Social Justice Reformers And The Progressive Era

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Most local governments had a laissez faire approach to prostitution and that motivated several social justice reformers to band together during the Progressive Era. Iowa became the first state to pass injunction and abatement laws in 1909. Again, state prostitution laws didn’t exist up until that point in history! Although, every state eventually followed suit by passing those same laws, which allowed police to shut down brothels as “public nuisances” as long as there were complaints from concerned citizens and the judge agreed with their opinion. Consequently, many cities began shutting down their red-light districts, but some notable cities such San Francisco, New Orleans, and San Antonio didn’t enforce the new laws.
There were four leading factors that prompted every state to create their own prostitution laws, the first being the Progressive movement. The second factor was the highly sensational “white slave” media scare. The white slave panic originated in Europe and was initially based upon factual events. However in America, it snowballed into an overblown media spectacle that rewarded newspapers handsomely with more sales. William T. Stead, wrote the original series of these types of articles in the 1880s for the Pall Mall Gazette. He arranged an undercover sting operation to “purchase” and “arrange to sell” a 13 year girl for that story. Naturally, Stead’s column gained heavy exposure and directly resulted in some positive changes, including the passing of new

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