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White Slave Crusades

White Slave Crusades: Race, Gender, and Anti-vice Activism, 1887-1917

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    White Slave Crusades
    Book Description:

    During the early twentieth century, individuals and organizations from across the political spectrum launched a sustained effort to eradicate forced prostitution, commonly known as "white slavery." White Slave Crusades is the first comparative study to focus on how these anti-vice campaigns also resulted in the creation of a racial hierarchy in the United States. _x000B_Focusing on the intersection of race, gender, and sex in the antiprostitution campaigns, Brian Donovan analyzes the reactions of native-born whites to new immigrant groups in Chicago, to African Americans in New York City, and to Chinese immigrants in San Francisco. Donovan shows how reformers employed white slavery narratives of sexual danger to clarify the boundaries of racial categories, allowing native-born whites to speak of a collective "us" as opposed to a "them." These stories about forced prostitution provided an emotionally powerful justification for segregation, as well as other forms of racial and sexual boundary maintenance in urban America.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09100-1
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    During the early twentieth century, individuals and organizations of different political stripes launched an extraordinary effort to eradicate forced prostitution, or what was commonly known as “white slavery.” The topic drew interest from lawmakers, journalists, moral reformers, and average citizens. Stories of sexual danger fascinated white Americans during the Progressive Era (1900–1920), and they consumed increasing numbers of white slavery narratives in the form of plays, films, books, pamphlets, and magazine articles.¹ At least fifteen white slavery plays and six white slavery movies were produced in the early twentieth century. In 1913, over 30,000 people viewed the white slavery...

  5. 1 White Slavery and the Intersection of Race and Gender
    (pp. 5-16)

    The crusades against white slavery occurred during a pivotal moment during the construction of racial groups in the United States. As stories describing the sexual slavery of native-born white women proliferated in the beginning of the twentieth century, the racial category of “white” fragmented and reconsolidated in different social spheres.¹ From 1900 to 1910, the rate of immigration relative to the national population soared to the highest rate in U.S. history.² Moreover, rates of immigration from supposedly good and assimilable immigrants from northern Europe declined as the rates of immigration from reputedly bad and unassimilable immigrants from southern and eastern...

  6. 2 The New Abolitionism: The Cultural Power of the White Slavery Genre
    (pp. 17-36)

    White slavery narratives—stories about women forced into prostitution—circulated in many formats. From 1905 to 1910, newspapers and popular magazines frequently published accounts of white slavery.¹ At the height of the agitation against white slavery from 1909 to 1910, at least eight books were published on the subject. Some recounted a single story about the plight of a white slave, while others contained several stories detailing the fate of different women abducted into prostitution.² Many books about white slavery included essays from physicians, religious leaders, missionaries, and moral crusaders emphasizing different aspects of the problem. Some were explicitly fictional,...

  7. 3 Suffrage and Slavery: The Racial Politics of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Purity Campaign
    (pp. 37-55)

    Historians have persuasively demonstrated that the dominant ideology of femininity during the Victorian era provided a powerful moral validation for the early women’s rights movement.¹ This set of ideas—what Barbara Welter termed the “cult of true womanhood”—extolled the innate virtue of women that stemmed from their sexual modesty and passivity.² Women’s supposed lack of sexual passion ensured domestic harmony, which Victorians considered a foundation of national strength. Although outwardly restrictive, this ideology of femininity allowed middle- and upper-class women to make a strong claim for political power in the name of “social housekeeping”³ and “home protection.”⁴

    Scholars have...

  8. 4 “The Black Traffic in White Girls”: Chicago’s War on Vice
    (pp. 56-88)

    This chapter examines how Chicago reformers used white slavery narratives to address the changing racial composition of Chicago and the sharp increase in independent wage-earning women. Reformers’ storytelling about white slavery reveals different racial ideologies that made complex connections among whiteness, sexual morality, class, and citizenship. Their ideas about race prefigured the style of their reform efforts and shaped the strategies and outcomes of their crusades. Primarily, I will compare the anti-vice activism of settlement house pioneer Jane Addams and Chicago attorney Clifford Roe. Although both were deeply concerned about the white slave trade, they disagreed about the source of...

  9. 5 John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the “Negro Alleged Slave Trader”
    (pp. 89-109)

    In New York City, the African American population nearly tripled between 1890 and 1910.¹ The Great Migration heightened the availability of intimate contact between whites and blacks, prompting a variety of racist responses.² In 1910, New York politicians attempted to establish a state law barring interracial marriage. The “Act to Amend the Domestic Relations Law, in Relation to Miscegenation,” proposed to nullify all marriages “contracted between a person of white or Caucasian race and a person of the negro or black race.”³ Although this effort failed, white New Yorkers pursued segregation in other ways. This chapter shows how white slavery...

  10. 6 “Yellow Slavery” and Donaldina Cameron’s San Francisco Mission
    (pp. 110-128)

    In New York and Chicago, white slavery discourse embodied arguments about where and how to draw the color line. The agitation against white slavery on the West Coast invoked some of the same concerns that drove reform efforts in other cities, yet regional differences shaped the direction and outcome of anti-vice activism. In San Francisco, narratives of sexual danger implicated a different set of victims and villains and provided a discursive resource for a different set of racial projects. The trafficking in Chinese slave girls in San Francisco’s Chinatown, often referred to as “yellow slavery,” drew the condemnation of reformers,...

  11. Conclusion: The Demise of White Slavery
    (pp. 129-140)

    White slavery narratives and anti-vice activism performed the ideological work necessary for gender and racial formation. They clarified the boundaries of racial categories and allowed native-born whites to speak of a collective “us” as opposed to a “them.” Crusades against white slavery helped build racial hierarchies by emphasizing moral and sexual differences between Anglo-Saxons or native-born whites on one hand and new European immigrants, Chinese, and African Americans on the other. Reformers used white slavery stories to make arguments about the moral character and proper distance between racial groups.

    The crusades against white slavery demonstrate the importance of gender and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 141-180)
  13. Index
    (pp. 181-186)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 187-188)