According to the Detroit Free Press, a nationwide effort will soon be launched, funded with $10 million in private money, primarily from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., for a “campaign in which the federal government cannot lawfully engage”: reforming “the unfortunate girls who have been made the victims of white slave practice” (i.e., who have worked as prostitutes) by providing homes for them.
The San Francisco Chronicle adds that the objective is to maintain “rescue homes” — “perhaps more than 2000” nationwide — “in which girls who are reclaimed from the underworld may be given care and instruction necessary for a new start in life.”
But have the reformers bothered to talk to the subjects of their charity? What if they don’t want to be rescued? That’s the question explored by the Chicago Daily Tribune in an article on three women in the trade. They were tipped off about a meeting of the Chicago city council’s committee, and attended to present their views as supposed beneficiaries of the reformers’ plans. This was “the first direct contact the committee has had with the underworld,” and the committee members seemed more interested in how the women had learned of the meeting than what they had to say.
The women spoke out against the recent shutdown of the “segregated district,” at the behest of ministers, which had previously concentrated vice activity so it did not disturb those not interested in it. As the Tribune summarizes: “They said immoral women had scattered over the city, and contended there will always be the social evil, and everybody will be better off it if is recognized and regulated.” The closing of the red-light district “has done an injury to the residence districts,” Grace Monroe explained. “You know if you have a barrel of apples the first thing you do if you are wise is throw out the rotten ones. We ought to be allowed to work where there would be no danger to innocent girls.”
When questioned about what course the reformers should pursue, Miss Monroe did not mince words:
“They ought to leave us alone for one thing. Reforms never could do a thing for me.”
“You like the life?”
“Nothing could induce me to quit it. It is the same with other women. They don’t want to be reformed.”
“If homes were provided for immoral women, would they take the opportunity to reform?”
“They are not looking for chances. I believe it is born and bred in a girl to be bad.
Miss Monroe said she was in a convent until age 18, when she became a switchboard operator at a department store. She went out on the street after she decided she couldn’t live on $5.50 a week. May Holland concurred that “most girls enter a life of shame because of their desire for more money and better clothing. . . . I do not believe girls can exist in Chicago on less than $10 or $12 a week. If they were paid what they earn and what they ought to have, fewer of them would go wrong.”
Miss Holland was then asked: “If a farm were provided for girls who wish to leave this life, what per cent of them do you think would go there?” Her answer: “Not 1 percent. Why, it’s no use talking about that. These women want to stay where they are.”