetoric surrounding prostitution as a social evil and moral failing continued to grow so the federal government took initiative to end prostitution in Storyville. In October, federal legislation banned prostitution within five miles any navy base, essentially shutting town prostitution in the entire district in which it was legal.[50] New Orleans ended prostitution with the Secretary of the Navy threatening the mayor, “You close the red-light district, or the armed forces will.”[51] According to The Times, “the women of New Orleans’ segregated district Tuesday [November 13, 1917] applied to the supreme court for a writ of mandamus to compel Judge Fred D. King of the civil district court to grant them an injunction, forbidding the city from placing into effect the ordinance enacted October 6, which forbids operation of any house of ill fame in the restricted section.”[52] However, the next day the Supreme Court of Louisiana rejected the application and allowed the closing of the Storyville district.[53] Platt and Hill explain, “With the return of servicemen from World War I, socially acceptable employment, already limited for women, became practically unavailable; therefore prostitution survived as a profession.”[54] As was the case in presumably every city that recriminalized prostitution, it never completely ended even though it became illegal again.

Legacy

Prostitution never ended in any of these cities. Legal prostitution professionalized the occupation, affording women with government-issued credentials and organizing abilities. It created a cohesive group of women who had regular meeting spots for their health inspections and a community within segregated red-light districts.[55] After years of legalized prostitution in which women learned the trade through decades of observation and experience, recriminalization had large effects.[56] Women had to relocate after having already been labeled as a prostitute, their reputations may not have been inviting to new employers, and they had targets on their backs welcoming violence from peers hostile towards prostitutes.

In 1915, the Vice Commission issued a report about illegal prostitution in Louisville, Kentucky, stating that it was difficult to obtain any concrete information because of the “conspiracy of silence” that “has thrown a shroud of secrecy around it, thus enabling the evil to grow with appalling magnitude in all parts of the world.”[57] Since recriminalization in the aforementioned cities, prostitution has survived within this conspiracy of silence. In the reproduction of the social hierarchy that preserved white women’s position, prostitution has simply gone into a grey market where it exists in secrecy.

White female activism in the South from the Civil War until about 1917 was deeply rooted in white Southern female patriotism, specifically in their opposition to prostitution. The legacy of the legalization and subsequent recriminalization of prostitution in Southern Union-occupied cities is complex. On one hand, it created professionalized prostitution that empowered sex workers and continued after recriminalization. On the other hand, it empowered the racist, morally superior activism of white women to disempower those of a lower social class for their own gain.

White women in the South during the Civil War were political beings and every action they took was political, despite not being directly engaged in the war. The domestic sphere made white women important actors in the abolition of slavery, and vice versa. This solidified white Southern female patriotism because of the importance placed on women’s roles in the maintenance of the racial hierarchy in the home and the way this social positioning was ingrained in the conception of nationalism in the South. Maintaining the hierarchy was not only expected of women during the war, but it became their role after the war as they lost power within the domestic sphere.

Prostitution during the war was traitorous to this established white Southern female patriotism that had been so important because women were violating gender norms, confusing the racial hierarchy, and engaging immorally with enemy troops. To establish superiority over these women and regain their positioning in the social hierarchy, white women had to destroy legalized prostitution. They used the demonization of prostitution and language of victimization to protect white Southern female patriotism while ousting prostitutes. In the context of the Civil War, emancipation, and the aftermath, white women reformers recriminalized prostitution in previously Union-occupied Southern cities, leaving a complex dynamic between race, gender, and morality, stigma, and a grey market of prostitution.

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Tucker, George Loane, director. Traffic in Souls. Flicker Alley, 1913. 89 min. https://butler.kanopy.com/video/traffic-souls.

Whites, LeeAnn, and Alecia P. Long. Occupied Women Gender, Military Occupation, and the American Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 2009.

Whites, LeeAnn. Civil War as a Crisis in Gender: Augusta, Georgia, 1860-1890. University of Georgia Press, 2000.

Wood, Sharon, “Introduction: The Belva Lockwood Club,” in Freedom of the Streets, 1-13. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2005. Accessed December 11, 2021. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/butler/detail.action?docID=413453.


[1] LeAnn Whites, Civil War as a Crisis in Gender: Augusta, Georgia, 1860-1890 (University of Georgia Press, 2000), 31.

[2] Kristen Streater. “‘She-Rebels’ on the Supply Line: Gender Conventions in Civil War Kentucky” in Occupied Women: Gender, military occupation, and the American Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 2009), 89.

[3] Lisa Tendrich Frank “Bedrooms as Battlefields: The Role of Gender Politics in Sherman’s March” in Occupied Women: Gender, military occupation, and the American Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 2009), 34.

[4] Ibid., 45.

[5] Ibid., 40.

[6] Whites, Occupied Women, 103-104.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Catherine Clinton, Public Women and the Confederacy (Milwaukee: Marquette Univ. Press, 1999), 21.; Alex Smolak, “White Slavery, Whorehouse Riots, Venereal Disease, and Saving Women: Historical Context of Prostitution Interventions and Harm Reduction in New York City during the Progressive Era,” Social Work and Public Health 28, no. 5 (2013): 7.

[9] Clinton, Public Women and the Confederacy, 9-10.

[10] Ibid., 22.

[11] Ibid., 27.

[12] Ibid., 31.

[13] Ibid., 10.

[14] Mary Murphy, “The Private Lives of Public Women: Prostitution in Butte, Montana, 1878-1917,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 7, no. 3 (1984): 30.

[15] Carol Faulkner, “Prostitutes and Female Patriots in the Civil War Era,” Review of Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans and Gender and the Sectional Conflict, by Judith Kelleher Schafer and Nina Silber, Reviews in American History 38, no. 1 (2010): 89.

[16] It is important to note several reasons as to why there is not significant statistical information available about black prostitutes during this time. Although there is not much available information, it can be inferred that there were black prostitutes as there were in 1900. It is difficult, however, to predict the number of prostitutes before it was recorded. In cities that required licenses to prostitutes, black prostitutes were either not allowed to obtain licenses or could not obtain licenses until years after it was required (Aran T. Smith, “The Bawdy Bluff: Prostitution in Memphis, Tennessee, 1820-1900,” PhD diss., (University of Mississippi, 2016), 116.). If prostitutes were caught without licenses, they faced criminal charges, which was another way that cities could restrict and control the behavior of black women. By not allowing black prostitutes licenses, the city was guaranteeing they remained in the criminal class. Additionally, with the pervasiveness of racism, especially in the South, there was already a prominent thought that black women’s bodies were public property. The Union soldiers even called black slaves and freed women “public women,” the common term for prostitutes, even if they gave no indication that they were prostitutes (Leslie A. Schwalm. “Between Slavery and Freedom: African American Women and Occupation in the Slave South” in Occupied Women: Gender, military occupation, and the American Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 2009), 140.). Black women were already regarded as prostitutes regardless of their occupation and white men often felt as though they had claim over black women’s bodies without having to pay for sex. Although there is not much information available about the actual rates of rape of black women by Union soldiers (and other men) during the war, the information available indicates that black women faced much higher rates of sexual violence, no matter if they were prostitutes. Men may not have always been willing to pay for sex with black prostitutes, but instead take it without consent without payment. These complexities must be considered in scholarship regarding prostitution in the South during the Civil War for any accurate analysis.

[17] Craig Foster, “Tarnished Angels: Prostitution in Storyville, New Orleans, 1900-1910,” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 31, no. 4 (1990): 389.

[18] Faulkner, “Prostitutes and Female Patriots in the Civil War Era,” 89.

[19] Jeannine Cole, “‘Upon the Stage of Disorder:’ Legalized Prostitution in Memphis and Nashville, 1863-1865.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 68, no. 1 (2009): 61.

[20] “Law and Order: Citizens of South Nashville in Earnest Consultation.” Tennessean, September 11, 1886. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/90238624/the-tennessean/.

[21] Foster, “Tarnished Angels,” 392.

[22] David Levy, “The Quest for Moral Reform,” Review of Purity Crusade: Sexual Morality and Social Control, 1868-1900, by David Pivar, Reviews in American History 2, no. 1 (1974): 94.

[23] Antoinette Brown Blackwell, “Immorality of the Regulation System,” (presented at National Purity Congress, American Purity Alliance, Baltimore, 1895), 28.

[24] Laura H. Satterthwaite, “The Great Need of the Moral Crusade,” (presented at National Purity Congress, American Purity Alliance, Baltimore, 1895), 61.

[25] Martha Schofield Aiken, “Slavery’s Legacy of Impurity,” (presented at National Purity Congress, American Purity Congress, Baltimore, 1895), 177.

[26] Smolak, “White Slavery, Whorehouse Riots, Venereal Disease, and Saving Women,” 7.

[27] Ibid., 10.

[28] Much of the rhetoric concerning public health shifted away from the health of men and women and more onto the health of their future children. Newspaper articles from the early twentieth century show concern for the children born of parents with venereal diseases. The Tennessean published an article in 1915 that stated, “The unborn child has a right to be born well and not blind or otherwise afflicted as is the case of many babies, who are made to suffer for the sins and follies of their father” (“Strong Address by Atlanta Speaker: Marion Jackson Talks on White Slavery, Segregation and Social Evil,” Tennessean, April 12, 1915.). This language hints at the use of and appeal towards the eugenics movement in the country.

[29] Murphy, “The Private Lives of Public Women,” 30.

[30] Smolak, “White Slavery, Whorehouse Riots, Venereal Disease, and Saving Women,” 4.

[31] Mary Charlton Edholm, “The Traffic in Girls and Florence Crittenton Missions,” (presented at National Purity Congress, American Purity Alliance, Baltimore, 1895), 150.

[32] U.S. Census Bureau, “1880 Census: Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee,” https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/discoveryui-content/view/9425045:6742.

[33] Robert E. Riegel, “Changing American Attitudes Toward Prostitution (1800-1920).” Journal of the History of Ideas 29, no. 3 (1968): 451.

[34] Sharon Wood, “Introduction: The Belva Lockwood Club,” in Freedom of the Streets (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2005), 8.

[35] Traffic in Souls, directed by George Loane Tucker (Flicker Alley) https://butler.kanopy.com/video/traffic-souls.

[36] Neil L. Shumsky, “Tactic Acceptance: Respectable Americans and Segregated Prostitution, 1870-1910,” Journal of Social History 19, no. 4 (1968): 673.

[37] Smolak, “White Slavery, Whorehouse Riots, Venereal Disease, and Saving Women,” 11.

[38] “Women’s Low Wages Is One Great Cause For Social Evil,” Tennessean, November 18, 1912.

[39] Riegel, “Changing American Attitudes Toward Prostitution (1800-1920),” 450.

[40] Smolak, “White Slavery, Whorehouse Riots, Venereal Disease, and Saving Women,” 6.

[41] Gaines Foster, “The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865-1920.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 14, no. 1 (Jan, 2005): 220.

[42] In Crowley, the continuously reelected mayor blocked the attempts at recriminalization several times, admitting that one of the reasons he supported legalized prostitution was the ability for the town to profit (Barbara Smith Corrales, “Prurience, Prostitution, and Progressive Improvements: The Crowley Connection, 1909-1918.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 45, no. 1 (2004): 40.).

[43] Shumsky, “Tactic Acceptance,” 665.

[44] Ibid., 671.

[45] Ibid., 667.

[46] Ibid., 671.

[47] Foster, “Tarnished Angels,” 389.

[48] Eric R. Platt and Lilian H. Hill, “A Storyville Education: Spatial Practices and the Learned Sex Trade in the City That Care Forgot,” Adult Education Quarterly 64, no. 4 (November 2014): 297.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid., 298.

[51] Allan M. Brandt, No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States since 1880 – 35th Anniversary Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 78.

[52] “Orleans Lawyer Says Morality Is Second To Financial Losses: Women Of ‘Storyville’ Ask Supreme Court To Nullify Closing Of Redlight District,” Shreveport Times, November 14, 1917.

[53] “Supreme Court Sustains Closing of ‘Storyville.’” Shreveport Times, November 14, 1917.

[54] Platt and Hill, “A Storyville Education,” 298.

[55] Jeannine Cole. “Public Women in Public Spaces: Prostitution and Union Military Experience, 1861-1865,” (Master’s Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2007), 16, 24.

[56] Platt and Hill, “A Storyville Education,” 298-299.

[57] Report of the Vice Commission: Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville: Vice Commission, 1915, 9.

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