Against Their Own Weakness”: Policing Sexuality and Women in San Antonio, Texas,

during World War I

COURTNEY Q. SHAH Lower Columbia College

IN MARCH 1918 AN EDITORIAL in the. San Antonio Express urged the city government of San Antonio, Texas, to work with the military to clean up the city and make it a fit place for soldiers to train and people to live: “The old proverb, ‘What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,’ is working out beautifiilly in those cities where the army camps are located. The army is the goose and the general public is the gander. . . . The Covernment has determined on certain conditions for the army camps, and these conditions are of necessity forced upon the community.” The “sauce” referred to was re- strictions on certain “immoral” actions, particularly drinking and prostitution. The editorial advocated prohibiting alcohol in town and ending prostitution not only for moral improvement and for die greater war effort but also for tlie concrete economic advantages inherent in complying with military orders. “The choice is clear and plain; it is a choice between the liquor business and die army business…. The deciding element is the dollar.” The editorial also struck a moral argument: “The old idea that patriotism was a Fourth of July celebration, was a narrow view. Now we are exercising the patriotic virtues at the table, the pantry, in the bank, on the train, in moral sanitation, and in temperance reform…. The outcome will be seen in a greater and purer city.” ‘

San Antonio serves as a useñil case study of vice control because of its large population of soldiers, its triracial community, and the presence there of the Live Oak female detention home.^ The national military and civilian

‘ “Sauce for the Gander,” San Antonio Express, 3 March 1918. ^ The 1920 U.S. census enumerated a population of 161,379 for San Antonio, of which

8.9 percent were African American. The U.S. census data categorized Mexican Americans as white, but it can be inferred that of the 22.7 percent “foreign-born white” population, a considerable proportion came from Mexico (U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States Taken in the Tear 1920, vol. 3 [Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1921-23], 1015).

Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 19, No. 3, September 2010 © 2010 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819


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reform literature often used San Antonio as an example of a town that had successfully cleaned itself tip. For these reasons San Antonio could be seen as an ideal btit not a typical representadve of odier southern cities with military encampments. In contrast, the city of El Paso, Texas, was often ridiculed as a failure.

San Antonio’s andvice campaign during World War I demonstrates three important aspects of the Progressive Era’s sexual agenda and how gender played a crucial role in antivice acdvism. First, women played on their maternal, pure reputadons to carve a niche for themselves as polidcal acdv- ists, social workers, and police officers. The government and city activists advocated punishment as well as rehabilitation or education. Second, die andvice campaign clearly delineated differences between women of different classes and ethnic idenddes. Accordingly, while middle-class white reformers used the andvice campaign as a path to greater polidcal power, in so doing they denied the same right and privileges to working-class and nonwhite women. Third, women who had previously been viewed as the victims of prostitudon were labeled (and treated) as a powerful and dangerous force in their own right. Women’s “kliaki fever” and tinbridled sexuality were viewed as threats to the health of soldiers, the war effort, and the very standards of American society.


In 1917 San Antonio stood poised as a major boomtown and center for military activities. San Antonio offered a warm climate, ample railroad connections, and military installadons remaining from die army’s incur- sion into Mexico in 1916 in pursuit of Pancho Villa. With good reason, San Antonio expected to be a major base for the training and stadoning of troops. The town boasted 133,000 permanent residents, who were joined by the beginning of 1918 by about 80,000 soldiers, 25,000 family members of servicemen, and 20,000 other temporary visitors.’

Such an influx of people—and government money—^would surely benefit the town as a whole: “San Antonio is the army center of the United States. We have 70,000 soldiers here—-one cantonment, an army post, aviadon fields, officers’ schools, rifle ranges, and odier camps.”* The municipal and economic leaders of San Antonio understood the benefits of keeping a military base in the area. An árdele in the San Antonio Express remarked: “War, the greatest ill wind creation kjiows, has blown good to the big City

‘ “New Year Sees Prosperity and Populadon of 250,000,” San Antonio Express, 1 Janu- ary 1918.

” Harrol B. Ayres, “Democracy at Work—San Antonio Being Reborn,” Journal of Social Hygiene 4-, no. 2 (1918): 211.


of Texas, good in measureless fashion.”^ Officials worried that the city’s historical toleration of vice, its racially diverse population, and its relative proximity to Mexico detracted from the city’s assets.

After the war, however, social hygiene advocates described San Antonio as a major success story in direct contrast to another Texas city. El Paso. El Paso illustrated the dangers of refusing to join in the military’s fight against venereal disease and prostitution. In the spring of 1917 the federal government designated both San Antonio and El Paso supply depots for the army. The Social Hy£riene Bulletin warned that southwestern cities like San Antonio and especially El Paso had a “serious obstacle” in their “presence of Mexican and Indian laborers who are unintelligent in these matters [of vice] and impatient of any regulative measures.”* Officials also worried about the sale of alcohol because of a fear tliat drunkenness would contribute to prostitution. It was concern over liquor and women that made one city a military success story, the other a noted failure. Despite pressure and threats from the government. El Paso retained a “zone of tolerance” for prostitution. El Paso had made a name for itself at the end of the nineteenth century as a “sin city” and a popular tourist attraction for cowboys, miners, and other transitory residents of the American Southwest. Historian Ann R. Gabbert notes that the town’s quasi-regulated prostitu- tion industry helped fund police salaries and keep taxes low. City leaders received political contributions from brothelkeepers and feared alienating their voting clientele. Behind other arguments, the city’s officials assumed that any effort to close down vice in El Paso would merely push clients (and their money) over the border into Juárez, Mexico. Efforts to curtail com- mercialized vice (especially drinking and prostitution) in El Paso had met with constant failure in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.’̂ San Antonio would take a different tack.

San Antonio newspapers extolled the virtues of and enumerated the profits to be had from a military presence. Yet in order to receive these benefits San Antonio had to tackle a major problem: sex. According to northeastern stereotypes of the day, both southerners and westerners toler- ated the presence of prostitution and liquor. San Antonio could be identified as both southern and western, a booming frontier town with a Mexican

* “The World Is Sizing Up San Antonio Which Has Jumped into Big League—London Told We Are ‘the Wonder City,'” San Antonio Express, 4 November 1917.

* “Law Enforcement Notes,” Social Hygiene Bulletin 5, no. 4 (1918): 8. ‘ Ann R. Gabbert, “Prostitution and Moral Reform in the Borderlands: El Paso,

1890-1920,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 12, no. 4 (2003): 575-604. See also Garna L. Christian, “Newton Baker’s War on El Paso Vice,” Red River Valley Historieal Review 5, no. 2 (1980): 56. Christian details El Paso’s failure to secure training camps because of the town’s poor record fighting prostitution.

Sexuality and Women in San Antonio 461

and Confederate heritage. Officials in the War Department feared that the city’s lax enforcement of vice regulations would contribute to dangerous levels of venereal disease and disorderly conduct. In response, national or- ganizations like the American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA) as well as local San Antonio women’s clubs took it upon themselves to clean up the city and make it a model for other cantonment towns. Their success required intense pressure on the local municipal authorities and police force and a crackdown on the civil rights of women, especially those from racial minorities. Progressive reformers targeted groups based on race, gender, and relative power, demonstrating the dangerous side effect of social engi- neering in times of war.

San Antonio stood to benefit immensely from the military presence. Despite steady population growth, the town’s shipping and manufacturing industries struggled financially, since it lacked a water port. After 1910, however, its population boomed as thousands of Mexicans took refuge from the Mexican Revolution and fled from the Rio Grande valley. The boomtown witnessed an even bigger boom as training camps and airfields moved into the surrounding area even before World War I, as San Antonio became a launching point for the Mexican Punitive Expedition.

The war promised economic security and prosperity to a region that had suffered its share of economic hardships. “San Antonio has never experi- enced such prosperity as she is experiencing today,” said Mayor Sam C. Bell in October 1917. The town and the surrounding territory hosted Camp BuUis, Camp Stanley, and Camp Travis for the training of infantry. Camp Travis alone hosted over 100,000 soldiers over the duration ofthe war. In addition, San Antonio became a leader in the new field of aviation, home to Brooks Field, Kelly Field, and Stinson Field for the training of aviators. The San Antonio Express noted that both the city and the surrounding rural community benefited from the influx of government money, especially in real estate.” A 1918 editorial mentioned the benefits to the government of such cooperation between municipality and military: “In the midst of a [drought]-stricken country we have been prosperous because of the war conditions.”‘

Newspaper editorials employed multiple justifications for supporting a major vice crackdown in San Antonio and demonstrate several key aspects of moral policing during World War I. They mentioned the concerns of businessmen, noting that a military presence meant a financial boom to the local economy. They placed the vice crusade in a larger Progressive

8 u’San Antonio Realty Now on Safe and Solid Basis,” San Antonio Express, 14 October 1917. ‘The War and San Antonio,” San Antonio Express, 27 January 1918.

462 C O U R T N E Y Q. S H A H

campaign for moral uplift. And they equated soldiers with civilians in terms of moral policing. Propagandists in the War Department used patriodsm, efficiency, and nadonal destiny to instill heightened moral codes in soldiers, and city officials did the same to civilians. San Antonio, which hosted over 70,000 soldiers during the war, also policed its civilians, arguing that what was good for the army was good for the community as a whole.

Did the old adage of goose and gander also apply to an expansive sex educadon curriculum? ASHA and the War Department’s Commission on Training Camp Acdvides (CTCA) advocated sex educadon for soldiers, but strategies accepted by the army were not always considered beneficial for civilians.'” Sdll, in many areas adjacent to training camps and military bases the disdnction was blurred by the emergency educational programs and the iron fist of legal enforcement. The fervor widi which the military embraced sex education spilled over into civilian life, suggesdng that the government saw litde difference between soldiers and civilians in facilitadng an efficient and patriodc war effort. Government advertising to save food and buy bonds encouraged those not serving abroad such as women and industrial workers to take part in the war effort. Propaganda also encouraged civilians to “live straight,” avoid venereal disease, and serve their nadon as moral guardians of the American way.

If civilians were considered for their possible contdbudons to the war effort, they were also regarded as possible threats to it, which jusdfied the military’s expansion into civilian reguladon. By 1918 the military had determined that most soldiers did not become infected with venereal diseases while in the army but came to the army already infected. Studies consistendy attdbuted five-sixths of venereal infecdons to civilian life and only one-sixth to those infected while under the watchflil eye of the military.” Thus, in order to protect soldiers the problem had to be stopped at the root: civilian life. Women represented the largest perceived threat to the moral side of the war effort. Yet women’s role in the war effort was muldfaceted. They were celebrated as mothers and as workers and representadons of American purity, but they could endanger men’s fighting capacity through sexual immorality and disease. For this reason, representadons of women in the wardme sex educadon crusade often reduced them to either good girls (mothers, sisters, and sweethearts) who served as the modvadon to keep up soldiers’ morale or bad girls (prosdtutes and “charity girls” but also women unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong

‘” For more on sex education in the U.S. military, see Nancy K. Bristow, Making Men Moral: Social Engineering during the Great War (New York: New York University Press, 1996); Allan M. Brandt, No Magie Bullet: A Soeial History of Venereal Disease in the United States sinee 1880 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), chaps. 2 -3 .

” M. J. Exner, “Prostitution and Its Relation to the Army on the Mexican Border,” Journal of Soeial Hygiene 3, no. 2 (1917): 214.

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time).’^ Deviant girls were labeled a menace to soldiers and the war effort. Reformers saw sex education and the policing of sexuality as part of a program of defense against tlireats to the war effort. They aimed to guide people to die ideals of die chaste, patriotic life and to piuiish and coerce those who strayed. World War I exacerbated divisions between women based on class and racial identity, so the modest gains made by white middle-class women dirough collaboration with antivice crusades were often achieved to die detriment of younger, poorer, more marginalized women.

The example of San Antonio illustrates that efforts to police the sexual behavior of civilian women during World War I viewed women, especially poor and nonwhite women, as a threat to soldiers. Whereas soldiers re- ceived treatment and education regarding venereal diseases, elites viewed women—a newly recognized source of sexual danger and consequentiy a threat to the war effort—as criminals to be punished and detained. The federal government touted San Antonio, unlike other neighboring towns, as the success story of a town working in conjunction with die national government to close down its vice district, corral its multiracial population, and channel its women’s reform impulses into positive results. In addition, the middle-class white clubwomen of San Antonio used the antivice cam- paign as a way to ftirther their own political and moral ends but with litde success and at the cost of working-class and minority women’s freedom.


Prior to the war ASHA advocates had constructed arguments favoring limited sex education programs for women and girls. Within the white middle-class American population sex education was viewed more as a tool for protecting girls from male sexual exploitation than for fostering sexual self-awareness. Class and racial assumptions complicated reformers’ image of girlhood and sexual maturity because they assumed that white middle- class girls had a different—and purer—sexual experience from other girls. Evidence of a girl’s sexual precocity or aggressiveness lowered her class and racial status and placed her outside the realm of male protection.

By the early twentieth century reformers had begun to acknowledge that not all girls were sexually “passionless.”‘^ Elizabeth Lunbeck’s analysis of

‘̂ 1 use Kathy Peiss’s term, “charity girls,” to represent a broad grouping of young women who, well before the war, began experimenting with sexual activity either in exchange for gifts and entertainment or for their own social and sexual fulfillment. See her Cheap Amuse- ments: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New fork (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986), 110-13.

” The term “passionless” comes from Nancy Cott’s work on nineteenth-century wom- anhood. See her “Passionless: An Interpretation of Victorian Sexual Ideology, 1790-1850,” Sijjns: A Journal of Women in Culture and SoeietyA (1978): 219-36.


early psychiatrists’ atdtudes about women’s sexuality, for example, notes the discourse on and diagnosis of women as potentially hypersexual, although class and racial hierarchies sdll tended to use the label for those women out- side of the white middle class. Wage-earning girls often gained such a label. “Psychiatrists saw these women as sick; middle-class social workers, bonded by gender but distanced by class, saw them as vicdms and sought both to protect and to discipline them.”‘* In fact, what was abnormal among white adolescent girls was expected among blacks. As Liuibeck demonstrates, “The fooling with boys that was a definite symptom of psychopathy in white girls was in blacks only the expression of the natural immorality of the race.”‘^

During wardme female hypersexuality took on new and treacherous meanings. Parents, reformers, and the military police decried the effects of “khaki fever”: the appeal of a man in uniform. For many adolescent girls and young women, patriotism did not mean adhering to the War Depart- ment’s standards of chastity. Rather, they apparendy saw it as their patriotic duty to be sexually available to the soldiers.’*

Appalled by girls’ behaviors around the training camps, CTCA head Raymond Fosdick established a Committee on Protective Work for Girls in September 1917. The group’s goal was not just to save girls from exploitadve situadons but also to steer them into more “appropriate” gender and sexual roles. The problem of khaki fever indicated the public’s recognidon that female sexuality existed even among respectable girls of the white middle class, and, if left uncontrolled, it threatened the military through corrup- don of its troops. Fosdick’s response to khaki fever demonstrated a fear of charity girls who were diseased and promiscuous, even if they were not technically prostitutes. Across the nation courtrooms and public opinion labeled women who entered into casual sexual reladonships as prostitutes whether or not they traded money for sex.’̂

Several women’s rights acdvists chaflenged the CTCA’s American Plan, which provided a four-point program to reduce venereal disease in the

‘”‘ Elizabeth Lunbeck, “‘A New Generadon of Women’: Progressive Psychiatrists and the Hypersexual Female,” Feminist Studies 15, no. 3 (1987): 514.

” Ibid., 535. “• For more on the construcdon of and reaction to “khaki fever,” see Angela Woollacott,

“‘Khaki Fever’ and Its Control: Gender, Class, Age and Sexual Morality on the Bridsh Home- front in the First World War,” Journal of Contemporary History 29, no. 2 (1994): 3 2 5 ^ 7 ; Brandt, No Magic Bullet, 81-82; Susan A. Miller, “Girls in Nature/the Nature of Girls: Transforming Female Adolescence at Summer Camp, 1900-1939,” PhD diss.. University of Pennsylvania, 2001, 23-28.

” The definidon of prosdtudon used by courts across the nadon during the Progressive Era had less to do with economic exchange than with morality. See Ruth Rosen, The Lost Sister- hood: Prostitution in America, 1900-1918 (Baldmore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982); Peiss, Cheap Amusements; and Thomas C. Mackey, Red Lights Out: A Legal History of Prostitution, Disorderly Houses and Vice Districts, 1870-1917 (New York: Gariand, 1987).

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military. The plan included educational curricula, medical treatment for infected soldiers, wholesome recreation, and law enforcement for those who fiouted restrictions against sexual behavior. Eeminists of the day noted that women often were detained or punished rather than treated for venereal disease and then set free, as men were. In other words, the plan left women vulnerable, while men’s behaviors were forgiven in the interest of a quick cure. Dissent emerged as part of a history of women’s dissatisfaction with the double standard, as expressed by the reaction to Britain’s Contagious Diseases Acts of the 1860s, the American purit)’ movement of the 1880s, or ASHA pioneer Prince Morrow’s early work on syphilis. In a 1910 nurs- ing textbook, for example, Lavinia Dock voiced her disenchantment with Britain’s policies against contagious disease. She argued: “Punishments meted out to the women were chiefiy hypocritical or vindictive, not in the least preventive.””* These arguments, chiefly criticizing police-sponsored or regulated prostitution, also applied to the way in which the detention and punishment of prostitutes adversely affected both women’s rights and the cause of social health. She disapproved of the British system, which al- lowed men medical treatment and continued access to women but punished women for acquiring venereal diseases. Her arguments echoed those made by Morrow, who theorized in 1901 that regulated prostitution discriminated against women. Notably, Morrow and Dock both feared that male police officers could abuse their power over economically, politically, and legally vulnerable women.”̂

Extrapolating from Dock’s work, Edith Houghton Hooker best ar- ticulated the feminist critique of the American Plan. Hooker, who studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University before pursuing a career in social work, was dedicated to both sex education and woman suffrage, and she saw the plan’s implementation as destroying women’s health as well as their political and legal power. Hooker picked apart the navy’s arguments supporting medical prophylaxis. She argued that the navy’s claim that treatment had a 99.6 percent success rate was false, especially considering the challenges that soldiers faced in getting treatment in time.̂ ° Foremost, she argued that the medical treatment policy diat the military had adopted

‘* Lavinia Dock, Hygiene and Morality: A Manual for Nurses and Others, Givinj; an Out- line of the Mcdieal, Soeial, and Le^gal Aspects of Venereal Diseases (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1910), 59.

” Prince A. Morrow, “The Prophylaxis of Venereal Diseases: Medical Aspects of the Social Evil in New York,” Philadelphia Medical Journal 7(1901): 663-69. For more on protection versus punishment of girls, see Judith Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 249-56.

°̂ Brandt, No Ma¿ie Bullet, 111. This is certainly an overestimate. The military’s own propaganda noted contradictory success rates as well as contradictory instructions regarding how soon a soldier must receive treatment.


was merely a new form of regulated prostitution in which men remained at Uberty while women were detained. The double standard. Hooker com- plained, was safe. “A man cannot have promiscuous intercourse alone. It is therefore obviously illogical and ethically unsound for the government to propose a system of repression directed at one sex alone. “^’

Hooker turned the government’s patriotic justification on its head, stating that “every prostitute is a potential worker and mother” and reaffirming the importance of afl women to the war effort and the nation’s future.̂ ^ Women’s contributions were lauded in the propaganda but not considered equal to men’s. In addition, their subordinate status, both economically and politically, made them more vulnerable to state intervention in their lives. Gender played a significant role: women, especially young and socially or economically marginalized women, lacked political standing that men possessed when confronting the power ofthe state.

ASHA continued its involvement in girls’ protective work as well as the educational measures that accompanied it. In March 1918 the Social Hygiene Bulletin warned ofthe dangers of “the lure ofthe uniform” and praised the work ofthe Committee on Protective Work for Girls. ASHA and the CTCA developed educational programs aimed at girls and their mothers. In Atianta, Georgia, the committee went so far as to open a free ward and dispensary for the treatment of “delinquent” girls.^’ Efforts to improve girls’ understanding of sexuality and its dangers expanded tremendotisly in the military emergency. Besides education, though, another method took the forefront: detention.


San Antonio was one of many cities that denied fteedom to women suspected of sexual immorality in the name of the war effort through mass arrests and the establishment of detention homes. It is not surprising that wartime policies pitted government policy against women’s rights. Federal and local authorities remained skeptical of many Progressive women’s organizations because they had been closely tied to the peace movement. Yet women-led peace organizations such as Jane Addams’s Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom were avoided by moderate women who embraced preparedness campaigns to demonstrate their commitment and contribution

‘̂ Edith Houghton Hooker, “A Criticism of Venereal Prophylaxis,” Journal of Social Hygiene A, no. 2 (1918): 192.

” Ibid., 191. ^’ “Miss Miner Discusses Plans ofthe Committee on Protective Work for Girls, Created by

the C.T.C.A.,” Social Hygiene Bulletin, March 1918, folder 178:3, American Social Hygiene As- sociation Papers, Social Welfare History Archives Center, University’ of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

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to the war effort.’̂ * The moderate suffrage movement, represented by the Nadonal American Woman Suffrage Associadon, likewise distanced itself from more radical feminist organizadons such as the Nadonal Woman’s Party (NWP) and the Nadonal Peace Party. Some women advocated suf- frage as a force for moderadon, expediency, and die maintenance of nadvist white supremacy, in effect turning against other women in order to achieve their own goals.̂ ^ During World War I women’s war work was linked closely with the quesdon of woman suffrage; if men demonstrated model cidzen- ship through service in the armed forces, women demonstrated it through their own contributions to the war effort. President Wilson eventually supported suffrage as an expedient measure to ensure women’s continued support of the war.’̂ ”

Dramadc events such as the NWP’s pickedng of the White House in January 1917 and the subsequent hunger strike of female prisoners ar- rested after the event, however, reinforced the link between feminism and subversion for many moderate and conservadve polidcians.’̂ ‘̂ Many and- feminists attributed the direat to the patriarchal family to sexual radicalism intertwined with political radicalism. Defending the safety and sancdty of motherhood was one of the jusdficadons for the war, and, indeed, it also jusdfied the repression of women who somehow fell outside the sexual roles assigned to them. Women’s subversion of the war effort was seen as part of the nation’s larger problems of sexual degeneracy and gender perversion.̂ * The developing acceptance of women’s political and sexual selves caused discomfort among many and panic among a few.

Detendon homes for wayward girls did not originate during World War I, but the nadonal emergency and increased arrests resulted in a lack of facilides within which to place detainees. The war provided the catalyst that the federal government and local authorities needed both to develop the infrastructure and to demand the authority necessary to expand their programs. The federal government contributed well over $400,000 during

” Harriet Hyman Alonso, Peace as a Women’s Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women’s Rights (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1993), chap. 3.

” Aileen S. Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movemetit, 1890-1920 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965).

^̂ David Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and Ameriean Soeiety (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 284-87; Sara Evans, Born for Liberty: A History of Women in ylwen’c» (New York: Free Press, 1989), 170-72; and Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experienee (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 353.

” Evans, Born for Liberty, 169-72. ^̂ Kathleen Kennedy, Disloyal Mothers and Seurrilous Citizens: Women and Subversion during

World Vl’«r/(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999); Kim E. Nielsen, Un-American Womanhood: Antiradiealism, Antifeminism, and the First Red Seare (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2001), chap. 2.


the war to detention homes and reformatories, including in this figure the funds to open sixteen specifically for the wartime emergency across the na- tion as well as to maintain twenty-seven existing homes.’̂ ^ A government manual for social hygiene officers noted that the establishment of wartime detention homes began in April 1918. “It developed out of the efforts made to effect a law-enforcement program suppressing vice and liquor about the military training camps.” The manual argued that these detention homes provided a better place than prison for girls to go “while awaiting trial, to be studied and treated medically.” Only the “hardened cases” went direcdy to jail.'”

Inherent in the crackdown on prostitution was a general assumption that immoral women controlled or instigated sexual activity. World War I witnessed a change in the image of prostitution from being seen predomi- nandy as a crime against victimized girls to one organized by dangerously “autonomous females.” This change was a double-edged sword, as Brian Donovan notes, since it provided both “a more realistic and enlightened image of womanhood [and] a rationale for gender discrimination.”^’ By categorizing prostitution as a threat to national security in particular, the federal government justified massive prosecution of women “reasonably suspected” of carrying venereal diseases. The military arrested and detained more than 15,000 women on suspicion of prostitution or disease, holding them without trial for an average often weeks. Only one-third were ever charged with prostitution, while the rest were merely labeled promiscuous. Occupants of the girls’ reformatories often stayed longer than a year, which meant internment long after the war had ended.’^

The broad nature of the “reasonable” suspicion of prostitution played into class and racial assumptions about women’s sexuality. Most of the detained were identified as working class.” Historians have pointed out that efforts to “save” or “protect” delinquent girls often crossed class lines, with middle-class women hoping to help working-class girls. Yet their efforts rarely crossed racial

. Odern, Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexual- ity in the United States, 1885-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 108. See also Mary Macey Dietzler and Thomas A. Storey, Detention Houses and Reformatories as Protective Social Agencies in the Campaign of the United States Government against Venereal í)¿íe«.seí (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1922), 2.

‘” Dietzler and Storey, Detention Houses, 11. ^’ Brian Donovan, White Slave Crusades: Race, Gender, and Anti-Vice Activism, 1887-1917

(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006), 138. ^̂ Dietzler and Storey, Detention Houses, 3; John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman, Intimate

Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), 212. ” Brandt, No Ma¿ie Bullet, 90. A case study on Portland, Oregon, also notes how detain-

ees fit into the category of “dangerous poor.” See Adam Hodges, “‘Enemy Aliens’ and ‘Silk Stocking Girls’: The Class Politics of Internment in the Drive for Urban Order during World War I,” Journal of the Gilded Ase and Progressive Era 6, no. 4 (2007): 431-58.

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boundaries; white women activists rarely worked to assist African American or Mexican American women.’* In fact, a similar vice crackdown in Puerto Rico during the war resulted in white women agreeing that women of Afri- can and Puerto Rican descent were presumed guilty undl proven innocent. Working-class and ethnic Puerto Ricans protested the crackdown, achieving limited success in stopping the mass arrests, but detendon exacerbated die hierarchical division between women.’^ Martha P. Falconer, superintendent of a detendon home for girls in Philadelphia, noted: “Everywhere diere is forced upon us a growing realization of the menace of the immoral colored girls and women, and the difficuldes in many of the states of arousing public sendment to make provision for dieir care.” Falconer argued that while the military and civilian authorides were handling die reladvely minor problem of delinquent white girls, the larger problem of delinquent nonwhite girls was neglected due to institudonal segregadon and the apadiy of white reformers. Falconer pleaded for more acdon, poindng out diat “the problem of the im- moral colored girls and women direcdy affects [whites] and is theirs to face as much as it is for the colored themselves.”‘* Notwidistanding Falconer’s plea, many reformers treated the problem of black female sexual delinquency as a hopeless cause or a chronic condidon, one unlikely to be solved and unwordiy of intense effort. The only true soludon was to keep dangerous women away from soldiers.

Detendon homes were established to do more dian just protect soldiers from infected women, since detendon might help to reform and improve in- mates through educadonal and vocadonal training. Maude Miner, the director of the War Department’s Committee for die Protecdon of Women and Giris, published an árdele in the Surveyin late 1917, emphasizing the importance of separadng detendon homes from jails and of detaining only diose women who were suspected of committing a crime.”^ Thomas A. Storey’s 1922 report on the Creadon of detendon homes encouraged them to become rehabilitadon centers or at least “suitable places for long-term commitment for women and girls.” Specifically, he complained that there were too few homes for African American women in the South.’* The government sdpulated that black and

‘•* Odem, Delinquent Daughters, 1; Peiss, Cheap Amusements, chap. 7. ‘* Eileen Findlay, Imposing Decency: The Politics of Sexuality and Race in Puerto Rico,

1870-1920 (Durham, N.C.: Duke Universit)’ Press, 1999), chap. 6. Findlay also points out that while men may have protested mass arrests, they did not protest the double standard of women’s medical inspection and the assumption that women were the cause of disease.

‘* Martha P. Falconer, “The Segregation of Delinquent Women and Girls as a War Problem,” in The Annals: War Relief Work, ed. J. P. Lichtenberger (Philadelphia: American Academy of Polidcal and Social Science, 1918).

”’ Maude Miner, “Girls and Khaki: Some Practical Measures of Protection for Young Women in Time of War,” Survey, 1 December 1917, 236-40.

^̂ Dietzler and Storey, Detention Houses, 24-25.


white girls would be treated with “equal consideradon wherever this might be possible.” But the results did not live up to these statements. Most women detained were never charged with any crime. Eacilides for AfHcan Amedcans received less funding and were located in buildings of poorer quality, if they existed at all. More often, the lack of facilides simply meant that black women and girls ended up in jail rather than a detendon home.” In her report on detendon homes reformer Mary Macey Dietzler expressed concern that some of the girls detained were so uncontrollable that they would resort to homosexuality while in custody. Her informants told her that this problem was “largely among the colored girls.”*”

Ideally, the detendon homes and reformatories provided schooling along with medical treatment to their inmates. Supervisors distributed educadonal materials and occasionally lectured or showed modon pictures. In homes for African American girls, however, these amenides were often left out. Inmates of the Dorcas Home for Colored Girls in Houston, Texas, received limited “prevocational” training in cooking and domesdc service, but they did not receive any education, outdoor recreation, or books. “Stories are told of severe corporal punishment under a former superintendent who was discharged, happily, as soon as her board heard of her conduct.”*’ Condi- tions at the Dorcas Home emulated a prison more than a rehabilitadon facility, and Dietzler’s report confirmed this when discussing how many inmates were required to be retested for venereal disease after release: “When the time was up they were all found to be reinfected, poindng to carelessness in the home and too great freedom of movement. IThe colored superintendent at that time was lax and the girls came and went without much restricdon. This situation was the basis of a recommendation made by the director of the Houston Eoundadon that government assistance be discontinued, and that the colored populadon be urged to increase its ef- forts to supplement the city and county appropriadon for maintenance.”*’̂ Resistance to providing rehabilitadon to African American girls resulted from a lack of both resources and interest.

As Maude Miner suggested, the government had established detendon homes and reformatories so as to provide an alternadve to jail for women and girls who were considered a threat to the soldiers or the military effort. These included women suspected of engaging in prosdtudon or suspected of carrying venereal disease, but neither of these charges needed to be proven in order to land a woman in state custody. The suspension of habeas corpus and other civil rights for women marked a low point in the wartime effort

‘” Ibid., 36. “”Ibid., 68. “‘Ibid., 214-15. “Ibid., 215.

Sexuality and Women in San Antonio 471

to control sexuality. Reformers framed their work as beneficial rather than threatening. They argued that they were protecting soldiers, civilians, fami- lies, the war effort, and the girls themselves. In practice, however, detention served to remove the girls from their proximity to soldiers and took away their freedom. Miner herself resigned in 1918 over the contradictions she saw between protecting and punishing girls.*’

In San Antonio, as in cities across the nation, women who were arrested faced the threat of long-term detention. The Live Oak Farm tiiere served as a detention center and venereal disease hospital for incarcerated women in the region. Using a fifteen-thousand-dollar appropriation from President Woodrow Wilson’s discretionary fimd, the city purchased property and buildings in 1918 for the housing of female delinquents. The facility held up to one hundred women at a time, segregated by race into white, black, and Mexican dormitories. Compared to the Dorcas House, the detention home for black girls in Houston, Live Oak Farm had an ample budget and good facilities, but it maintained many features ofthe more prisonlike institutions. Inmates participated in two hours of housework and two hours of sewing a day and spent the rest of tiieir time outdoors doing chores or taking supervised recreation. The institution had the support of many ofthe most influential Progressive organizations in town: the Woman’s City Committee, the San Antonio Mission Home and Training Schools, the local jtivenile court, and several local charities. Its mission was to help girls turn away from prostitu- tion through edtication, medical treatment, and social support.

The idea that prostitution sprang from a lack of education and that pros- titutes could be rehabilitated had already emerged before the war. Hugh Cabot, a participant in the Fourth International Congress on School Hy- giene held in Buffalo, New York, in 1913, stated: “The prostitute is a result, not a cause. A demand has created a supply. Can it be that this demand is a result of our lack of teaching?” He blamed prostitution not on a lack of female moral control or on economic desperation but on the dual problems of lack of edtication and the male demand for sex. Since Cabot blamed men both for soliciting sex and for failing to provide women with education, he logically concluded that men should bear the brunt of ptmishment for the crime. He recognized, however, that even equal punishment of men would result in social outrage. “If we arrest and fine these women for soliciting, it is otir clear duty to arrest, fine or imprison her [sic] male companion for soliciting or employing her. Does anyone in his senses believe that an at- tempt to enforce such a regulation would end in anything but riot?”** And

*’ Barbara Meil Hobson, uneasy Virtue: The Politics of Prostitution and the Ameriean Reform Tradition (New York: Basic Books, 1987), 175.

•** Hugh Cabot, “Education versus Punishment as a Remedy for Social Evils,” Fourth International Transactions of School Hygiene 5 (1913): 419.


yet the selecdve detendon of girls and women, often without evidence of crime, was the reality of Live Oak Farm as elsewhere. The double standard that Cabot criticized had reached its apogee in the wardme detendon of women. One report observed: “Good behavior was rewarded with special privileges. A high wire stockade surrounded the premises.”*^


In January 1918 the federal government began to quesdon publicly San Antonio’s effecdveness at cleaning up its vice districts. Maj. Bascom Johnson, the personal representadve of Secretary of War Newton Baker, expressed concern that San Antonio, like El Paso, had not fulfilled its promise to eradi- cate prosdtution and saloons in the areas surrounding the training camps. Since the local economy depended upon the influx of thousands of soldiers, Johnson issued a veiled threat: the War Department could punish the city economically by removing the troops. Such a move would also damage the city’s image and public reladons. In response. Rev. S. J. Porter preached at the First Bapdst Church that San Antonio should demonstrate its patriodsm to the endre world by its acdons in the antivice crusade.** Major Johnson concurred, adding: “If you don’t do this San Antonio will be smeared to the country as a city which did not rise to its duty; that it permitted vice condidons to thrive; that thousands of improper women thronged your streets and that as a result a high disease rate spread among the soldiers stadoned here, rendering them unfit for service for which the country so urgendy needs them.”*” Matters intensified a few days later, when Johnson informed the city that the War Department “will take no more promises.” He openly charged city and county officials with derelicdon in their duty to enforce andvice laws. “We hope the citizens and officials of San Antonio will take such acdon as will make unnecessary any drastic action by the War Department reladng to the concentradon of troops here.”*”

Women’s clubs and church organizadons took a pardcular interest in prevendng the city’s reputation from collapsing. Historian Peggy Pascoe notes a significant history of women’s reform efforts, drawing upon the rhetoric of women’s moral superiority and men’s outright untrustworthi- ness (whether through political, financial, or sexual corruption).*^ Women

*^ Dietzler and Storey, Detention Houses, 174-77. •” “Morale Depends on Morality, Says Rev. S. J. Porter,” San Antonio Express, 7 January

1918. •” “Commanders Urge City to Clean Up,” San Antonio Express, 5 January 1918. ‘” “Camp Commanders Urge San Antonio to Clean Up and Avert Action,” San Antonio

Express, 5 January 1918. •” Peggy Pascoe, Relations ofReseue: The Searehfor Female Moral Authority in the Ameriean

West, 1874-1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

Sexuality and Women in San Antonio 473

reformers in San Antonio saw tiie antivice campaign as their chance to move forward with efforts to improve the town’s morality and women’s political power. Philanthropist and clubwoman M. Eleanor Brackenridge stated: “San Antonio’s good name has been called into question . . . and unless we do something, the stigma will be on our city. You men have begun the crtisade and tiie women want to assist.”^” The crusade to clean up San Antonio took on a distinctly gendered language, with women demanding increased activ- ism in the public sphere as moral arbiters and patriotic citizens. As one of the founders ofthe Woman’s Club of San Antonio (WCSA), Brackenridge was a staunch supporter of women’s rights, the war effort, and women’s public role in moral protection. The club membership numbered over five hundred in the 1910s, including “most ladies of social consequence.” These were the women local politicians considered the appropriate voice of reform in the era.”

Many women were determined to show themselves as leaders in the an- tivice effort. Members ofthe WCSA took it upon themselves to contribute to the war effort especially through the vice crusade. The clubwomen of San Antonio claimed as their own territory the sort of moral policing that they called “municipal housekeeping,” a metaphor that revealed the idea that women’s skills keeping a tidy and healthy house could be expanded to keeping cities clean. The San Antonio Express also advocated this viewpoint, arguing tiiat women’s public role in the antivice campaign was an extension of their Progressive role as defenders of public morality and was a suitable way for them to contribute to the war effort. “The women of San Antonio have spoken on the vice situation. . . . By virttie of their sacrificial gifts they have the right to speak and to demand of their Government, National, State, and municipal, that tiie bodies and souls of their boys shall be protected.” This editorial stressed women’s political activism based on the concept of patriotic motherhood.” Women’s organizations and the churches took an active and vocal role in connecting moral policing with patriotism and the antivice campaign.

The women’s cleanup campaign united local and national efforts. The War Department sent women social workers into the town in November 1917 with the goal of “guarding the morals ofthe young women ofthe community.” They aimed to protect the health of the soldiers as well as protect tiie girls

‘° “Appointment of Policewomen Is Urged by Women,” San Antonio Express, 14 De- cember 1917.

‘̂ “Biographical Summary of Mrs. LeRoy Sumner Bates,” folder 1:8, Woman’s Club of San Antonio Records, 1898-1994, MS 1, UTSA Archives, Library, University’of Texas at San Antonio (hereafter cited as WCSA Records).

‘̂ “The Women Have Spoken,” San Antonio Express, 1 December 1917. For more on patriotic motherhood, see also Kennedy, Disloyal Mothers.

474 C O U R T N E Y Q . S H A H

“against their own weakness more than anything else.” It was die duty of mothers to provide moral stewardship for the young women seeking employ- ment in town; girls lacking suitable mothers had to turn to alternate sources of moral guidance, be they clubwomen, social workers, or the YWCA. They wished to prevent these girls from drifting into prosduidon. The article’s subtide claimed that the women would “prevent possible evils in [a] social way,” implying they could fight the “social evil,” that is, prostitution.”

The clubwomen claimed the moral high ground, contrasting feminine reform to San Antonio’s male politicians who faced corruption charges over the vice crusade.^* One local clergyman claimed that the Great War had brought a moral rebirth to a tired nation. “Bishop Capes said that instead of believing, as he was told recently, that this war would put civilization back 200 years, he believed it would put it forward 200 years.” Changes made on the home front as a result of the war would advance die causes of social purity, prohibition, and the reformation of wayward girls.^^

In an effort to further protective and purity aims, the women’s clubs also requested the appointment of policewomen. In 1900 the WCSA had suc- cessfully pushed for the appointment of the first police matron in town to monitor female prisoners at the city jail.^^ The WCSA believed diat increas- ing women’s role in antivice work would lead to less corruption widiin the police force and would provide girls protection from sexual exploitation on the street. This Progressive crusade assumed that women would bring an uncorrupted and nonpartisan moral purpose to the job.^” Brackenridge and her colleagues lobbied the mayor of San Antonio, the city council, and the local press to support the appointment of policewomen to prevent immorality and vice. Their work came to naught, as the municipal government remained reluctant to employ women, especially at night, to walk die streets.̂ **

53 “\Yar Department to Protect Girls,” San Antonio Express, 6 November 1917. ” Outcry over corrupt male politicians and police officers was ubiquitous in the editorials

and media coverage of the vice crusade. For example, there was intense newspaper coverage of the trial of Chief of Police Fred H. Lancaster and Judge of the Corporation Court J. Ed Wilkens, both of whom were charged with excessive leniency in vice cases and then cleared of charges, which only increased media reaction. See, for example, “Chief and Judge Found Not Guilty by Cit>’ Council,” San Antonio Express, 12 January 1918; “Captain and Two Officers in Vice Squad Suspended,” San Antonio Express, 7 March 1918; and “Vice Squad Head and Detectives Are Discharged,” San Antonio Express, 10 April 1918.

^̂ “Women of City in Vice Crusade Ask for Policewomen,” San Antonio Express, 1 De- cember 1917.

*̂ Bettye Womack, “Introduction,” folder 1:6, WCSA Records. ^’ Gloria Myers, A Munieipal Mother: Portland’s Lola Greene Baldwin, America’s First

Policewoman (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1995). *’ Minute Books, 1910-1914, folder 24:1, WCSA Records; Board of Directors’ Notes,

folder 9:36, WCSA Records.

Sexuality and Women in San Antonio 475

With the advent of the war, the infiux of soldiers and strangers, and the crackdown on vice, the movement for policewomen once again gathered momentum. Several women’s groups joined together to organize a mass meeting for women held on 30 November 1917 at which they voted to petition the city to appoint twelve policewomen. In the resolution the women stated: “We cannot be patient with the laxity or negligence of po- lice administration in this regard. . . . We realize that not alone upon city officials but upon individual citizens—parents and homemakers, teachers of our schools, churches and social organizations, rests equal responsibil- ity in this great concern.” Equating male political and police power with corruption, the clubwomen of San Antonio used stereotypes of women’s incorruptibility to forward their own political activism, prevent the exploi- tation of the vulnerable, and secure job opportunities for a few.̂ ‘

Days later, the women’s demand received a radier hesitant endorsement from the city’s executive branch. On 4 December 1917 Mayor Sam Bell agreed to answer the demand of the Woman’s City Committee and declared he would appoint female police officers. It was not until 28 December, and after much hemming and hawing, diat the appointments materialized. After the appointment Mayor Bell backed away from his previous endorsement and questioned the safety of putting unchaperoned women on the streets at night. The clubwomen responded that other cities had implemented die program successfully. In 1908 the first woman had been appointed with the power to arrest in Pordand, Oregon. Spurred by the wartime situation. New York City officials had also appointed female officers.*” An editorial in the San Antonio Express challenged the mayor’s reservations but still downplayed the radical potential of appointing policewomen: “There is a definite place for some women police in our city. It’s not a question of woman suffrage, nor of militant feminism. Outside of all politics and all parties, there is a moral and civic need for these women officers.” Their role, the editorial claimed, would be preventive and would rely on women’s “natural” role as “saver” of those on the edge of criminality.*’

So on 28 December 1917 the city commissioners appointed six women as “city policemen” for a trial term of sixty days. The WCSA, which provided recommendations to the city on whom to hire, touted the policewomen’s moral character and dedication to the antivice campaign. The San Antonio Express noted that several spoke Spanish fluendy, implying the city’s concern with the Mexican American population in the *̂

5′ “Women of City in Vice Crusade Ask for Policewomen.” ”” “Appointment of Policewomen Is Urged by Women”; “Women on Police Eorce,” San

Antonio Express, 26 December 1917; Myers, introduction to A Municipal Mother. ”’ “Women Police,” San Antonio Express, 15 December 1917. ^̂ “Six Local Women Given Power of City Policemen,” San Antonio Express, 28 December


476 C O U R T N E Y Q. S H A H

The municipal government argued that the policewomen should pos- sess fiifl police powers but expected from the outset that their dudes would revolve around prevendve work in the andvice crusade. The original six ap- pointees were granted the power to arrest individuals, but both the municipal government and the media coverage stressed their responsibility and moral aptitude for prevendng vice. The policewomen patrolled amusement parks, movie theaters, hotel lobbies, and the streets, looking for unescorted girls on the streets at night or couples “spooning” or “flirdng.”*’ The policewomen reportedly cridcized the “incorrect dancing posidons” of several couples at a local dance hall, noted overly dark movie theater balconies, and trailed but did not confront a soldier consorting with a “suspicious” woman.** An interview conducted at the time with R C. Hugman, the first appointee, added that “she doesn’t think physical force is necessary for the kind of work she is to do,” implying a divide between the more dangerous roles of male officers and the preventive, subordinate roles of female officers.**̂

The Woman’s City Committee continued to agitate for an increased role in law enforcement for women. They asked to add fifteen volunteer police- women to assist the city-appointed ones. They also desired to improve the public’s respect for women officers in response to the ridicule the policewomen received from the public: “A plea for yotir padence with the policewomen was made by Mrs. [Jane] Rippin. She said too much must not be expected at first, and that they must not be laughed at when they made mistakes.” Rippin’s comments suggest that despite the support of the press and women’s clubs, many still treated the policewomen as something of a joke.”*’

The tepid support for policewomen’s preventive work did not last. On 1 February 1918 the city commissioners dismissed the policewomen well before their sixty-day trial period had ended. Commissioner Lowther summed up the stance of the city government on the matter: “We have employed these women police since the sixth of the month, and they have been successfiil in making two arrests, two arrests of drunkards. I cannot see where they have been of any value to the city.”‘*’̂ Mayor Befl said that he planned to condnue employing a night matron for the city, but he replaced the policewomen with six male officers.

The dismissal sparked another controversy that stretched well beyond law enforcement into the polidcs of equality and social purity. Rena M. Green of

”’ “Fifteen Deputy Policewomen Are Asked of Mayor,” San Antonio Express, 7 January 1918.

” “Police Watching Rooming Houses,” San Antonio Express, 15 January 1918. ”* “Six Local Women Given Power of City Policemen.” ^ ” ‘No Man’s Land’ Unsafe for Women or Men in City,” San Antonio Express, 9 January

1918. ” “Policewomen Are Out; Law Creating Offices Repealed,” San Antonio Express, 1

February 1918.

Sexuality and Women in San Antonio A77

the Woman’s City Committee wrote a letter to the editor of the San Antonio Express, declaring: “We are not citizens.” She continued: “This morning we learn tliat all of the policewomen are dismissed. This action makes us realize, as we have often done before, that we cannot call ourselves citizens of San Antonio, tliat even at this time of stress when conditions look very critical as to the honor and good faith of our city, our services are not wanted.” She continued, linking citizenship to suffrage: “It is a perfectly fine lesson to us, showing us the greater need of our organization, and a wonderful demonstration of the power of the ballot and of our helplessness without jj. »68 Q|.gg,., made explicit the link between women’s involvement in the war effort and their expected citizenship rights. If women were willing to contribute to the war effort through their work on the vice crusade, they should be entitled to a fair share of the respect and privileges any man serv- ing in the army would expect.

The Woman’s City Committee held a mass meeting to pass a resolution protesting the firing of the policewomen and calling for the appointment of a female expert to train and support policewomen.”‘ They claimed tliat the policewomen, despite few arrests, actually had served the purpose they were appointed to perform, namely, preventing vice. They noted several instances where young girls caught in compromising situations were reprimanded or sent home to their parents. The Woman’s City Committee argued that the municipal government had set the policewomen up to fail by giving them less authority than male officers and then dismissing them for not attaining the same results. This was a common complaint in newly emerging fields of women’s employment. As was also the case with health inspection, law enforcement jobs for women were set up chiefly to deflect fears of sexual impropriety, and the female employees often met witli resentment from male colleagues and a lack of support from their employers.^” These jobs did not necessarily smooth the path to power for women. The example of the San Antonio policewomen demonstrates both the moral motivation behind the appointments and the male resistance to female political and legal authority.

If the policewomen were not making many arrests, tlie same was not true of their male counterparts. By mid-1918 arrests on vice charges increased considerably under political pressure from the War Department. Arrests re- lated to prostitution in Bexar County, within which San Antonio lay, more

‘* Rena M. Green, “The Dismissal of the Women Police,” San Antonio Express, 2 Febru- ary 1918.

*’ “Strongly Protest Summary Release of 6 Policewomen,” San Antonio Express, 6 Febru- ary 1918.

™ Francesco Cordasco and Thomas Monroe Pitkin, TTje White Slave Trade and the Immi- grants: A Chapter in Ameriean Soeial History (Detroit, Mich.: Blaine Ethridge, 1981 ), 4—5.


than tripled between November and December 1917 and then increased exponentially throughout early 1918.^’ Furthermore, coverage of vice arrests increased in both the local English-language and Spanish-language newspa- pers. Reporters stressed the lurid details of arrests and highlighted the race ofthe people involved, the presence of soldiers, or connections to liquor or gambling. The actual act of prostitution seemed less important to tiie media and to the police than the disorderliness of the people involved. One news report carried the headline “Two Negresses Reported Troublesome.”^^

The newspaper coverage raises questions about how law enforcement officials and the media defined “troublesome” and how it related to the racial and gender identity ofthe subjects. An unofficial tally taken by the San Antonio Express in May reported that 425 persons were arrested by the vice squad during the preceding month. Of those arrests, 231 were men and 194 were women. Ofthe men, 125 were white, 61 black, 43 Mexican, and 2 Chinese. The arrested women included 92 (presumably white) “Americans,” 47 “Negresses,” and 55 Mexicans. The men were most often arrested for drinking and gambling and thus not subject to medical examination. The majority of the men arrested were white, but the majority of tiie women arrested belonged to racial minorities. Beside the standard violations of city ordinances, gambling, and alcohol regulations, twenty-two of the women were “charged with being undesirables.”‘̂ ^

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