The Chamberlain Kahn Act And Its Effect On Society

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Ultimately, the War Department punished 15,520 infected women, whereas none of the male soldiers who patronized these suspected prostitutes were arrested. The women were either jailed, quarantined in barbed wired work camps or with the “feebleminded,” or sent to reform schools. Ironically, many of the buildings of these reformatories and detention homes had formerly been brothels that were abandoned after the red-light districts were shut down.
Prior to 1917, only Indiana state law defined and prohibited prostitution. However, the Chamberlain-Kahn Act had a chilling effect and ten states added prostitution-specific laws in 1918. Consequently, all but a few states added those laws by 1920. However, state prostitution laws again imposed the issue of overbearing governmental power, just like with the Mann Act. Indiana, along with some other states, specifically banned commercialized sex, but the language also included promiscuity or “indiscriminate sexual intercourse without hire.” Likewise, an Alabama ruling in 1920 came to a similar conclusion that a prostitute was a “loose woman or strumpet” and that obviously was open to wide interpretation. Additional laws were created with the intention of curbing prostitution, including bans on mixed-sex drinking in saloons and the requirement of an escort for women entering into bars.
In the 1920s, it quickly became increasingly unmistakable that the Progressives’ “Noble Experiment” with the prohibition of alcohol had failed.

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