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

Overview

"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 helped create a racial hierarchy in the United States." 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 ...
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White Slave Crusades: Race, Gender, and Anti-vice Activism, 1887-1917

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Overview

"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 helped create a racial hierarchy in the United States." 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 used sexual danger to justify segregation, as well as other forms of racial and sexual boundary maintenance in urban America.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This interesting book deserves wide readership."—Journal of Social History

"Interesting and provocative. The study covers an important topic in social and political history."—Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

"This close textual analysis offers an insightful look at rhetorical strategies underlying the formation and adaptation of racial and gender ideologies at the turn of the last century."—Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252030253
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 12/16/2005
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Donovan is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Kansas.

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Read an Excerpt

White Slave Crusades

RACE, GENDER, AND ANTI-VICE ACTIVISM, 1887-1917
By BRIAN DONOVAN

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS

Copyright © 2006 Brian Donovan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-252-03025-7


Chapter One

White Slavery and the Intersection of Race and Gender

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. From 1900 to 1910, the rate of immigration relative to the national population soared to the highest rate in U.S. history. 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 Europe drastically increased. Many native-born whites, working with a very different racial worldview than twenty-first-century Americans, regarded southern and eastern European immigrants as racially distinct and inferior. Beginning in the early twentieth century, Russian and Polish Jews, Italians, and Hungarians-and other groups that many now consider in terms of ethnicity and/or nationality-were slowly incorporated into the racial category that we now know as "white." The racial status of immigrant groups and the question of whether ornot they should be afforded the privileges of racial whiteness were hotly contested in discussions about municipal politics, immigration, and labor.

The Progressive Era also witnessed an intensification of the "one-drop rule" with respect to African heritage that coincided with large numbers of African Americans migrating from the South to northern and midwestern cities. Americans with partial African ancestry were increasingly considered "black," although in previous decades their "mixed blood" set them categorically apart from "Negroes." New miscegenation laws, immigration restrictions, and heightened residential segregation accompanied these changes in racial categories. White slavery narratives reflected and refracted these transformations in racial populations and helped shape the meaning of whiteness during a time when the category of "white" was largely unsettled.

Anti-vice efforts also coincided with changing definitions of masculinity and femininity. A wide array of gender ideologies and practices circulated in the Progressive Era, complicating any simple portrait of its gender norms. Yet, in many societies, the gender order arrays masculinity and femininity hierarchically, and a single model of masculinity and femininity is deemed legitimate and embraced by individuals who may or may not embody it. Robert Connell terms a society's prevailing definition of manhood as "hegemonic masculinity," and one can reasonably make a case for the existence of hegemonic femininity. Hegemonic gender ideals, while not describing the lives of all or most men and women, nonetheless structure their emotional, personal, and productive lives in important ways. Thus, the fight over the cultural meaning of true manhood and womanhood has serious consequences for the lived reality of men and women.

White masculinity underwent profound changes during the transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. The nineteenth-century notion of middle-class manliness rested on character-centered criteria. Coinciding with an economic climate that allowed many white middle-class men autonomy and self-employment, true manhood was rooted in gentility and self-control. In response to a host of cultural and economic shifts, the dominant definition of manhood changed in the Progressive Era to become more body-centered. Perhaps best personified in Theodore Roosevelt's self-created image of rugged individualism, white middle-class American men living in the early twentieth century embraced a new model of manliness that emphasized muscularity, sexual prowess, and bodily strength. Weight lifting, boxing, and other formerly working-class activities became ways through which men could assert their manliness.

Other changes helped to transform gender and sexual norms during the first two decades of the twentieth century. The term "New Woman" gained popularity in the late nineteenth century to refer to women who exercised control over their personal lives. The concept of the New Woman meant different things to different generations of men and women, and use of the term varied regionally; some commentators emphasized the economic freedom of New Women, while others highlighted their sexual mores. The notion of autonomy-be it financial, personal, or sexual-remained common to most characterizations of New Women. According to Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, the rise of the New Woman, "more than any other phenomenon of the 1910s and 1920s, signaled the birth of a new era." Many New Women entered reform work, participated in political organizations, and created ways of life very different from what their mothers experienced.

Working-class women, too, helped create a new gender landscape in the early twentieth century. Women's opportunities for employment skyrocketed in major urban centers, and women were employed in record numbers as clerks, typists, secretaries, and phone operators. In 1890, 19 percent of the U.S. female population worked outside the home; by 1910, nearly a quarter of U.S. women had entered the paid labor force. New employment opportunities gave working-class women a growing public presence in major U.S. cities. This, coupled with mass advertising and a maturing industrial economy, fed a new consumer ethic as men and women became progressively more interested in material goods and leisure and spent more of their money on personal consumption. Elaine Tyler May writes that "around the turn of the century, as the nation's concern for production began to shift toward a preoccupation with consumption, there was a parallel trend away from work toward leisure, away from sacrifice toward satisfaction, and a corresponding decline of sexual repression in favor of gratification." Spurred partly by the rise of the automobile, dating became a commonly accepted practice across social classes between 1890 and 1925.12 The development of urban amusements also helped change courtship patterns for young men and women by increasing areas of what Alan Hunt calls "heterosocial space," such as dance halls, amusement parks, ice cream parlors, and skating rinks.

These renovations in courtship helped cause the Victorian idea of inherent female passionlessness and moral purity to lose currency, primarily among young working-class men and women. Many working-class women no longer considered premarital chastity as an important sign of moral worth, and some participated in the "treating system" by exchanging affection, companionship, and sexual favors for an evening's entertainment. According to Barbara Meil Hobson, the overt sexuality of young women in the cities contradicted the "conventional view of women as asexual, passive, and primarily interested in the ideals of domesticity: the management of home, care of husband, and rearing of children."

This chapter explores the intersection of race and gender to help explain contests over racial and gender formation embodied in white slavery activism and narration during the early twentieth century. Throughout U.S. history, boundary work around racial categories has brought into play gender and sexuality, and discussions about what it means to be a proper man or woman has invoked racial distinctions. In this way, creators of social hierarchy simultaneously mobilize gender and racial ideologies to impose a logic of social difference. Definitions of kinship and family ties, as basic units of racial belonging, fuse gender, sexuality, and race. Racialized notions of lineage and family weld sexual purity and impurity to specific racial categories. Steve Martinot contends that this "purity condition" lies at the very heart of "race" as a conceptual category in American history. Due to the dependence of racial categories on ideologies of sex and gender, racial formations contain crisis tendencies because different sexual practices have the potential to threaten group boundaries. This chapter will show that the maintenance of racial boundaries requires not only racial projects, but also projects centered on gender and sex. Thus, a theoretical approach that considers the intersection of race and gender is needed to appreciate the social impact of white slavery narratives and moral reform efforts.

A Cultural Account of Racial Formation

I use the term "race" to refer to a set of historically specific ideas about human difference and practices based on those ideas. Race should not be thought of as representing natural or biological characteristics of people; it is an ideological system that organizes people into groups based on perceived moral, cultural, and/or bodily distinctions. Mara Loveman argues that race operates as "a principal of vision and division of the social world across time and place." Insofar as most people accept racial categories as legitimate and true, perceived racial differences become a central principle of social organization. Consequently, scholars of race have searched for the origins of racial thinking in enduring institutions and patterns of human practice. A dominant thread in the scholarship on race and ethnicity considers race in structural terms, both as a structure itself and as a product of social structural change, such as shifting labor markets, immigration rates, and the unequal possession of socioeconomic power.

Some scholars of race have called attention to the "structural" basis of racial taxonomies to highlight the enduring and institutionalized aspects of an otherwise arbitrary system of difference. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva uses the phrase "racialized social system" to refer to "societies in which economic, political, social, and ideological levels are partially structured by the placement of actors in racial categories or races." He emphasizes the "racial structure of a society" to correct what he sees as an unsystematized and purely ideological notion of race in contemporary scholarship. According to his theoretical framework, racism is an ideological product of a racialized social system. Bonilla-Silva discerns a direct causal relationship between racial structures and racial ideologies, arguing that ideology emanates from institutionalized racial divisions.

Following a similar strategy, some have examined the interdependence between constructions of race and material inequality. Labor historians have analyzed race and racism as the product of shifting class interests, demonstrating how racial categories have changed based upon the nature of capitalism, labor markets, and white working-class activism. For Theodore Allen, the expansion and contraction of racial categories in the nineteenth century reveals a deliberate divide-and-conquer strategy by capitalists. Allen argues that American capitalists, in essence, invented the white race in the beginning of the nineteenth century to gain economic and political control over poor freemen. The ruling classes selectively conferred privileges to European immigrants that they denied African slaves, such as the right to bear arms, to plead and testify in criminal proceedings, and to marry. Capitalists warded off a potentially unified working class by unevenly allocating material resources and political rights to different groups of immigrants.

While Allen works within a structural Marxist framework, David Roediger and Noel Ignatiev use the insights of new labor history that emphasize the agency of the working class. Roediger argues that the creation of racial whiteness in the Jacksonian era represented native-born white workers' fears of dependency on wage labor. Their new economic reliance on a wage blurred the line between wage labor and slavery, prompting workers to assert a white identity in order to obtain civil rights, jobs, and political influence. Similarly, Ignatiev argues that immigrant Irish Catholics effectively became white in the nineteenth century through political and labor struggles. Irish immigrants allied themselves with white workers against free African American laborers. During the 1830s and 1840s, they gained a strong political voice within the Democratic Party and frequently made vicious attacks against African American workers. White Democrats supported slavery, fearing that African American migration to the North would disrupt their hard-won economic gains. Although they were oppressed in their home country, Ignatiev argues that the Irish became part of the oppressor class in America through the process of attaining whiteness.

Despite the enormous contribution of the labor history perspective in understanding race, this approach is hindered by its tendency to reduce racial hierarchies to class formation. The transformation of racial and gender taxonomies and the changing face of racism depend upon large-scale transformations in economic and political systems, but the ways in which race is understood and practiced depend on forms of cultural production and ongoing cultural practices. Michael Omi and Howard Winant argue that racial formation is the "sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed." Racial formation entails the practice of "group-making" whereby people create, defend, and close ranks around their classifications. In this sense, race refers to the ideas and practices that create categorical distinctions, not to preexisting groups. Racial and gender formations require what Mary Poovey calls "ideological work" to create perceived differences among groups of people. Therefore, the creation and transformation of these social categories necessitate struggles over symbolic, as well as material, resources.

Racial formations group people according to perceived socially significant traits and provide a vocabulary with which to comprehend those groups. Racial categories often become codified in policies and laws that distribute resources along racial lines. These categories form a mechanism for creating social hierarchies by restricting or providing access to jobs, credentials, and legal rights to marry and emigrate. Omi and Winant refer to this institutionalization of racial categories as representing the "racial state." Yet, despite its tremendous legal and political power, the state's ability to legitimate racial taxonomies is never total. The racial categories used by the state do not necessarily correspond to folk or popular conceptions of race. The respondent to a census questionnaire, for instance, might have a different mental map of race than the authors of the survey. These categories, being ultimately arbitrary, are open to challenges from politicians, scientists, professionals, social movements, political parties, and legal actors. In the struggle to name and describe perceived racial groups, social actors attempt to institute taken-for-granted taxonomies and impose a vision of the social world deemed legitimate by its inhabitants.

Racial taxonomies direct people's vision of the social world in a literal sense by pointing them to physical characteristics considered markers of race. Hence, racial formations give humans ways of seeing race, embodied in different principles of classification that change over time. Matthew Jacobson contends that understanding racial difference "depends upon the play between social consciousness and literal vision." Americans for much of the twentieth century read racial categories through skin color. However, other physical qualities had racial meaning at different moments in U.S. history, such as head shape, hair, physiognomy, and eye color. Visual cues help social actors categorize people according to race, allowing them to interpolate the essential attributes of people based on their phenotypic characteristics. Features that give social meaning to racial categories include designations of morality, industriousness, intelligence, and other affective human properties. Supposed race-based traits of humans give social significance to the visual perception of race. In the words of Barbara Fields, "Race is a concept that we can locate at the level of appearances only. A material reality underlies it all right, as must be true of any ideology; but the underlying reality is not the one that the language of racial ideology addresses." The inner properties of humans, indexed by physical markers, often become the focal point of racial difference. Racial formations link the visual cues that allow people to "see" race to human attributes, propensities, and motives. In this way, racial formations ascribe essential characteristics and dispositions onto human bodies.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from White Slave Crusades by BRIAN DONOVAN Copyright © 2006 by Brian Donovan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

1 White slavery and the intersection of race and gender 5
2 The new abolitionism : the cultural power of the white slavery genre 17
3 Suffrage and slavery : the racial politics of the woman's Christian temperance union purity campaign 37
4 "The black traffic in white girls" : Chicago's war on vice 56
5 John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the "negro alleged slave trader" 89
6 "Yellow slavery" and Donaldina Cameron's San Francisco mission 110
Conclusion : the demise of white slavery 129
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