Routing the Segregationists in Chicago

Graham Taylor

The country-wide battle against segregation of commercialized vice, at the discretion of the police, has had no more conspicuous setting nor more significant array of contestants than at the public hearings recently held by the special committee of the Chicago City Council. It will be remembered[1] that this committee was appointed by resolution to investigate vice conditions and to recommend "elimination, segregation or otherwise," just as if the Vice Commission, appointed under the previous administration, had not rendered an exhaustive report and a series of recommendations which cost $20.000 and a year's work of thirty of Chicago's busiest, best-known, most capable and most representative citizens. However suspicious this circumstance may have been, the committee of nine aldermen gave no indication that they were previously committed to any policy which they might be expected to recommend. For publicly and by personal invitation they invited persons holding any and all points of view to present their opinions at the hearings. And as they did so, the committee gave the fairest, freest and most patient hearing to all sides.

The large council chamber in the new City Hall was thronged by remarkably representative groups. Not only were the specialized agencies and the "special interests," directly involved in the vice war, represented by their executive officers, attorneys and influential backers, but there were present some of the most distinguished men and women, representing by their speech or silent presence the Roman Catholic, Jewish and Protestant churches, the philanthropic and civic societies, universities and professional schools, medical and legal professions, business, social and labor circles. Some unnamed, but nut unknown. special interests had representatives conspicuously present and prominently placed on the program of each session. Unlike those who opposed segregation, these "dark horse" advocates of the shims ,quo absolutely refused to name those whom they claimed to represent. except by the title of organizations hitherto unknown, or by designating certain lines

(255) of goods which some of them sold in the red-light district.

The battle royal was on in deadly earnest from the opening of the first session to the dramatic close of the last one, but from start to finish it was overwhelmingly one-sided. One of the sessions was in charge of Clifford G. Roe, attorney for the American Vigilance Association. Another was managed by Jane Adrian's for the Woman's City Club and was notable both for those who participated and for the profound effect they produced. Mrs. Joseph T. Bowen, representing the Juvenile Protective Association, charged that the city became 'a procurer by maintaining a segregated district in contravention of the state law. Maud Miner, front her experience in the probation work of the New York courts, plead effectively for better treatment of the women victims and for public agencies better adapted to assure it. Virginia Brooks described the transformation in Hammond from the demoralization attending many years of the segregation policy to the new idea of the city itself, which came with the success of her two years' struggle to overthrow the political and police administration which was in collusion with vice.

From a loose-leaf ledger of a minor disorderly resort, the attorney for the Committee of Fifteen, which is a group of strong business and professional men organized to prosecute panderers, proved that the proportion of the receipts paid for protection averaged $210.51 a week. He estimated on this basis that all the resorts of this district which contained 1.200 women, would aggregate $2,000,000 a year paid for protection, and yet that each inmate was kept in debt to the keeper in twenty-eight out of thirty individual instances. Father P. J. O'Callaghan, speaking for the church of the Paulist Fathers, demanded segregation for men if required for women, and protested against applying the title "His Honor" to the mayor if by a policy of segregation the chief executive of the city was also constituted its "chief panderer." Rabbi Hirsch with great force argued that if the Russian police could not withstand the temptations to graft in segregating Jews, innocent of any offense other than that of their race and religion, the American people could not escape demoralization under the far worse temptation to sell their discretionary power over the illicit trade in vice. "Not as a fanatic but as a citizen," he cried, "away with this segregation of vice slavery which is not reproduced in the mines of Siberia." lenkin Lloyd Jones charged that the lust of the dollar or the vote was the only argument for restoring the disorderly resorts to the red-light district, which the state's attorney had suppressed.

The arguments for segregation were extremely weak. Even those that were put forward by physicians were such as might have been urged with more plausibility twenty-five or fifty years ago, before the diseases of vice and the dangers of infection were known as they now are. A police captain's son read approvals of the policy of segregation from police chiefs in fifteen cities, despite the previous demonstration of the fact that the police have special financial interests, which are regarded almost as vested rights, in the policy of segregation. A liquor dealer had the temerity to assert that there was a larger trade in soft drinks, like ginger ale and soda-water, than in hard liquor and in beer among the disorderly resorts. In rejoinder, a resort keeper's ledger was cited to prove that there was an annual sale of 7,269,000 bottles of beer in the resorts of this one district, at three-or four times the price charged for it elsewhere.

But the climax of this game of bluff came at: the very close of the hearing. A man hitherto, unknown had made a "grand stand play" as the representative of what he was pleased to call "the Chicago Protective League for Women." When challenged to produce the names of its members, or to name its financial backers, as all the other representatives had done, he absolutely refused to do so. Meanwhile, he claimed to have made, with the assistance of the police, which demonstrated the need of segregation, an investigation of conditions in the segregated district. It was based upon the life stories of 1,160 women who he said had been made to believe that they had to register at the office of his "league." He admitted that the inmates of all but four of the houses had yielded to this "bluff"—his own and that of the police. His lawyer had noisily challenged any one to show that his client ever had any connection with the interests invested in the segregated district. At last his own bluff was called.

The chairman of the Committee of Fifteen was recognized as the last speaker at the final hearing. He asked for the privilege of producing documentary evidence to invalidate the claims of the former speaker. Then a note for $100 was produced, signed by this "protector" of women, made payable to the order of one of the most notorious vice kings then on trial before the Municipal Court and since convicted. When the note was read and its signature was declared to be genuine by a handwriting expert, confederates of the entrapped man scurried together. One of them shouted "forgery." The chairman offered opportunity for explanation. The gentleman aggrieved feebly responded that it would be made "at the proper time and place." The gavel fell. The public hearings ended. The committee went into executive session.

Pending the report and recommendations of the committee there has been a surprising rally of public sympathy against restoring the sup-

(256) -pressed disorderly resorts in the former segregated district. All the great dailies have already pronounced against it. The Daily News strongly cautions the committee against ignoring the illegality of a return to the former policy, and asks

"What agencies want the lawless dives re- stored to the city and turned over once more to the supervision of the police? Does public opinion desire it? No. The closing of the segregated district thus far has created no serious problem for this community. On the other hand, it has locked the terrible doors through which unprotected girls, by thousands every year, are lured to slavery and early death."

The Tribune urges "Let us go forward, not back, and let us be sure which way we are going." It declares that "the reopening of this district, or any similar district, should not be considered by the authorities for a moment at this time," and adds "now that we are tardily facing this dark question, the conscience and the intelligence of the community demand that it be dealt with not superficially and cynically, but courageously, scientifically and with effect." For the data and conclusions upon which the best policy for Chicago can be worked out, the Tribune refers the council committee to the reports of the Vice Commission and of the Committee of Fifteen of New York.

The Record-Herald "without much hesitation, associates itself with those enlightened and humane men and women who oppose segregation and advocate rational, gradual repression of the social evil." After roundly asserting the failure, illegality and demoralization of segregation, it urges a report against it and the enforcement of the policies recommended by the Vice Commission, together with additional constructive work in the line of education, prevention and reclamation. "A report against segregation," it declares, "would be a call to service and helpful activity. A report for segregation would be a victory for ignorance, inefficiency and reaction."

The most far-reaching result of these public hearings thus far achieved is the permanently organized federation of all the agencies directly or more indirectly involved. Thirty-three of them, including the educational, rescue, prosecuting, legal, medical and religious groups, have already allied themselves to make common cause, under one plan of campaign, directed by a steering committee, and led by A. W. Harris, president of Northwestern University, and by Walter T. Sumner, chairman of the Vice Commission, as chairman and vice-chairman of the new federation. Notice is thus served of a declaration of war without discharge, which will certainly cause the politicians and the police, the mayor and the city administration, the state's attorney and the judges to reckon with an organized public opinion such as they have never met before either in the performance or the- evasion of their duties. But even better than that, the whole situation promises the assurance of an enlightened, constructive, progressive public policy for carrying on and out the clarion summons of the Vice Commission: "Constant and persistent repression of prostitution the immediate method; absolute annihilation the ultimate ideal"; with the appointment of a morals commission and the establishment of a morals court as the means to those ends.

Meanwhile the report of the City Council committee and its recommendations will be received with interest, and the more so because one of its members seriously asserts, what all his colleagues are now certainly aware of: "The darned thing is loaded at both end."


  1. See The Survey, October 26, 1912, Fighting Vice In Chicago.

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