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Sex Trafficking, Scandal, and the Transformation of Journalism, 1885–1917$

Gretchen Soderlund

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226021362

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226021676.001.0001

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The Journalism of Reform and the Reform of Journalism

The Journalism of Reform and the Reform of Journalism

(p.67) Chapter Three The Journalism of Reform and the Reform of Journalism
Sex Trafficking, Scandal, and the Transformation of Journalism, 1885–1917

Gretchen Soderlund

University of Chicago Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the beginnings of reform journalism around white slavery in the United States. It explains how British mass culture helped reshape the landscape of American moral reform movements in the late nineteenth century. These reform movements would take on a complex national form as it was developed in a dialogue with American journalism, which it came to influence during this period. William T. Stead’s exposé changed American Journalism via a circuitous route: it sparked interest among the great number of female evangelical reformers to direct a number of their reform activities at the press itself. The chapter considers the relationships formed between the Gilded Age press and women’s moral reform movements and the role these interactions played in creating particular narrative styles, objects of inquiry, and the character and constitution of media audiences and practices to come.

Keywords:   white slavery, William T. Stead, press, female evangelical reformers, moral reform

But it is no question of aristocracy or democracy. Here in America, for instance, we have a democracy. We also have quite as fine an assortment of vices as the Pall Mall reveals. We don’t go bragging about them. We don’t publish “disclosures” and undertake to “thrill the heart of the people.” But we try to make the best of a bad job and say that, after all, we are no worse than our neighbors.

—New York Herald, 13 July 1885

The journalistic spirit is almost the finest in the world—keen, kind, progressive, and humanitarian. Take away the hallucination of nicotine and the craze of alcoholic dreams, and you would have remaining an incomparable set of brother-hearted men, whose glimpses of God would be not at all infrequent. Anchor alongside these chivalric-natured experts, women as gifted as themselves, and free from drug delusions; then, in one quarter century, you will have driven pugilists and saloon keepers, ward politicians and Jezebels from the sacred temple of journalism, and the people’s daily open letter from the great world shall be pure as a letter from home.

—Frances E. Willard, Glimpses of Fifty Years (1889)

During the nineteenth century, the expression of concern over prostitution in the United States shifted from intermittent and isolated brothel riots and other violent confrontations to more organized and persistent moral crusades.1 “Social purity” campaigns took root in cities after the Civil War, arising out of a broad-based coalition of religious groups and women’s moral reform organizations that opposed mounting efforts by medical practitioners, policemen, and public officials to regulate (p.68) commercial sex. Modeled after programs in continental Europe, “regulationist” organizations like the New York Society for the Prevention of Contagious Diseases had advanced legislation to license prostitutes and subject them to medical inspections. The initial experiment in continental-style regulation was launched in St. Louis in the early 1870s, but social purity activists’ nationally organized protests successfully ended the program. Regulationists advanced similar legislation in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia throughout the 1870s and 1880s, but each attempt was soundly defeated by organized social purity protests.2 By the end of the 1880s, abolitionist forces could claim multiple key victories, having effectively defanged formal attempts across the nation to license, tax, and examine prostitutes.3

Written to produce political effects in England, “The Maiden Tribute” illuminated new objects of inquiry, exposure, and reform in the United States as well. Stead and his supporters in England offered American anti-vice activists a new perspective on prostitution. Prostitution was not a sinful economic arrangement between “fallen women,” lustful men, and brothelowning madams. It was instead a physically coercive relationship involving innocent women and girls, abusive men, and profiteering slaveholders that had more in common with chattel slavery than with other commercial endeavors. The analogy forged in “The Maiden Tribute” between slavery and prostitution resonated with American evangelicals, many of whom had been participants in or were sympathetic to the antebellum abolitionist movement and readily appropriated the symbols and rhetoric of the earlier movement to underscore the urgency of the new moral crusade fought on behalf of female “white slaves” ignored by the Thirteenth Amendment.

British activists played a central role in forging the connection between prostitution and chattel slavery in the US context. After the social purity successes in England, wrought in no small part by Stead, Josephine Butler toured the Northeast and the Midwest to promote a new international abolition movement against prostitution as slavery. She spoke to reform-minded audiences about an international traffic in women similar in scope and dimension to the slavery of blacks that was spreading invisibly and unchallenged throughout the country. Her “Appeal to the Women of America” identified the United States as the primary destination for this traffic. Appealing to the increasingly linked Gilded Age sentiments of nationalism and nativism, she suggested that while “people in Europe speak with indignation of the traffic in negroes,” they have no concern for the exportation of white slaves from their own countries. In the United States these “youthful victims” could be found “descending the Mississippi … to New Orleans (p.69) and Texas,” while others were “taken on to California.” Poverty and lax moral codes directly implicated southern and eastern European immigrants in this new manifestation of the slave trade: “You in America are happily free from the State regulation of vice; but undoubtedly there is an extensive traffic in white slaves in your midst, and a constant importation of poor foreigners to your shores who are destined to moral and spiritual destruction.”4

As the emotionally charged conceptualization of prostitution as a modern slave trade took center stage in the coalition’s worldview, the social purity movement entered a new phase. The social purity activists’ goal had always been to eradicate prostitution and usher in a generalized moral awakening, but the quest gained urgency as metaphors from the earlier period of chattel slavery began to populate social purity speeches, sermons, reform tracts, and newsletters. The late nineteenth century’s most popular women’s temperance organization, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), joined the antitrafficking campaign in 1885 and thereafter couched its movement goals in emancipatory, abolitionist rhetoric. The group’s president, Francis E. Willard, told WCTU members at an annual convention, “There are three sets of slaves that we are working to emancipate. They are white slaves, that is, degraded women; wage slaves, that is, the working classes; and whisky slaves, that is, the product furnished by brewers and distillers.”5 Prostitution became the paradigmatic case of slavery that enabled Willard to link the WCTU’s diverse campaigns into a more unified agenda. The Philanthropist, an umbrella social purity periodical, likewise used the idea of prostitution as slavery to speak of a future in which men and women were emancipated “from a degrading bondage to abnormal passion and sensualism.”6 Moral reformers made the broader case that physically chained women and girls were not the only victims of this form of slavery; its psychic bonds enslaved and degraded men and women throughout the nation.

This second phase of the social purity movement that began in 1885 held the indelible imprint of journalism and transatlantic media flows. In the wake of Stead’s exposé, a handful of sympathetic general newspapers began asserting the existence of regional prostitution-trafficking routes along the East Coast and in the upper Midwest. The Republican Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean and the Detroit Free Press, two urban dailies that had forged strong connections with the woman’s evangelical temperance movement, printed disturbing stories of abduction and physical violence in the upper Midwest, while female evangelicals conducted investigations into the phenomenon and agitated for the creation of municipal and state laws to punish white slavers. These papers’ stories of regional trafficking were reprinted and (p.70) commented upon nationally, but the response failed to reach the fevered pitch that reactions to Stead’s work had in England. Nonetheless, a dialectic of sensation and scandal similar to the one that characterized the London episode would occur on a smaller scale as these regional controversies over accusations of sex slavery inspired moral reformers and worried state officials who feared symbolic or material connections between their political administrations and prostitution.

The Journalism of Reform and the Reform of Journalism

Figure 3.1. Frances E. Willard. From Anna Adams Gordon, The Life of Frances E. Willard (Evanston, IL: Women’s Christian Temperance Union, 1912), 153.

This chapter traces the beginnings of reform journalism around white slavery in the United States. It tells the story of how British mass culture reshaped the landscape of American moral reform movements in the late nineteenth century. These movements would take on a complex national form as they developed in dialogue with American journalism, which they increasingly came to influence during this period. The central argument is that Stead’s exposé transformed American journalism through a circuitous route: it inspired the growing numbers of female evangelical reformers—especially in the industrializing areas of England, New York, and the Mid-west—to direct a number of their reform activities at the press itself. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, women temperance and social purity activists helped shape press content and worked tirelessly to transform the “masculine” culture of secular journalism. This chapter considers the relationships (p.71) fostered among the Gilded Age press and women’s moral reform movements and the role these interactions played in forging particular narrative styles, objects of inquiry, and the character and constitution of media audiences and practices to come. In particular, it focuses on the role that gender politics played in aligning the press with reform and paving the way for the rise of national, socially conscious, investigatively focused magazines in the following two decades.

As they were in the 1830s, women, the majority of them middle-class Protestants, were on the front line of this convulsive phase of the anti-vice movement.7 Neoabolitionist women challenged a system that condoned men’s infidelities yet placed women under heavy sexual surveillance. They campaigned to raise the age of consent and establish criminal penalties against procurement and pandering in the United States in the 1880s and 1890s. Groups like the WCTU envisioned a purer polity modeled on the ideal middle-class Protestant family. Emerging out of the demise of the 1873–1875 Women’s Crusade that pitted evangelical Ohio women against saloons and other sites of masculine culture, many of the WCTU’s most prominent members believed that women were purer and keener conduits of God’s will. Under the leadership of Frances E. Willard, the WCTU’s goals expanded to encompass every aspect of “home protection,” from censorship of “impure” literature to suffrage and the abolition of white slavery.8 Willard promoted a “do everything” approach to politics with an eye toward eventually “dissecting out the alcohol nerve from the body politic.”9

The notion that women’s position in the home endowed them with a natural moral authority underlay much of the group’s rhetoric and reform work. Willard argued that through “equal suffrage women will help to protect both the external and internal interests of the home.”10 Political institutions should welcome women, not because women have the same capabilities as men but because they “bless and brighten every place” they enter.11 The WCTU drew heavily on the conservative Victorian ideology of separate spheres, privileged domesticity, and religiosity at every juncture and therefore did not directly threaten what many late nineteenth-century men and women perceived as a natural gender divide. Because the WCTU’s domestic and Christian inclinations dovetailed with a prevailing ideological order, the group’s membership greatly eclipsed that of staunchly political organizations like the North American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).12 Under Willard’s assiduous leadership, the WCTU expanded from twenty-seven thousand to two hundred thousand members in the 1880s alone.

Groups like the WCTU and NAWSA were not only concerned about relations between “the sexes” and securing rights for women. The (p.72) movements that emerged after the Civil War increasingly framed their appeals for women’s rights in racist and nativist terms. The native-born, middle-class women who constituted the membership of these organizations often considered themselves members of a superior race. Carrie Chapman Catt, head of the NAWSA, suggested that former slaves and members of immigrant groups had been enfranchised “with ill-advised haste” and argued that giving the vote to white women would neutralize the north’s “ignorant foreign vote” and forfend against the South’s black male vote.13

Prostitution itself became a flashpoint issue in the late nineteenth century for both social and cultural reasons. Social purity activists regarded the abolition of prostitution as a means to curtail and contain extramarital sex and promote abstinence and marital stability. The nineteenth century had in fact witnessed a marked and discernible increase in prostitution both in urban centers and western frontier towns.14 Men’s extramarital affairs sometimes resulted in incurable venereal diseases passed on to wives and children. Female anti-prostitution crusaders also viewed the regulation of prostitution as an expression and institutionalization of an inexcusable sexual double standard. Efforts like England’s Contagious Diseases Acts and America’s municipal programs were seen as immoral attempts to license and impose health standards on prostitutes with the goal of insuring men’s safe access to “public women.” But social purity perspectives were also grounded in a fear of importing perceived foreign practices and modes of government and a belief in Anglo-Saxon moral and racial superiority.15

Barbara Epstein has described nineteenth-century American society as “a culture in which sexual difference became intertwined with questions of morality, … in which what were seen as masculine and feminine principles were placed in combat.”16 The direct infusion of morality into sexual difference, aligning one sex with a set of strict moral practices and beliefs and the other with the transgression of those rules, suggests why prostitution became middle-class women’s foil par excellence in the late nineteenth century. Prostitution constituted an often painful reminder of class differences among women during a period when essentialized notions of virtuous femininity functioned to assuage the increasing class stratification that accompanied rapid industrialization.17 An occasionally public commercial endeavor and visible sign of extramarital sexuality, it threatened the era’s separate-sphere ideology: the notion that women’s position in the domestic sphere—as opposed to the public world of commerce—and their almost ethereal distance from carnality guaranteed them a natural moral superiority. At the same time, the Civil War glamorized male heroism and (p.73) established intimate connections among men that were played out in the era’s burgeoning institutions and professions.

Middle-class white women used reform movements and Victorian gender ideology to gain access to a formal political sphere that had included most white and some black men but excluded women of all races and economic backgrounds. Legitimized and emboldened by the cult of femininity, middle-class female reformers sought to impose moral standards on the working poor by rescuing “fallen women” and otherwise domesticating unruly late nineteenth-century urban spaces.18 Activists like Willard were able to exploit the association of women with care and nurturance, as well as their culturally granted moral superiority, to make political claims through moral reform societies and moral crusades.19 These activities enabled women of faith to carry their religious and social message out of the home and onto urban streets. They also politically empowered these women by creating limited access to otherwise inaccessible community, professional, and governmental institutions.

The cultivation of mass culture—a complex process in which a variety of actors and groups sought to create, recruit, and marshal mass audiences—was nascent in the 1880s. Seemingly marginal controversies over prostitution and white slavery were in fact central to this process. To understand the story of mass culture and national reform in the United States, we need to look again at Stead, this time not for a story about one person’s influence, but for glimpses of changes in audiences, their constitution, their scope, and their scale. The post–Civil War local press, increasingly politically independent but dependent on advertising, chronicled many of these struggles, took sides in some, and even initiated a few.

The Press and Religious Reformers in the 1880s

As literacy rates across the country rose during this period, general, specialized, and foreign-language newspapers became the main channels through which Americans kept abreast of local and distant events.20 The number of periodical publications and their overall circulation rates exploded in the two decades after the Civil War because of the increase in literacy, the affordability of papers, and the rapidly growing population. While there were fewer than five thousand dailies and weeklies in 1870, there were more than fourteen thousand in 1890. In 1870, 2.5 million households subscribed to a daily paper, and that number nearly quadrupled by 1890.21 This rapid growth in newspaper production was unique to the United States. The 1880 census (p.74) suggested that the press experienced industrialization as acutely as other economic sectors, reporting that the “rate of growth of the news industry seemed unparalleled in any other country of the world and hardly equaled by any other phase of industrial development in the United States.”22 Accompanying this growth was a transformation in the nineteenth century from what David Paul Nord has labeled an associational press that catered to distinct interpretive communities linked to civic and religious associations to an informational or entertainment-based press that competed for general readers by producing seemingly less ideological news of local, national, and world events thought to be of common interest.23

The associational papers that brought narrowly identified communities together were increasingly sidelined by more politically and religiously fluid publications that started attracting more readers as early as the 1830s. By the 1880s, the majority of mainstream commercial papers privileged information and entertainment over moral instruction or social relevance.24 The content of these publications seemed worlds away from the tone and perspective of the religious press that had played such a formidable role in the early and mid-nineteenth-century print marketplace.25 If religious publications preached sobriety, devotion, and restraint, secular publications emphasized hedonism, danger, and titillation through their mainstay sports columns, crime stories, and gossip pages. As America urbanized and industrialized, the urban press, which was itself experiencing these demographic shifts as a novelty, paraded a daily feast of stories about urban fortunes and misfortunes before its readers. General readership papers in 1880s New York offered daily lessons in the many ways one could die. Headlines like “Crushed Under a Car,” “Threw Herself Over a Cliff,” “Salvationists Attacked by Roughs,” and “Slain by a Dynamite Blast” from the New York Herald ’s front page on January 7, 1886, were typical of this genre. Following each headline was a sentiment-free, visually rich depiction of the crime committed or the method of death—free of moral commentary and recrimination.

The ascendancy of the information- and entertainment-based press incited a backlash among believers like evangelical Christians, for whom these publications signified a secularism growing like kudzu throughout American culture. Yet even disapproving readers found it difficult to ignore the number, ubiquity, and increasing influence of the commercial print publications that had emerged after the Civil War. Commentary on press items in evangelical publications suggests that believers avidly if grudgingly read general newspapers along with their own media. These organs directed them toward bountiful objects in need of religious instruction and intervention—especially abject social types like the prostitute or the drunk made (p.75) visible in urban crime coverage. At the same time, mainstream newspapers also directed evangelicals toward the daily paper itself as a central object of moral reform.

Late nineteenth-century evangelical women reformers correspondingly worked to combat “sensationalism” in the press, which they defined as detailed portrayals of criminality and deviance. Concern about the negative effects of crime stories—what Illinois WCTU member Anna Garlin Spencer called their “disgusting particularities” of criminal acts and “minute photographs of those who committed them”—prompted collective action against newspaper content.26 Spencer was responding to the level of fascination shown by daily papers like the National Police Gazette and the New York descendants of the penny press for crime coverage. Evangelicals felt that such stories corrupted youth and celebrated non-Christian behavior; during the late 1880s they sought to change journalistic content to reflect their own moral framework. In 1887 Spencer called on other WCTU members to “begin with the public tastes [sic ] which forms the popular daily newspaper, and reform it!”27

Of course, the press itself had its defenders and detractors. Against claims that “newspapermen” are “impudent, conscienceless intruders” who are “capable of any act whereby a sensational ‘beat’ may be secured,” M. Y. Beach responded that a reporter was in fact a “gentleman … pursuing a perfectly legitimate business” and was “entitled to the respectful consideration of the people he approaches.”28 James Parton, the editor of an urban daily, on the other hand, was cynical about the degree to which business interests dominated Gilded Age newspapers. He advised young men of intellect to avoid newspaper work: “The most respectable and honorable part of a daily paper is the one which the ‘ordinary reader’ seldom looks at. It is the page of market and shipping news. What a relief to turn to its honest and painstaking reality from the agonizing sensations of the other parts of the paper, with heartless headings that make us writhe in torment before our time.”29

The activist women of the WCTU took this critique of sensationalism one step further by advancing a gendered analysis of secular print culture that attributed its perceived immorality to masculine vices. The group symbolically equated officialdom, journalism, and saloons—all sites of male culture that WCTU leaders’ felt had veered from Christian doctrine and created a tight-knit network of men that allowed innumerable sins against women and families to be perpetuated with impunity. In the 1880s the WCTU formed its own Department for the Suppression of Impure Literature, a division that fought numerous censorship battles against publishing companies and crime-story papers, in particular the National Police (p.76) Gazette and the sites where it was read and sold.30 The organization also started its own Press Department and established superintendents of press in each state with a WCTU branch.

Underlying the WCTU’s activities concerning the press was a deep suspicion of the motives and biases of male editors and journalists. WCTU president Willard invoked her signature rhetoric of home protection, familial virtue, and temperance in arguing that women should enter the growing field of journalism. Describing all-male newsrooms in almost Gothic terms as impure and sordid associations, full of “cobwebs in the air and brain” and “alcoholic ink,” where journalists put drunken hallucinations on the printed page, Willard suggested that “newspapers need women more than women need newspapers.” The presence of women would transform “sensationalistic” crime and sports columns that exuded a “beery mental flavor” and “a bitter gall” into something virtuous and pure. American journalism, like other primarily male institutions in need of women members, would then begin to approximate the ideal family form: “newspaperdom is a camp and not a family circle—a half sphere and not a whole one.” Willard spoke as one who had previous experience in journalism herself, for a time editing and publishing her brother’s Chicago Post and Mail before that endeavor failed and she devoted herself to full-time activism and evangelism.

The civic-mindedness of the religious women reformers of the 1880s often put them at odds with corrupt political machines and the daily papers that had long looked the other way. Although privileged, these women lacked full rights as citizens and were often denied entry into the new professions (including journalism itself). Though women in the 1880s were often paid to supply stories to newspapers, aspiring women journalists were typically excluded from the masculine culture of newsrooms. The 1890 Census reported only 888 women journalists out of 21,847 in the profession, or about 4 percent. As a result, many women who would have become journalists found an outlet for their vocational inclinations and their dissatisfaction with a male-centered, Gilded Age culture in the era’s reform movements. The WCTU, for example, replicated what its leaders felt were purer versions of male-centered institutions by establishing its own governing board and publishing house, which produced the organization’s temperance reform tracts and manuals, as well as its flagship weekly newspaper, the Union Signal. The WCTU also partnered with the nascent Illinois Women’s Press Association, which was linked to the WCTU through membership, to shape and alter press representations of women’s issues and WCTU conventions. The WCTU participated in such initiatives because the organization had “suffered many things at the hands of reporters,” whose “ignorance of (p.77) [the WCTU’s] methods of work [made them] unable to become sufficiently en rapport with it to report it satisfactorily.”31 The WCTU believed women journalists would offer more knowledgeable, sympathetic reporting.

In 1885, when Stead’s story broke in London, the secular informational press and the evangelical associational press expressed starkly different attitudes about prostitution and other forms of vice. The diverging responses to the tale of sex slavery in “The Maiden Tribute” underscored how little mainstream editors and journalists had in common with evangelical social purity leaders.

Revelation By Wire

Many Americans first encountered Stead’s revelations through telegraphed accounts in their own daily papers. New York newspapers reported on the London sensation with fascination and a jocular curiosity, but were not initially eager to embrace his topic, methods, or conclusions. Nonetheless, newsfeed from the transatlantic cable enabled nationally dispersed readers to experience “The Maiden Tribute” and the controversies surrounding it within days of their publication. Stead mentioned “telegrams from the United States begging for telegraphic information as to the progress of the great exposure” in the July 13 installment of his exposé: “The purest journals in the great American Republic have reproduced our revelations in full, and the perusal of our narrative has, we are told, silenced the adverse criticism based on imperfect information, and convinced the American public that no other method would have availed to rouse public attention to the vital necessity of remedying the existing abuse.”32 Stead did not exaggerate the immediate market for telegraphic information about the story, but he did misrepresent the degree to which US public opinion embraced the report’s content and welcomed its revelations as truth. Most newspapers and journals covered the events in London only briefly and in a tone of detached fascination. Other papers printed information-based stories on the censorship effort surrounding Stead’s revelations without taking an editorial stance on his methods.

A deal brokered in the late 1860s between the New York–controlled Associated Press and Western Union guaranteed that New York dailies were always first to access news from Europe.33 Because they controlled the wires, New York papers were the first to comment on “The Maiden Tribute.” The New York of 1885 was teeming with vice, yet the city’s press refrained from comparing New York to London. The bulk of New York papers treated the revelations as high entertainment. James Gordon Bennett’s impudent New (p.78) York Herald opined, “Revelations of this sort tickle gross minds and sell a few papers; but the world knows as much of them as it cares to know.”34 Three days later, in a story entitled “Obscene London” about Parliament’s response to “The Maiden Tribute,” the same paper editorialized, “Really, really, we cannot help laughing. The prudery of London is too ridiculous.”35 By July 10 the New York Herald had dismissed the story as pure melodrama and suggested that the public “is merely buying the Pall Mall Gazette as it would buy cheap editions of the poems of Rochester or the plays of Mrs. Aphra Behn.”36 The heralded New York daily speculated that American papers would never undertake such a project because of their sensible practical nature and their disinclination toward reforms. It concluded that American papers do not seek to “thrill the heart of the people” by “bragging” about urban vice.37

The New York Sun and the New York Daily Graphic, the two New York papers that came closest to embracing Stead’s account, appeared as outliers in the mostly negative reviews. The New York Sun stood by the veracity of Stead’s story but insisted that its plot was a distant one: similar conspiracies and abuses could not occur in the United States, where “the huge machinery of justice can be set in motion at any time at a touch from the humblest citizen.”38 The paper printed direct excerpts from “The Maiden Tribute” on July 11 and 12, providing American readers with their first account of the exposé. This descendant of the penny press, which solidified its reputation by covering the infamous Helen Jewett murder in the 1836, defended its decision to print the “horrid details” by equating it with public actions undertaken to prevent cholera: “To reproduce those pictures in this country is to put our people on guard against the growth of like abominations here.”39 Other papers and journals might have been critical of the decision, but on July 13 the Pall Mall Gazette singled out the paper, thanking it for endorsing its virgin slave trade revelations, an honor the New York Sun reveled in the following day.40

The illustrated New York Daily Graphic exclaimed in a similar vein that “the newspaper is the proper reformatory agency, and all honor to the Pall Mall Gazette for its courage in undertaking the work!”41 The New York Daily Graphic did not have a reputation for reform up to that point but was riveted and inspired by “The Maiden Tribute” saga, perhaps seeing in it a way to boost circulation. The following day, it declared in response to the Herald ’s sarcastic dismissals, “It is not the yearning for obscenity that makes this honest, courageous paper sell. It is a desire to get at the truth and to secure the reform which the publication of the truth makes necessary.”42 The New York Daily Graphic hinted at a forthcoming “series of stories” on (p.79) the “social life” of Washington, DC, that “will create as great a sensation as the Pall Mall Gazette articles,” though, for whatever reason, the earth-shattering series never appeared.43

The Nation, a later champion of investigative journalism, saw in the revelations a certain didacticism and obscenity masquerading as reform. It predicted that a reader of the “beastly publication” would have “his horror of vice somewhat lessened and his ideas of the vicious possibilities and opportunities somewhat enlarged.” On the possibility of American journalism taking up such a political role for itself, the Nation stated that Stead “evidently thinks that he has opened up a new and glorious field for ‘journalism.’ … That some of our contemporaries are quite ready for such a job we have no doubt, … and there are others which we have no doubt consider this a most mortifying ‘beat.’” The article surmised that numerous reporters were willing to “do the scavenger work of modern society” by “describing its foulness and indecency” and sarcastically suggested that Anthony Comstock should join the faculty in “one of those ‘schools of journalism’ which we hear every now and then that some puny college is thinking of setting up.”44

The Social Purity Response

If American commercial newspapers gazed upon the proceedings in London with fascination and disdain, anti-vice reformers viewed Stead’s journalistic tour de force as a turning point in the national campaign for social purity that had worked to eradicate prostitution in the decades after the Civil War.45 Frances Willard described reading Stead’s exposé in 1885 as a veritable spiritual experience. She described the Gazette disclosures as a “moral cyclone” that “cleared the air and broke the spell, so that silence now seems criminal and we only wonder that we did not speak before.” They “so stirred the heart of womanhood” that, “were the hidden life of our great cities known,” the knowledge would spawn a similar movement in the United States.46 Willard and other reformers came to idolize Stead for his courage in undertaking “The Maiden Tribute” investigation and for his example of what journalism in the hands of spiritually guided practitioners could be.

For the next several years, the WCTU’s battle against white slavery coincided with its broader call for temperance. “The Maiden Tribute” inspired Willard to incorporate anti-trafficking and age-of-consent activity into the WCTU’s regular operations. In late 1885, Willard established the Suppression of the Social Evil department, which in March 1886 would become the (p.80) Department of Social Purity (DSP), as a special WCTU branch. Stead’s disclosures also served as catalyst for a heightened level of interorganizational communication and action in the American social purity movement. Within months of Stead’s exposé, social purity advocates formed new groups, such as the Episcopalian White Cross Society, modeled after the one in England, to advance male purity. On December 13, 1885, the Union Signal reported that the new crusade had united women’s and men’s groups alike:

Our elder sister, the Woman’s Suffrage Association, moved by the same spirit, has taken the same stand and the two great organizations will work for the same object. Other organizations of women are wheeling into line; we hope that soon the womanhood of America will stand in an unbroken phalanx for the protection of her girls…. In this work we are nobly aided by the best manhood in the nation. The Society for the Prevention of Vice and the White Cross League are both our loyal coad-jutors, working in directions and from vantage ground from which we cannot command.47

As an anti-trafficking agenda coalesced among diverse social and political reform organizations, English social purity missionaries like Josephine Butler and William Coote traveled the United States offering tactical and strategic advice to a newly energized movement.

Supporting these developments was a growing network of associational print media through which reformers kept abreast of the national and international fronts on which social purity battles were being waged. Reform publications alerted adherents to rallies, mail-in campaigns, boycotts, and other strategies for advancing the purity agenda. The practices and content of movement publications and the types of political actions employed evolved during the 1880s to accommodate new technologies and ascended to a new level of organization. The social purity and temperance press began to use its own media as vehicles not only to convert others but to press for reform, coordinate national actions, and stay abreast of local issues pertaining to social and moral purity.

The most prominent women’s evangelical periodical was the WCTU’s Union Signal. The Union Signal was founded in 1883 with the merger of the Signal, an Illinois-based temperance paper, and Our Union. The WCTU had editorial control over the Union Signal, but until 1903 the publication was owned by the Women’s Temperance Publishing Association (WTPA). With a circulation of more than a hundred thousand by 1890, the Union Signal was the most heavily read late nineteenth-century women’s weekly. The paper (p.81) was an admixture of short updates pertinent to temperance or WCTU members, state and departmental reports, temperance-related short stories and essays, didactic games and puzzles for children, letters from members, and reports debunking the latest scientific defenses of alcohol. Matilda Carse, the owner of the WTPA, oversaw a staff of 111 employees, the majority of whom were women. In 1885, Carse reported at the WCTU annual convention that her publishing house had “published over thirteen million pages of temperance literature, besides the Union Signal. These leaves have been scattered abroad for the healing of our nation.”48 Throughout her tenure as WCTU president, Willard served as editor-in-chief of the Union Signal. She considered the publication one of her organization’s finest achievements. She reflected in 1895 as her tenure drew to a close: “It is doubtful if any of our reform newspapers published on the globe has earned greater respect or made for itself a home with a larger number of our ‘best families’—those in which husband and wife are one, and that one is husband and wife.”49

While the Union Signal predated the WCTU’s campaign against white slavery, another social purity publication, the Philanthropist, was formed in direct response to the London revelations. The monthly newsletter’s first issue in January 1886 was dedicated to “the promotion of social purity, the better protection of the young, the suppression of vice, and the prevention of its regulation by the state.” Founded by the New York Committee for the Prevention of State Regulation of Vice and edited by Aaron and Anna Powell, the publication served as a clearinghouse for transnational reform news from the American White Cross Movement, the English Vigilance Association, and the WCTU.

The Philanthropist ’s inaugural issue was devoted entirely to Stead’s exposé and imprisonment, and their reception in the general press. The first page carried the transcript of Josephine Butler’s speech at Exeter Hall, where supporters held an all-day prayer meeting for Stead during his imprisonment. The periodical reported that Butler called Stead a “good and true man” who “was trained by God for this great work.”50 The inaugural issue also reprinted a letter to the New York Tribune by Powell defending Stead against that newspaper’s charges. Powell did “not endorse Mr. Stead’s detective methods,” but argued that his story “was essentially true” and aligned Stead with the US abolitionist movement by calling him “the ‘John Brown’ of these white slaves of the legalized and illegal brothels of Europe.” As Powell explained to the Tribune, “the farce and injustice of his imprisonment, while real criminals under the law in question are allowed to go free of punishment, will serve to emphasize the urgent need of a thorough, conscientious public awakening upon the subject.”51 All subsequent 1886 (p.82) issues of the Philanthropist apprised readers of the status of American general newspapers’ coverage of Stead. Aaron Powell instructed social purity reformers to send letters to daily newspapers defending Stead’s journalistic integrity. The Philanthropist ’s editor took his newfound role as American liaison and public relations spokesperson for Stead seriously; he directly contacted all New York newspaper publishers and editors, including Whitelaw Reid, editor of the New York Tribune, seeking the opportunity to engage in face-to-face discussions of Stead’s life, work, and accomplishments.52

Campaigning Against an Impure Press

As Nord has argued, late nineteenth-century urban papers “provided their audience with a limited, organized, common frame of reference, so that diverse city dwellers could communicate with each other—communicate in the sense that they could think about the same things at the same time and thus share a vision of social reality.”53 While the argument that the nineteenth-century urban press constructed social reality, fostering community understanding in the absence of face-to-face relationships, has had much analytical purchase over the years, it is also apparent that many readers did not accept the press as an accurate map of social reality. Temperance and social purity activists in the 1880s frequently found in the pages of the daily paper an affront and direct challenge to their moral paradigm. Nonetheless, they recognized that the general mass media were central to any effective crusade to alter public perceptions. Willard understood journalism’s ability to shape public opinion and felt that the WCTU’s efforts would be lost if the organization failed to harness this power: “The history of the reformer, whether man or woman, on any line of action is but this: when he sees it all alone he is a fanatic; when a good many see it with him they are enthusiasts; when all see it he is a hero.”54 She therefore sought to “extend [the WCTU’s] sphere of influence” by using its own press as well as by using a number of strategies to influence the commercial press.55

With a clear understanding of the importance of influencing the press, she modeled the WCTU’s press strategy after the one initiated by the Fabian Society. She hoped all temperance activists would communicate the WCTU agenda to the general press. Each new member was sent a list of local papers and clear instructions for writing pro-temperance and social purity letters to the editor. She also created the positions of national and state press superintendents; these people were responsible for providing news copy focused on temperance and social purity to local papers, a practice that began in the early 1880s.56 The state superintendent of New Hampshire reported in 1883 (p.83) that she “copied and sent articles to thirty … papers every two weeks.” She went on to state that “the reason two editors gave for refusing space may be interesting. One said his paper was devoted to politics, and he has never taken part in temperance or any other ism, the proper place for them was in the religious papers. The other said his paper was not such a one that would be likely to aid our cause, and therefore, ‘for the good of the cause, etc.’ he must decline.”57 In 1885 Esther Housh, the national WCTU press superintendent, sent out fiftyfour thousand bulletins and sent circulars to more than seven hundred general, religious, and agricultural journals.58 Housh’s efforts were particularly effective in Ohio, which had been heavily influenced by the women’s crusade a decade earlier. In 1885 and 1886, 125 Ohio papers carried stories originally written by the WCTU.59

Underscoring the degree to which Willard believed that influencing the general press was central to her group’s mission, she repeatedly argued that the WCTU should have a paid press superintendent, even though other key positions, including her own, were held by unpaid volunteers. She began making this argument in late 1885, the same year Stead published “The Maiden Tribute”: “The vagaries of the partisan press must be replied to in their own columns whenever possible. Poison cannot be counteracted save where it is imbibed. To refute the New York Tribune ’s falsities in the columns of the Union Signal is to reach only those who need no antidote. Our superintendent must be salaried, furnished with files of all leading papers, aided by clerks, and instructed to reply in our name to these misleading statements in the very columns where they appeared.”60 For Willard, the WCTU was in direct competition with the minds of readers with masculine interests like organized sports: “The baseball club asks for a journalistic hearing and succeeds; the pugilist asks it, and bloody-nosed and bloody-handed as he is, succeeds—to the shame of the reading public be it spoken. With as much energy in our good and great cause as he has in his bad and bestial one, we might succeed as well as he.”61 She continually set higher goals for the WCTU in its battle with masculine journalistic culture. In 1889 she proposed sending out news bulletins to five thousand papers a week and issuing regular Associated Press dispatches to alert papers to prohibitionist and social purity activities.

Similarly, the Philanthropist attempted to shape news copy and reward reform-minded papers through its weekly “Greetings to the Philanthropist” column, which directed reformers to general newspapers proven friendly to social purity causes. These “greetings” noted papers that positively referenced the Philanthropist, the Union Signal, or other social purity publications; respectfully quoted members of the movement as authoritative (p.84) sources on moral issues; or took a social purity perspective in one of their stories. The first “Greetings to the Philanthropist” listed the Central Times of New Jersey, the Louisville Southern Journal, the Washington American, and the Los Angeles Weekly Censor as papers in the process of attaining social purity credibility. Activists were urged to reward these papers with their readership and family subscriptions.

Women journalists, who were busily organizing regional press associations in the latter half of the 1880s, also mobilized against a perceived masculine bias in general-readership papers that was conveyed through “sensationalist” reporting. In 1893, the Pacific Coast Women’s Press Association’s petition to end sensationalism gathered twenty thousand signatures. The petition claimed, “We believe it is a minority of your readers who demand sensational, personal, or immoral details, rather than the clean statement of facts and truth. There is a minuteness of detail in the reports of crime, wickedness, and sensuality, which can gratify only prurient and vulgar curiosity, or awaken such curiosity in innocent and inexperienced minds.” The petition was sent out to papers across the West Coast. In a letter to the Women’s Journal, one woman journalist considered the action a great success: “One of the two most offensively and enterprisingly sensational of our dailies told me that since this movement he and his kind were under special instructions to treat their details in a restrained and cleanly manner; notably in a peculiarly revolting murder case in which he had reported”62

These crusades against the press allowed evangelical reformers to exercise their power as representatives of desirable middle-class audiences to pressure the press to adopt a stronger, moral, feminine-identified focus. In the months after its initial publication, the Union Signal increased its advertising space from one to three pages. By the end of the 1880s, the temperance weekly routinely carried more than four pages of ads. Carse’s deft handling of her publishing company and her strong relationship with Chicago businesses contributed to the paper’s success in generating ad revenue. The Union Signal often promoted itself as a valuable medium for advertising. One article spoke directly to potential advertisers, claiming that the weekly was “one of the best advertising mediums in the country…. Its patrons are just the people that bona fide and judicious advertisers wish to reach, being mainly refined and intelligent Christian ladies, mistresses of their own homes, with plenty of means to buy such goods as are brought to their notice by advertisers in this, their own paper.”63 The paper pointed to the class status of its readers as evidence that they were of the purchasing class. There was no contradiction between religious or temperance publishing and commercial capitalist endeavors. In fact, readers of the Union (p.85) Signal were highly desirable, valuable readers, a fact that the general press, which allegedly catered to the generic public but really oriented its news coverage to men, had not yet discovered on a broad scale.

The WCTU was continually at war with its representation in much of the secular press, and its commentary about the press stepped up in the months after the publication of Stead’s report. One issue of the Union Signal cheekily wrote that “there is nothing like being informed on topics concerning which you write. A leading city Daily says ‘The WCTU has moved its headquarters to New York. There is nothing like being on the spot.’ If this measures said Daily’s knowledge and accuracy, we need not feel badly about the flings and stabs it is continually giving us.”64

The Proliferation of a Genre

Even as newspapers came under fire for sensationalism, they were indispensable to a number of the campaigns that purity reformers engaged in. The city paper reflected a range of urban problems back to reformers, constructing the city as an unstable, unruly, and godless space in dire need of domestication, containment, and purification. Many of the issues that members of the WCTU and the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice crusaded against came straight off the pages of the newspaper. Reports of urban prostitution and disorderly conduct in saloons were often not experienced or witnessed by reformers firsthand, but delivered to them in orthographic, secondhand form, compliments of these papers. The secular paper often highlighted, signaled, and provided the coordinates for a vice-related occurrence. Reformers intent on intervention typically followed the newspaper’s lead to the episode’s epicenter.

In 1887 a handful of newspapers began writing of domestic trafficking routes that moved women between New York and Newark and from Chicago to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. That year the Philanthropist was able to print a story that relied almost entirely on mainstream press accounts of girls trapped against their will in “dens of infamy.”65 While at first glance it might appear that general-interest commodity papers were simply borrowing the “white slavery” genre from Stead or responding to an objective increase in domestic sex slavery, the story is more complex than either narrative diffusion or realism would suggest. “The Maiden Tribute” did provide the critical discursive opening that allowed both moral reformers and daily newspapers to speak in increasingly open terms about prostitution, which they proceeded to do at great length. However, the adoption of the sex trafficking story by daily newspapers is at least partly due to the pressure placed (p.86) on the secular press by a reinvigorated social purity alliance that used its own reform journalism and the promise of economically stable middle-class readers to influence general papers. Using direct pressure as well as write-in campaigns, these men and women encouraged papers to feature journalistic reports on organized prostitution and its methods: the trickery, kidnapping, and bribery that were seen to enable it, as well as the abuses suffered by trafficking’s victims.

It may seem a curious contradiction for groups to rail against “sensationalism” while promoting a topic that—at least in England—had already lent itself to so much sensationalism. We have already examined how Stead considered sensationalism as a weapon in the journalist-editor’s arsenal to be wielded in the service of a larger moral agenda. However, in the late nineteenth-century United States, the meaning of the neologism sensationalism was not defined against objectivity, as it currently is. The WCTU in particular helped to establish the sex trafficking exposé, bolstered by an investigation of the “facts” as a fixture of US journalism and a central tool in social purity campaigns against prostitution.66 The WCTU and its evangelical allies strove to align sex trafficking stories symbolically with fact-based investigation and an enlightened interest in social ills, and to oppose it to sensationalistic reportage and a prurient interest in sports or crime. In other words, discrete stories detailing prurient or violent events purely for informational or entertainment value constituted sensationalism. Morally guided exposés of social ills such as alcoholism or prostitution that were oriented toward abolition and informed by facts did not constitute sensationalism. More simply, if a news story contained details that the evangelicals or WCTU disapproved of, and the article did not promote their agenda, it was sensationalism.

In January and February 1887, a small number of US papers began experimenting with the new “white slavery” genre. These stories of girls “decoyed into dens of vice” were met with the great approval of and vindication by social purity activists across the country. Trafficking stories satisfied newspapers’ desires for sensational coverage and simultaneously satisfied neo-abolitionists’ strong belief that white slavery was a significant problem that cut across the urban/rural divide. Interestingly, while big cities like New York and Chicago were represented as sites of procurement in these initial stories, in each narrative the “dives” to which city women were taken were located in smaller regional cities and towns. Big urban dailies in the 1880s appeared unwilling to assert the presence of entrapped women in their own cities and thus set off the inevitable investigations that such allegations would incite. Instead, papers like the New York Sun, (p.87) the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean, and the Detroit Free Press focused on other municipality’s trafficking problems.

The two midwestern dailies dabbling in trafficking coverage happened to be the papers that had cultivated the closest relationships with the WCTU. The Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean had earned the accolades of the WCTU in 1883 when it published an exposé on the liquor traffic. Between 1883 and 1890, the paper’s owner, William Penn Nixon, and editors occasionally appeared at WCTU-sponsored events and devoted space in the paper to WCTU news. Willard and the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean ’s news editor sometimes headlined together at public lectures, including one sponsored by the Illinois Women’s Press Association, whose membership overlapped considerably with the WCTU. The news editor and Willard each spoke as experts in the field of journalism, representing the “masculine” and “feminine” perspectives, respectively.67 While the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean was the WCTU’s staunchest ally in the world of mainstream journalism, the Detroit Free Press had also reached out to WCTU members as early as 1885 by purchasing Union Signal advertising space.

In reporting on trafficking, such urban papers as the New York Sun, Detroit Free Press, and Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean benefited from the attention that such reportage garnered while shielding their host cities from scrutiny and at times describing citizens of big cities as victims of trafficking rings. The New York Sun had also developed a relationship with social purity reformers in New York. While the daily had lauded Stead’s handiwork in 1885, it insisted that nothing like Stead’s account of virgins bought and sold could happen in the United States. But after Powell’s prodding, the paper began to dabble in trafficking narratives itself. A brothel murder in Newark in early 1887 led the paper to print “startling revelations” that were “truly hideous” but “should be most beneficent,” adding that “nothing more potent in exciting [attention] than the exposures made two years ago in the Pall-Mall Gazette.” While other New York papers were treating the incident as an everyday murder, the Sun pointed to deeper causes, suggesting that the brothel’s madam was involved in “nefarious traffic.” The Sun also went further than other papers by alleging a conspiracy, saying that the woman systematically brought “Germans and Jewesses” from New York to Newark for ten dollars apiece. Such coverage, from the perspective of the Philanthropist, confirmed the existence of “a regular systematic trade carried on in young girls, a brokerage of vice” in the United States.68

Alongside the “Newark horror” came the “shocking story of the infamous dens of the lumber camps of the upper Peninsula of Michigan” in the Detroit Free Press that also captured the attention of Philanthropist and (p.88) Union Signal readers. Claiming that “what is published is but a hint of the life of these dens of infamy, the details being too revolting for publication” the Detroit Free Press declared that women and girls were systematically lured to the Upper Peninsula from Detroit, Chicago, and elsewhere with the promise of employment. Upon their arrival, these women found themselves enslaved under lock and key and prevented by bloodhounds from escaping.69 Over the next two years, numerous stories featuring young women, bloodhounds, stockades, physical abuse, and even murder in the pine forests of northern Michigan and Wisconsin circulated throughout the Midwest. Social purity activists embraced these newspaper reports of girls held in captivity even as they assailed “blood and thunder” crime and sports stories. They praised depictions of trafficked women and attested to their veracity while calling crime coverage sensationalist, prurient, and immoral. What began as a narrative deflection of attention by journalists from their own locale came to be interpreted as trafficking stories—stories that were reified, amplified, and served as templates for a broader conceptual model of a widespread social evil.

The representations of prostitution routes from New York City to Newark or Chicago to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula amounted to a new way of describing prostitution for the mainstream press. In previous urban crime coverage, the commercial sex trade had typically been depicted as spatially fixed—located in brothels, at particular intersections, or in specific districts—whereas this new representation emphasized passage from one locale into another. The movement or traffic of women was seen as central to the harm the trade was perpetuating.70 The impetus for such representations was as much the American legacy of chattel slavery and the transcontinental slave trade as it was any discernible increase in sex trafficking between 1885, when papers were saying the phenomenon was isolated to Europe, and 1887, when they began reporting on domestic trafficking. In addition to covering the pressure from evangelical crusaders, journalists covered public events in the social reform milieu that reinforced the domestic trafficking framework.

The early sex trafficking reportage was regional, but nationally organized abolitionist groups had a hand in circulating these stories far beyond their geographic scope. In response to local stories, the Philanthropist predicted that there were trafficking rings on par with those in New Jersey and Michigan in every locality in the country, especially in urban areas: “In all our large centers of population there is too much reason to fear there is being continually carried on, hidden from the general view, but often with the knowledge of the police authorities, this hideous traffic in girlhood and (p.89) womanhood to meet the purchasing demands of sensual men.”71 The urgency that ensued upon hearing of “real” cases of white slavery led social purity groups like the WCTU, not content to allow only recently converted secular newspapers to handle these reports, to visit the sites of alleged white slavery, fund and conduct their own inquiries into the phenomenon, publicize the results in their publications and public lectures, and use their findings to agitate for stricter laws against prostitution.

The Wisconsin and Michigan Stockades

The WCTU’s Department of Social Purity remained without a head for its first year in existence. In taking stock of the department’s activities for 1886, Willard declared that the year had been spent studying Stead’s revelations along with the Criminal Law Amendment Act and the White Cross Society, with the goal of enacting similar developments in the United States. At their annual convention in late 1886, WCTU members decided to group their purity work into three broad categories: preventive, reformatory, and legislative.72 In 1887 Willard recruited another Illinoisan, the devout Methodist physician and missionary Katherine Bushnell, to serve as National Evangelist of the Purity Department of the WCTU. Bushnell’s previous social purity work among Chinese prostitutes in Denver provided her with critical rescue-work experience. Back in Chicago, she and a team of volunteers established a number of programs aimed at saving women trapped in systems of vice. Bushnell and her assistants turned to the daily papers and police records to find names of women caught up in the “social evil” who might be open to support and counseling.

Immediately after establishing rehabilitation and training programs in Chicago, Kate Bushnell scheduled a nationwide lecture tour to introduce audiences to the WCTU’s social purity activities. Like other commentators in this post–“Maiden Tribute” moment, Bushnell remarked on the candor with which she could suddenly discuss prostitution: “Women are speaking and audiences listening to the discussion of a side of social life concerning which the whisper of a sentence a few years ago would have been considered a breach of the rules of propriety.”73 As she traveled across the United States, Bushnell read the stories in the Detroit Free Press and the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean alleging the existence of white slavery in the pine forests of northern Michigan and Wisconsin. The reports described the brutal conditions under which women and girls were lured to the area with the promise of employment and instead forced into prostitution to service the Canadian, German, and Polish laborers in the region’s lumber camps. One report in (p.90) the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean told the story of twenty-two-year-old Hattie Nathan, a well-educated “prepossessing and refined” girl whom the brothels of Marinette, Wisconsin, had driven insane. According to the report, the girl had committed an early “indiscretion,” after which she “drifted to a dive” near Marinette. Once there, she was “made a prisoner with the other unfortunate women in the place.” After the abuses of her first night, she escaped by scaling a high fence, but as she ran down the road, she heard the “baying of hounds” and was ultimately forced back into the brothel, severely beaten, and “locked in her room.” Her next escape was successful: she made it to a brothel in Chicago, whereupon she became insane and lived in a trunk, “trembling with the fear of imaginary hounds.”74 Similar stories circulated about the pine forests of northern Michigan, though the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean spent more time describing conditions near the northern Wisconsin town of Marinette. The WCTU immediately called on the governors of these states to take action against the alleged brutalities.

Allegations of Upper Peninsula trafficking came just months after Willard had visited the region to lobby for the passage of a Prohibitory Amendment. The Union Signal had represented the passage of Michigan’s amendment as a near-certainty and expressed shock and outrage, particularly at the press, when the measure did not pass as expected in April 1887. Significantly, the analysis of Upper Peninsula lumber camps began at this point, and so did the region’s contentious relationship with the WCTU. In “A Week in the ‘Upper Peninsula,’” Willard described being duped by ostensible social purity allies who staged a debate in Marquette, Michigan, in which she represented temperance, while they (two attorneys and a lumberman) argued for “practical temperance.” Willard described not being allowed time to rebut her opponents and feeling outnumbered. She concluded that Marquette is “an aristocratic city of the Upper Peninsula. Here, in luxurious homes, live the lumber, iron, and copper ‘kings.’”75 Once the amendment failed, Willard claimed that the battle was one between a false press and a righteous pulpit, exclaiming, “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! was the refrain that echoed in my ears for the first time in my life, as I followed their terrible words stenographed in the Detroit press and industriously spread throughout the nation.”76

After Michigan’s initial skirmish with the WCTU over the Prohibitory Amendment, Wisconsin and Michigan officials were not eager to embrace Chicago-based allegations about prostitution abuses in their states, especially so close to an election year. In late 1887 and early 1888, both Wisconsin Governor Rusk and Michigan Governor Luce ordered investigations into the abuses to see if bases existed for the “rumors.” Governor Rusk also (p.91) ordered raids on two “dives” near Marinette, but the officials arrived to find them already deserted.77 He also dispatched a special investigator, James Fielding, to determine whether the newspaper claims had any merit. In the face of non-indigenous assertions, the Milwaukee Daily Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel —archenemies on most other issues—rallied around Rusk and Fielding. The Milwaukee Daily Journal provided a laudatory account of Fielding’s “Journey Through Northern Wisconsin” and lambasted the “dime-novel sensationalists who painted the matter in lurid colors, distorting and embellishing facts” and the “newspapers in various parts of the country [that] copied these cheap narratives, and found silly people to believe them.” Fielding, his detective, and the Milwaukee papers did not dispute the existence of prostitution in the northern territory but argued that there was no evidence of abduction or abuse, except excessive debt for clothes or drink on the part of the women. After allegedly visiting several northern Wisconsin brothels as an undercover agent and talking to the women living there, Fielding concluded that “there was no truth in the stories about the north containing prisons where women were made slaves to the passions of brutal men.”78

Bushnell became skeptical when she read the Milwaukee Daily Journal ’s account of Fielding’s refutation of the newspaper reports and decided to conduct her own investigation of the stockades. What ensued was a year-long battle between Bushnell, Fielding, the Wisconsin legislature, and the Milwaukee papers over the veracity of the stories of abduction and forced prostitution in the camps. Bushnell and members of the WCTU put their stock in the papers that reported on Wisconsin’s white slavery as fact. In a Union Signal article, “Another Maiden Tribute,” they drew parallels between Stead’s work in London and the reportorial allegations of white slavery in the Midwest. WCTU member Bessie Cushman’s article figured women readers as supremely rational, capable of readily discerning truth from sensationalism, yet not inclined to advertise this ability. It asserted that “the modern Babylon” is not confined to London or even big cities but occurs even “between the lumber districts of the upper Peninsula of Michigan and American and Canadian cities.” While the “wires had grown hot” with details of lumbermen, hounds, high board fences, and kidnapping, the general reception of the revelations on the whole disappointed the social purity wing of the WCTU. The problem was encapsulated in an illustrative encounter between a generic husband and wife, John and Mary, who, between sips of coffee, read out loud a story of midwestern prostitution. John remarks, “The papers couldn’t live without a little spice of this sort once in a while,” and Mary soberly but understatedly replies, “But wouldn’t (p.92) it be horrible if it should be true?” The following week, their paper prints a story in which a saloon keeper assures the reporter that an erstwhile kidnapped girl knew “just what she was going to do up there.” John takes the saloon keeper’s assessment as truth, saying, “Here’s a denial of that kidnapping canard I was reading you a couple days ago.” The fictive Mary defers to John, saying, “I’m glad there’s no truth to it,” while the third-person narrator comments wryly, “The ripple in moral sentiment of heart and home and community is smoothed away. It is pronounced an exaggerated account of an every day occurrence.”79

The question for members of the WCTU came down to whom one chose to believe: the male saloon keeper; or the male investigator, who treats the bar owner as an authority on prostitution; or the testimony of the women themselves and those few male journalists who claim to speak for or on behalf of them. John identified with the masculine authorities, while Mary’s initial instincts told her that these unthinkable abuses could actually happen to women in the United States. As we have seen, the WCTU and other social purity reformers sounded plenty of warnings about press sensationalism themselves, but for these activists, the new “white slavery” stories were strictly off limits to such charges. Through this genre, the WCTU sought to challenge a social order in which Mary had to withhold her superior sentiment on women’s issues rather than risk disrupting male domination. Bushnell, an unmarried and therefore unencumbered version of the fictive Mary, conducted her own investigation into the lumber-camp towns of upper Wisconsin and Michigan with a firm belief that her mission was guided by God and that, as a woman, her investigative skills and inclinations were superior to those of men.80

After securing permission from Willard and funding from the Wisconsin WCTU, Bushnell traveled to Wisconsin in the spring of 1888. She went to Wisconsin with a deep conviction that “women were led away by conspiracy rather than by inclination” and a deep suspicion of male detective work, which saw it as permissible to “simulate criminals” and “to feign crimes” in order to attain evidence—practices that she found “hardly consistent with Christian spirit.”81 Her own extensive investigation spanned four months, during which she and a group of WCTU women took the histories of 577 prostitutes and interviewed brothel owners, saloon keepers, and religious leaders about abuses around the lumber camps. In a lecture to the Milwaukee branch of the WCTU, she charged that Fielding’s investigation was a sham and claimed that he and his detective had never actually visited the stockades that his report exonerated, calling “the statement [that] he made the trip an infamous lie” and alleging that his investigation was “an (p.93) imaginary one.” She went on to detail a set of associations that implicated three wealthy Marinette men and a local judge in a conspiracy to entrap, detain, and physically abuse women. So central was vice to the town of Marinette’s livelihood that she personally “saw telephone lines connecting these dens with the livery stable, the stores, etc., in the town.”82

The Milwaukee papers immediately attacked Bushnell and her charges. The Milwaukee Daily Journal called her work “purely emotional” and recommended that she take her skills to Chicago, where “she could get more material in … one day’s walk than she could get in a month in northern Wisconsin.”83 A week later the same paper offered an unflattering character sketch of Bushnell that referred to her “Homely Face” and “Angular Figure” in its subheading. Particularly threatening, from the perspective of the paper, was her planned lecture tour to eastern states “to tell tales of the state’s immorality.” Bushnell was cast as an ambitious crusader conducting missionary work in Wisconsin while ignoring vice in her native city. Reviewing her background of missionary work in China, the paper slipped in this backhanded compliment: “[Bushnell is] a remarkable woman in many respects besides her appearance, which is not what one would call an artist’s dream, unless the artist had lunched on mince-pie and pickles before going to sleep on a rail bed.”84 These comments betrayed the level of hostility that the Wisconsin press had for the woman reformer, but also indicated the presumed masculine readership of the paper. The same day the Milwaukee Sentinel printed a story under the headline “Resented by All: Kate Bushnell’s Slanders on Wisconsin,” saying that the legislature felt pressured by “sensational reports impugning the character of the people of Wisconsin … that have been circulating lately in the metropolitan dailies of this country” to call another state investigation into the accusations.85

When Bushnell visited Madison to take part in the legislative proceedings, her mutually libelous relationship with Rusk’s investigator, Fielding, began to further deteriorate. As she and fellow WCTU members again charged that he had faked his inquiry into the Wisconsin stockades, Fielding retaliated, telling Bushnell about a malicious story impugning her virtue that was being repeated throughout Marinette. The repetition of this lore caused the women to call for his arrest for “using obscene and abusive language towards Bushnell, an unmarried woman.” The case was eventually thrown out of court, but the hostility to Bushnell continued in Wisconsin to the point where she needed police protection to attend a meeting of the Wisconsin legislature.86 After Wisconsin undertook its second investigation under a new governor, the legislature passed a bill against the procurement of prostitutes that colloquially became known as the “Kate Bushnell Bill,” (p.94) though she played no role in drafting it. Bushnell was even invited to address the legislature after the passage of the bill.

Although the Michigan WCTU did not conduct extensive investigations into Michigan’s lumber-camp brothels, its members waged a campaign to end the traffic there. They held regular mass meetings to encourage Governor Luce to curb white slavery in the state, including a much-publicized one at Detroit’s Grand Opera House. In Lansing, Michigan, the legislature passed a bill for the suppression of vice that made “all persons keeping or resorting to such houses” subject to five years’ imprisonment or a thousand-dollar fine (or both).

Despite Willard’s and Bushnell’s attempts to popularize the issue of forced prostitution and produce legislation in the United States similar to England’s, the notion of white slavery did not become a national flashpoint issue in the late nineteenth century. Agitation surrounding Stead’s exposés led to three international conferences on the traffic in women. William Coote organized the first of these conferences, which was held in June 1899. The proceedings primarily emphasized the trafficking of European girls to the Middle East and Argentina. While representatives from the United States were present at this conference, no one suggested that there was a domestic white slave trade. Henry Chase, a delegate from Boston, stated in his report that “we have in the United States, so far as I am aware, no organized system of white slavery.”87

Shifting Alliances: Press and Reformers

Using the Union Signal and allied media, the WCTU attacked the American print media, which they felt was complicit in the masculine saloon and prostitution culture they sought to overturn. Inspired by Stead’s example and key social purity victories in England, US reformers challenged the secular news media in three ways: (1) they created their own national network of print media to serve as an organizing tool and lobbied the general-interest media to adopt social purity issues and concerns; (2) they funded their own investigations into sex trafficking and published the results in their media organs; and (3) they mounted protests against sensationalism in the press while simultaneously offering print dailies something in return: the sex trafficking story, a new way of discussing sexuality and prostitution.

A number of conclusions can be made about the WCTU, women’s movements, and social movements more generally as they relate to media. Prior to organizing, women in the United States at this time lacked influential access to news and other print media. Nor did the news media seek (p.95) them out as readers by printing material that would be of special interest to them. Moreover, women remained politically disenfranchised, having neither voting rights nor legislative influence concerning matters like vice and community integrity that concerned them. The rapid rise of a variety of organizations such as the WCTU, suffrage organizations, and the social purity movement more generally gave women access to the political sphere and to mass media on all of these levels. In order to understand major currents in news media at the dawn of mass culture and later, we must understand how social movements engaged the media strategically, discursively, and as media audiences. The WCTU mounted a media campaign that would be considered sophisticated even by today’s standards. They challenged the relevance and veracity of media accounts, they assigned relevance to and redefined new issues, and they drew attention to themselves as valuable audiences. They also conducted their own social-scientific investigations and published alternative media. In doing so, they had a transformative effect on mainstream media content and practices.

With the rapid expansion of local daily and weekly newspapers after the Civil War came the need for these papers to distinguish themselves to both readers and advertisers among an ever-increasing field of diverse print media. As reformers agitated to make the press more receptive to social purity messages, newspapers were beginning to discover that capturing the sizeable middle-class evangelical audience might just be a viable economic strategy. In a decade that saw major economic slumps and downturns, labor strikes, and high unemployment, some papers saw the value of appealing to these already collectivized, middle-class, largely female communities of believers who also had the resources to buy their advertised goods. The press responded to the increase in the number of women readers throughout this period, gradually toning down its blatant “sensationalism.” However, it found new ways to produce sensationalist stories as the domain of relevance shifted to topics favored by the moral reform movements.

As discussed in chapter 1, a rethinking of sensationalism is needed to understand it as a process and engage its various uses. The WCTU lavishly criticized mainstream media for “sensationalism” in its day-to-day crime coverage. Here they used the more familiar negative connotation of sensationalism as dismissive critique. The WCTU attempted to delimit the range of allowable discourses and topics in mass media, essentially demarcating certain issues as being socially irrelevant and even potentially harmful. However, they also deployed sensationalism in the same way Stead did, as a means of demarcating issues as being worthy of the public’s attention. While they targeted as irrelevant the details of specific crimes and sporting (p.96) events not connected to a larger moral agenda, they designated the crimes of sex trafficking and intemperance as being part of broader social evils. They were in a sense imposing a nomothetic standard that became the shibboleth of sensationalism.

Thus sensationalism as a positive process must be seen as a strategy deployed in contests over cultural relevance and salience that occur on the battlefield of mass media. By defining what is relevant and promoting its promulgation in mass media, the social purity activists and the WCTU sought to redefine meanings, assign relevance to them, and increase the cultural salience of such narratives through media saturation. In this deployment one is struck by the overwhelming positivity of sensationalism that is belied by the WCTU’s rhetoric, in keeping with the more traditional use of “sensationalism.” The WCTU strategically modeled its strategy after Stead’s, but failed to acknowledge its positive use of sensationalism, as Stead had so self-consciously done. The WCTU to some degree succeeded in achieving its goals. They initially utilized only the narrow, negative version of sensationalism, but they only really gained traction when they used it positively, as Stead had, producing their own sensational product and offering mainstream media an attractive alternative to the products they attempted to displace. Yet they failed to recognize this as a key to their successes; hence, an apparent contradiction persisted between their simultaneous rejection and transparent use of sensationalism.

As the pages of the Philanthropist and Union Signal make clear, evangelical reformers slowly came to accept mainstream journalism as an ally in their crusades against vice. We see a gradual increase in acceptance of the press as reformers conducted letter-writing campaigns and printed positive and negative reports on purity reform in various newspapers. In 1886, publications like the Union Signal and the Philanthropist commonly described the general-readership, informational press as salacious and sensationalist, but by 1900 they often referred to the press and purity reform as partners working in tandem to reform urban governments and promote social purity. An 1889 issue of the Union Signal defends the press against a letter-writer’s claim that “virtue might be more easily preserved if the press were subjected to the censorship of women at her [sic ] best.” The editor’s reply signals this shift in WCTU attitudes toward the press: “While our contributor is doubtless right in his strictures of a portion of the press, we are glad to believe there are many honorable exceptions in the ranks of journalism.”88 During this brief span of time, reporters gradually began to take on a greater activist role and show more subjectivity as publishers began to rely on collectivized reform movements as audiences for their publications.

(p.97) It is also true that some papers in the late 1880s heard from evangelical reformers and steadfastly refused to listen. The New York Tribune mocked the gentleman who “wears a white cross badge and complains of the offensive stories he is compelled to listen to” and suggested that the best way to avoid such “impure stories” was to “take his hat and retire.”89 However, other members of the press establishment began to take social purity activists’ allegations about the press seriously or at least catered to them as an attractive audience. In a public address, H. K. Carroll, of the New York Independent, identified with reformist efforts and labeled even “respectable” newspapers “sheets of the slums” that “circulate extensively beyond the gutter population.” He drew a sharp distinction between the moral instruction offered on the editorial page and the “dangerous” news columns. The common newspaper “industriously gathers the details of salacious events, of brutal sports, and of revolting crimes as though it were a purveyor, not to decent people, but to the disreputable classes.”90

By 1893, editors were trying to defend the press by trying to redefine the term sensationalism in a positive light. Louis Megargee, writing for Lippincott’s Magazine, described an occasion in which his newspaper uncovered the story of an illicit trade in cadavers that were sold to the local medical school. Laws were changed as a result of his reporter’s work. He wrote to “teach a lesson to those who cast aside a kaleidoscope of the world’s doings in the previous twenty-four hours without one thought of the wizard-like genius which has unrolled the panorama before them at the price of a pauper’s blessing.” And he argued that “the ‘newspaper sensation’ has almost invariably as its object and effect the righting of a public wrong.”91

Representations of trafficked women in the late 1880s failed to induce action on a national level. Not only was the federal government notoriously weak and unresponsive to a host of problems during the Gilded Age, but the United States, struggling with its status as a unified nation after the Civil War, still lacked mass audiences sufficient to support a mass-mediated national controversy in which hypothetical readers from the eastern states to the western territories might be focused on the allegations of one or a handful of newspapers. A truly mass-mediated national controversy around the traffic in women would not occur until the first decade of the twentieth century, when muckraking magazines revived stories of trafficking in a new political environment, one ripe for the kind of legalistic excess that claims of sex trafficking had inspired in England two decades earlier.


(1) . See John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 50–52, 130–38; Ruth Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America, 1900–1918 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), chap. 1.

(2) See Barbara Meil Hobson, Uneasy Virtue: The Politics of Prostitution and the American Reform Tradition (New York: Basic Books, 1987), 147–49.

(3) See David J. Pivar, Purity Crusade: Sexual Morality and Social Control, 1868–1900 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1973)

(4) Josephine Butler, “Mrs. Butler’s Appeal to the Women of America,” Philanthropist, October 1888, 16.

(5) Frances E. Willard, Address Before the Second Biennial Convention of the World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and the Twentieth Annual Convention of the National WCTU, Chicago, 29 October–1 November (Chicago: Women’s Temperance Publishing Association, 1893), 37.

(6) . “The Social Purity Movement in Europe,” Philanthropist, August 1886, 4.

(7) See Larry Whiteakre, Seduction, Prostitution, and Moral Reform in New York, 1830–1860 (New York: Garland, 1997).

(8) . Barbara L. Epstein, The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism, and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1981); Susanne M. Marilley, “Frances Willard and the Feminism of Fear,” Feminist (p.187) Studies 19, no. 1 (1993): 123–46; Alison M. Parker, Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform, and Pro-Censorship Activism, 1873–1933 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997).

(9) . Willard 1893, 2.

(10) Frances E. Willard, A White Life for Two (Chicago: Women’s Temperance Publication Association, 1890), 1.

(12) See Ruth Bordin, Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873–1900 (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1981), 3–4.

(13) Carrie Chapman Catt, “Religion and Women’s Rights,” in Up From the Pedestal: Selected Writings in the History of American Feminism, ed. Aileen Kraditor (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968), 261–62

(14) . See D’Emilio and Freedman 1997.

(15) See Ian Tyrrell, Woman’s World/Woman’s Empire: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880–1930 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991).

(16) . Epstein 1981, 5.

(17) . See Mary Poovey, Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Judith R. Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), and City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

(18) . See Caroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985); Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789–1860 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987).

(19) See Paula Baker, “The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780–1920,” American Historical Review 89, no. 3 (1984): 620–47.

(20) . See Carl F. Kaestle, “The History of Readers,” in Literacy in the United States: Readers and Reading since 1880, ed. Carl F. Kaestle, Helen Damon Moore, Lawrence C. Stedman, Katherine Tinsley, and William Vance Trollinger Jr. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991), 33–72; David Paul Nord, Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001).

(21) See Michael Emery, Edwin Emery, and Nancy L. Roberts, The Press and America: An Interpretive History of the Mass Media (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000)

(22) S. N. D. North, “History and Present Conditions of the Newspaper and Periodical Press of the United States with a Catalogue of the publications of the Census Year,” in Tenth Census (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of the Census, 1884), 8:51.

(23) . The terms associational press and informational press come from Nord 2001.

(24) See Michael Schudson, Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers (New York: Basic Books, 1978).

(25) see Paul C. Gutjahr, “Diversification in American Religious (p.188) Publishing,” in A History of the Book in America, vol. 3, The Industrial Book, 1840–1880, ed. Scott E. Casper, Jeffrey D. Groves, Stephen Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 194–202.

(26) Anna Garlin Spencer, Literature and Vice (Chicago: Women’s Temperance Publication Association, 1887), 1.

(28) M. Y. Beach. “The Accuracy of Reporters,” Writer 10, no. 6 (1891): 112–13.

(29) James Parton, “Journalism as a Profession for Young Men,” Writer 7, no. 5 (1988): 105.

(30) See Alison M. Parker, Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform, and Pro-Censorship Activism, 1873–1933 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997).

(31) “Women’s Press Associations,” Union Signal, 20 January 1887, 2.

(32) “To Our Censors,” Pall Mall Gazette, 13 July 1885, 1.

(33) see Daniel J. Czitrom, Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982)

(34) “The Immorality of London,” New York Herald, 7 July 1885, 4.

(35) “Obscene London,” New York Herald, 9 July 1885, 4.

(36) “The Morals of Mayfair,” New York Herald, 10 July 1885, 5.

(37) “Prurience and Politics,” New York Herald, 13 July 1885, 4.

(38) “The London Scandal,” New York Sun, 10 July 1885, 2.

(39) “A Terrible Picture of Vice,” New York Sun, 12 July 1885, 2.

(40) . W. T. Stead, “To Our Censors,” Pall Mall Gazette, 13 July 1885, 1; “The Iniquity of London,” New York Sun, 13 July 1885, 1.

(41) “The Newspaper’s Proper Work,” New York Daily Graphic, 9 July 1885, 1.

(42) “Public Abuses and the Press,” New York Daily Graphic, 9 July 1885, 1.

(43) “Scandals in Washington,” New York Daily Graphic, 13 July 1885, 1.

(44) “Dirty Reform,” Nation July 1885, 40.

(45) . See Rosen 1982.

(46) Frances E. Willard, Glimpses of Fifty Years: The Autobiography of an American Woman (Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publication Association, 1889), 419–20.

(47) “Age of Consent,” Union Signal, 3 December 1885, 4.

(48) “Stockholders’ Meeting,” Union Signal, 12 November 1885, 3.

(49) Frances E. Willard, Address Before the Twenty-Second Annual Convention of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, Baltimore, MD, 18–23 October (Chicago: Women’s Temperance Publishing Association, 1895), 24.

(50) Josephine Butler, “Address by Mrs. Josephine Butler,” Philanthropist, January 1886, 3.

(51) Aaron Powell, “Mr. Stead and His ‘Party,’” Philanthropist, January 1886, 8.

(52) . See Pivar 1973, 132–35.

(53) . Nord 2001, 111.

(54) Willard 1893, 5

(57) “On the Watchtower,” Union Signal, 4 January 1883, 12.

(p.189) (58) “Press Department,” Union Signal, 19 November 1885, 6.

(59) Ruth Bordin, Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873–1900 (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1981), 93.

(60) . “Press Department,” 6.

(61) E. Willard, President of Nat’l Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1889, Philadelphia, PA.

(62) “Women and Press Reform,” Woman’s Journal, 13 January 1894, 1.

(63) “To Advertisers: Prosperity Attends the Judicious Advertiser,” Union Signal, 26 April 1883, 14.

(64) “Since Our Last Issue,” Union Signal, 19 November 1885, 1.

(65) “The Traffic in Girls,” Philanthropist, February 1887, 1.

(66) . For an insightful discussion of the World’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s adoption of these methods to discover and represent prostitution in British-controlled India, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, see Tyrrell 1991.

(67) “The Illinois Women’s Press Association,” Union Signal, 20 May 1886, 2.

(68) “Notes and Comments,” Philanthropist, February 1887, 1

(69) . “The Traffic in Girls,” 4–5.

(70) . Contrast this emphasis on movement in U.S. depictions of trafficking with Stead’s understanding of white slavery, which was largely static.

(71) . “The Traffic in Girls,” 4–5.

(72) Frances E. Willard, “Social Purity Work for 1887,” Union Signal, 13 January 1887, 12.

(73) “The New Crusade,” Philanthropist, January 1887, 6.

(74) “Another Marinette Victim,” Chicago Inter-Ocean, 18 January 1888, 7.

(75) . “A Week in the ‘Upper Peninsula,’” Union Signal, 31 March 1887, 8. See also “Since Our Last Issue,” Union Signal, 31 March 1887, 1.

(76) Frances E. Willard, “Michigan’s Battle,” Union Signal, 21 April 1887, 7.

(77) . “Stockade Dens in Michigan,” Chicago Inter-Ocean, 14 June 1888, 4; “Marinette’s Dens of Infamy,” Chicago Inter-Ocean, 30 October 1887, 1; “Dives Raided,” Chicago Inter-Ocean, 4 November 1887, 1.

(78) “Where Satan Rules,” Milwaukee Daily Journal, 7 February 1888, 1.

(79) Bessie V. Cushman, “Another Maiden Tribute,” Union Signal, 17 February 1887, 9.

(80) . For a keen analysis of Bushnell’s belief that masculine culture and interpretive practices had adulterated the true meaning of God’s work, see Dana Hardwick, “Man’s Prattle, Woman’s Word: The Biblical Mission of Katharine Bushnell,” in Spirituality and Social Responsibility: Vocational Vision of Women in the United Methodist Tradition, ed. Rosemary Skinner Keller (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993). For discussions of the nativist and racist dimensions of the WCTU’s convictions and practices, see Brian Donovan, White Slave Crusades: Race, Gender, and Anti-vice Activism, 1887–1917 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006); and Tyrrell 1991.

(81) “Slavery Up North,” Milwaukee Sentinel, 8 January 1889, 3.

(83) “Social Crimes,” Milwaukee Daily Journal, 9 January 1889, 1.

(84) “She Rides a Hobby,” Milwaukee Daily Journal, 16 January 1889, 1.

(p.190) (85) “Resented By All,” Milwaukee Sentinel, 16 January 1889, 1.

(86) . See Hardwick 1993, 169. Hardwick points out, however, that Bushnell was not alone in her crusade, but received the assistance and support of WCTU members, Wisconsin clergy, and prohibitionists.

(87) Quoted in Frederick K. Grittner, White Slavery: Myth, Ideology, and American Law (New York: Garland, 1990), 89.

(88) James C. Ambrose, “Press Brakes on Womanhood,” Union Signal, 24 January 188, 3–4.

(89) “Impure Stories,” New York Tribune, 20 December 1887, 3.

(90) “The Press and Vice,” Philanthropist, September 1886, 6.

(91) Louis N. Megargee, “A Newspaper Sensation.” Lippincott’s Magazine 52 (December 1893): 729.