Significant Work of the American Vigilance Association

Clifford G. Roe


The Committee on Organization appointed by the National Vigilance Committee on December 19, 1911, met at the home of Miss Grace H. Dodge in New York City on the afternoon of January 16, 1912. At this meeting the temporary organization of the American Vigilance Association was complete.

In the following month, the twenty-first of February, a meeting was held at the Chicago Club, in Chicago, to ratify the arrangements previously made in New York and to make such other arrangements as seemed necessary.

The active work of the American Vigilance Association began April 1st, 1912.

Although the first year of a new organization contemplating a large work is usually one of foundation-laying the American Vigilance Association has been built far beyond that stage and stands to-day in the forefront of organization doing similar work. To create and organize the machinery of an association nation in scope would be a yearís task, yet not only has the general organization machinery been worked out, but also the detail work of each department has been planned.

It being the duty of the Executive Secretary to direct, manage and supervise the work of the Association is called to the reports of the various departments working under his direction. The success of each department depends on the work done and the ability of the person directing the work to inspire those in each department to achieve the best results possible. The large amount of work accomplished, as the reports show, during the past months and the extended influence of this Association are the results of patient, hard work on the part of those working in the various departments. With a very limited budget, and therefore a very limited force to do the work, the results accomplished speak for themselves.

There were several matters to be adjusted and smoothed out in the begin-

( 2) ning of our work in order to bring about complete unison of purpose and constructive effort.

First, it was not quite clear just how the relationship of each office should be worked out, and therefore the following motion was passed by the Executive Board, May 17, 1912: "It is the sentiment of this Board that the administration and executive supervision of the Eastern Office, Central Office, and other offices hereafter opened, remain as it is now centered under the complete direction of the Executive Secretary, etc."

Another matter of adjustment which had to be met was the merging of the American Purity Alliance into the American Vigilance Association. It was found that the Alliance was incorporated under the law of New York, and that an incorporated society could not be merged into a non-incorporated society. Therefore it was necessary to bring about an adjustment which necessitated the devotion of much time to the legal phases of the subject and the calling of conferences and meetings. These particular instances are recalled only to remind the members that the troubles common to the formation of a new organization likewise confronted us.

Offices for carrying on the work of the Association were rented on the twelfth floor at 156 Fifth avenue, New York City, and the Library was installed in the largest room of the three composing the suite. In Chicago, offices on the tenth floor at 105 West Monroe street were rented. Thus, provided with the quarters in which to work, the organization fo a system began.

The system outlined provided for several departments which were as follows:

Department of Administration and Organization.

Department of Law and Legislation.

Department of International Cooperation.

Department of Investigation.

Department of Education.

Department of Rescue and Protection.

Library and Editorial Department.

To these Departments was added the Department of Finance by a motion providing for a Secretary of the Department of Finance past May 7, 1912, and by the adoption of an amended constitution providing for this Department on June 3, 1912.

The work of the Department of Administration and Organization is now doing was largely carried on directly by the Executive Secretary prior to the formal Organization of this Department in June. The Association is to be congratulated upon securing the services of a Secretary for this Department, Mr. Burgess, who has had an extended experience in the administration and organization work of similar societies. Mr. William Burgess, the Secretary, began his work on June 17, 1912. Under his guidance, the work of this Department has been growing very rapidly, and the force now working with him is entirely inadequate to meet the demands made upon this branch of the work.

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Your Executive Secretary took up with Dean Walter T. Sumner, Chairman of the Vice Commission of Chicago, in March the matter of republishing the report of this Commission. After some correspondence and several conferences, arrangements were completed in May whereby the American Vigilance Association was to republish and distribute these reports. The work of printing and issuing the reports would naturally fall within the scope of the Library and Editorial Department. However, several reasons presented themselves which made it seem best to give the work to the Department of Administration and Organization. Among these reasons were the following:

1. The location of the Vice Commission; its material, correspondence, card index, etc., being in Chicago.

2. The printing could be done at a lower rate in or near Chicago.

3. The Library and Editorial Department was already pushed to the limit with the work of getting out our monthly Magazine VIGILANCE and other work incident to the Library.

The month of June was consumed in the details of printing the report, looking over several thousand letters requesting copies of the report which has accumulated in Dean Sumnerís office, revising the card index and checking up those who had received reports with the requests then on hand, and eliminating those requests with which did not seem proper to comply.

In July, the announcement through newspapers and magazines that the American Vigilance Association was issuing a new edition of this report brought hundreds of requests, and the work of distributing the reports was thus augmented and increased. Your Executive Secretary read personally many of the requests and passed on them. Requests are still being received daily and the reports are being sent out.

The results obtained by sending out these reports have been very beneficial to the American Vigilance Association. Not only by this means has the work of this Association been advertised very broadly, but the Association has bee brought into close contact with persons and organization particularly interested in its work. A complete card index of every person who has received a report is kept in both Chicago and New York. Likewise a card index of persons interested in the work is also kept, as well as a complete file of all letters received.

As will be seen later when the Department of Investigation is considered, it was necessary for the Department of Administration and Organization to undertake or aid in investigations in the West at Racine, Wisconsin; Kankakee and Spring Valley, Illinois; Lincoln, Nebraska, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

In the matter of organization, this Department has been in communication with committees and societies throughout the country. Several cities have been visited by invitation, and your Executive Secretary has aided in the organization of many committees which are either affiliated with this Association or are closely cooperating with it. Among cities visited by your Execu-

( 4) tive Secretary are the following: Terre Haute, Indiana, where a Vice Commission was aided by a plan of work. Indianapolis visited twice; a public meeting was addressed and suggestions were made in reference to the closing of the vice district. Louisville, Kentucky, visited twice; a menís club was addressed and aid was giving in organizing a committee. Racine, Wisconsin, and audience was address in the Public Library where preliminary arrangements were discussed for an investigation which was afterwards made by this Association. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, a meeting of ladies at summer home of Mrs. R. T. Crane was addressed and aid was given the Department of Finance in securing funds. Waukegan, Illinois, a union meeting in the Armory was addressed. Bloomington, Illinois, a union meeting was addressed. La Grange, Illinois, a meeting was addressed. Battle Creek Michigan; a menís meeting under the auspices of the local Y. M. C. A and union meeting of churches was addressed. Detroit, Michigan, visited twice; a meeting of men at the Detroit Club was addressed on first visit. The Detroit Physiciansí Club and a public meeting were addressed on second visit; aid was given in the formation of a committee to carry on a vice investigation. Syracuse, New York, visited four times. The University Club and also committee meetings were addressed; Boston, Massachusetts, visited twice; a group of social workers, and the Ford Hall meeting were addressed. The Executive Secretary attended several conferences, including one with Dr. Eliot, on the first visit. A meeting of women, the Boston City Club, and Senate Social Welfare Committee and the Harvard Y.M.C.A. were addressed on the second visit. Aid was given in the preliminary steps for the oftline formation of a committee to study and investigate the Social Evil in Boston and surrounding cities. Newark, New Jersey, visited twice; conferences with committee of women and a group of men were held here. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, five visits, conferences concerning work of investigation being carried on by the Association were held, also three meetings at the University of Pennsylvania were addressed. Baltimore, Maryland, a public meeting was addressed. Washington, D.C., conference with Senators, Congressmen, and Department of Justice concerning our work were held. Scranton, Pennsylvania, a menís meeting was addressed and assisted in vice investigation campaign. State College, Pennsylvania, public meetings in College Auditorium, Freshman Chapel, two groups of social workers, two meetings of college women, and five menís meetings and conferences were addressed. Cleveland, Ohio, an annual meeting of Associated Charities was addressed, and help was given in extending the work of our Library and circulation of VIGILANCE. Lewiston Idaho, a public meeting held at the Normal School was addressed and the campaign for a Red Light Injunction Law was aided. Minneapolis, Minnesota, visited two years ago, was again visited during the present month. The students at the University of Minnesota

( 5) were addressed at Chapel and also at the Armory; a meeting under the auspices of the Y.M.C.A was addressed, and a meeting of prominent citizens and social workers was addressed at luncheon. The YMCA at 23rd Street, New York, and the Central Y.M.C.A., in Chicago, have been addressed. Other addresses were given at the Social Service Club and several churches in Chicago during the past ten months.

Besides personal visits to cities by the Executive Secretary, speakers have been sent to many States and cities to represent the American Vigilance Association.

All these meetings and the newspaper comments concerning them have given the work of the Association wide publicity. Furthermore, these meetings have enlisted the aid of many influential people throughout the country. It is proposed to extend the meetings over the entire country in the near future.

There has been a much larger demand for services in giving addresses concerning the work of the Association than it has been able to supply under the present arrangement of work. Invitations to speak have been received from almost every part of the United States, and, therefore, you Executive Secretary firmly believes that a Department should be created to meet this increasing interest on the part of the American public in matters concerning commercialized vice and its consequences. Speakers who can be relied upon to present the subjects from various viewpoints in a sane and practical way should be enlisted in the service of this Department.


The work of the Department of Investigation has needed especially the supervision of the Executive Secretary and General Counsel. This has been necessary because it was impossible to have the services of an able Secretary or Director of Investigation until after the work had been undertaken. Fortunately, the services of a Director of Investigation, Mr. George J. Kneeland, were secured soon after the formation of the temporary organization, but, unfortunately, the time his service was to begin was set after the completion of certain work in which he was then engaged. The time was anticipated at the later part of the summer of 1912 or the early part of the fall.

The City Club, of Philadelphia, gave a luncheon on March 16th. Some six hundred people attended, including Mayor Blakenburg and Mr. Porter, Director of Public Safety; Miss Jane Addams, James Bronson Reynolds, Miss Maude E. Miner, Dean Walter T. Sumner and Dr. Prince A. Morrow spoke and urged the appointment of a Vice Commission. The Mayor, in response, promised to appoint one. He kept his promise. The American Vigilance Association kept in very close touch with this situation, as it was highly desirable that the investigation of the Social Evil in Philadelphia, the third largest city in the United States, should be carried on by our Department of Investigation. Your Executive Secre-

( 6) -tary made an appointment with the Secretary of the Philadelphia Vice Commission, Mr. Roy Smith Wallace, at the Harvard Club in New York, and there presented a plan for investigation and the probable cost.

An investigation was then in progress in New York City. The Vice Commission of Chicago had issued its report. Therefore, the next city of importance was Philadelphia, and the American Vigilance Association needed the prestige which would be forthcoming from making an investigation in this next city of importance.

Mr. Wallace again discussed the matter with our office in Chicago, the latter part of June, and arrangements were soon after completed whereby this Association was to conduct the investigation in Philadelphia.

It has been the policy to make the Department of Investigation self-supporting as far as possible. With this in view, the arrangements thus far concluded have stipulated that the committee or commission for which each investigation is made shall defray all expenses of the investigation, including traveling expenses, etc., of our investigators.

As articles appeared in newspapers throughout the country, and in some magazines, giving an outline of the work to be carried on by this Association, requests came in from several cities for investigations. Some of these requests were answered by giving a plan for conducting an investigation without our aid, because we were not equipped to take on investigations over a wide area.

Soon after the beginning of our work, correspondence was received from Paul F. Illman, Secretary for a commission in Syracuse. Syracuse was visited at the invitation of Mr. Illman, and the Committee in the rooms of the Associated Charities was addressed. The Committee requested an investigation and arrangements were made whereby our Chief Investigator was sent there on June 19th. He conducted the investigation, making his reports directly to the Executive Secretary until July 26th, when he was aided by other investigators and all reports were set to Mr. Kneeland in New York. It was unfortunate that Mr. Kneelandís services could not be given us at that time, and also that later the Association was able to secure only part of his time in August, and one-half of this time in September, October, November, and December. However, the investigation in Syracuse was completed under the direction of Mr. Kneeland, and the report of his investigation was prepared by our Department of Investigation and is now in the hands of the printer. It will be issued to the public this month.

The investigation in Philadelphia began August 1st and ended December 31, 1912.

Thee other investigations have been made by this Association: in Racine, Wisconsin, beginning the last week in August and ending the latter part of September; and in Kankakee, Illinois, beginning the latter part of November and ending about the middle of December; and in Spring Valley.

Philadelphia was visited and conferences held regarding the work.

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On July 19th, the Executive Secretary was invited to address some of the leading people in Racine, Wisconsin. The outcome of this meeting was a conference in Chicago, August 26th, with a Committee from Racine and the completion of arrangements for the investigation which immediately followed.

Our Kankakee investigation has been fruitful with excellent results. After our investigation was completed, your Executive Secretary was invited there to address a committee. The results of the investigation were given to this committee and the outcome was the closing of the houses of ill-repute there.

Thus our Association has completed investigations in five cities of five distinct sizes and types, giving us a basis for comparison which is most valuable, and also a basis to estimate results obtained. If we had never received a cent for any of these investigations, they were all well worth making. However, each city has paid in full for each investigation made. This Association has aided in making investigations in four cities —two in the west and two in the east. Because of the nature of the work, the names of these cities cannot at this time be made public. The Association is to be congratulated upon having in its service investigators who are thoroughly honest and exceptionally efficient. Our investigators do not appear in court as witnesses and therefore are not known to the public. The importance of this Department is that it gives to each place investigated a true survey of conditions and makes recommendations for improvement. In conclusion, it may be said that there are demands for investigation fare in excess of our equipment.

Our investigators are now busy in two cities, and plans are under way for several very large investigations just as soon as we can have the entire time of our Director of Investigation, which will probably be about April 1st of this year.


The Department of Law and Legislation, under the able direction of its Chairman, Mr. James Bronson Reynolds, has accomplished some very effective work. Legal statistics have been tabulated by Herbert E. Gernert, the Secretary; cases which are important to our work have been listed; and the laws of the various States have been searched so that this Department would have at hand the best material possible in aiding public prosecutors and local organization in the enforcement of laws and, furthermore, in aiding in the passage of necessary legislation.

This Department has investigated the complaints, contributed valuable articles of a legal nature to VIGILANCE and other publications, and has aided in initiating legislation in several States, and has also aided in preparing bills and in getting bills passed.


This Department, through Dr. O. Edward Janney who has been so long identified with our work, has aided very materially in making the foreign girl safer in coming to our country. This is most important work, and the success of

( 8) this Department is bettering steerage conditions and co-operating with other countries in an effort to eliminate the international traffic in women is to be highly commended.


The work that the Library and Editorial Department has accomplished has been most significant. It shows wonderful possibilities. Miss Marion E. Dodd has conducted this work admirably and has developed it beyond our expectations. Our Library has become a recognized bureau of information concerning matters in line with our work throughout the country. Daily requests are received for information concerning the best books on Sex Hygiene; on reports of investigation or statistics concerning commercialized vice. Perhaps nowhere in this country has been collected such an array of pamphlets, books statistics and facts as is now located in our Library. We have benefited the nation by giving the people true, scientific knowledge which could not otherwise be readily obtained. The Department has helped to circulate good reading material and to discourage the circulation of sensational and perhaps injurious pamphlets and books.

The editorial division of the work is self-evident. VIGILANCE has more than doubled its list of subscribers, and new names are coming in every day.

While the Departments of Education and Rescue and Protection have not been developed as yet by our Association, work in line with these Departments has been done by us.

All the Departments have contributed to the educational campaign, and both offices in New York and Chicago have given much service in the rescue and protection of unfortunate girls and women. The instances are too numerous to mention; however, as an example of work in this connection, our co-operation with the New England Watch and Ward Society of Boston might be mentioned. A young girl was bing taken to a western State for immoral purposes; a telegram was sent to our Chicago office from Boston, and our office brought the matter to the attention of the Federal Authorites, and the girl was taken from the train in Chicago and rescued. A similar service has been rendered in many parts of the country through our Association and the co-operation of our organizations.

In Chicago, our Association had an important part in the campaign against the Segregated Districts and offered aid to every unfortunate woman turned out of these districts.

The Department of Finance, though it secretary, Morrison S. McMullen, has helped to make the accomplishment of the above work possible. Yet this Department must be enlarged. During the past ten months, much greater work could have been accomplished had the Association been supplied with proper funds.

No Department, or person connected with this Association, has been able to do its or his or her best work because the funds were lacking. With a county awakening as never before, with committees and individuals urgently requesting our help in every quarter of

( 9) our land, it is lamentable that greater financial aid has not been given. Therefore, we must give the Department of Finance greater latitude and assistance. The coming year is one of magnificent promise, and our friends are urged to help the Association in meeting its opportunities for social service. Space and time will not permit of details nor an account of the hundreds of interviews and conferences held since last April by your Executive Secretary, but the work has been stimulated in this way, as well as by extended correspondence and the circulation of pamphlets and books.

The Association has helped to arouse a nation by giving it truths and not theories. It has succeeded in interesting men and women of great influence and means. It has enlisted the aid of those never reached before by giving out practical and scientific facts and plans for constructive, punitive, redemptive and preventative work. It has helped to concentrate effort for good, and has given to workers a central organization with which, and from which to work. It has enlisted the power of the press in many parts of the country. It has given the pulpit material with which to instruct.

It has kept aloof from those who are fanatics and sensationalists. It has brought to educators a new view-point. It has helped to dispel ignorance on the part of the public, parents and children. It has won friends to the single standard of morals. It has aided in proving that the toleration, regulation, and segregation of vice is a failure.

It has co-operated with the Federal Government, State and Municipal authorities, the Travellersí Aid Society, the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A. and scores of other national and local organizations in their efforts.

Clifford G. Roe,
Executive Secretary.


No Notes

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