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THE SOCIAL EVIL PROSTITUTION!

FROM THE ISSUE CENSORED BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT GRANT OR GREELEY - WHICH?

November 4, 1871:

"Widowers never die of grief. Just let them alone! They'll soon re-wive."

"Money is said to be the sinews of war. It is equally the sinews of marriage. Without it no couple can carry the war on."

"Dr. Beecher says: 'I do not believe there's such a thing as he-work and she-work. I never saw a woman do a man's work handily, but I liked her all the better for it.' "

"An instance of female heroism, which has recently been given in Ireland, recalls the story of Grace Darling. The brig Manly was wrecked on Drogbeda bar, in plain sight of the life-boatmen, who refused to go to their assistance in consequence of the violence of the gale. Six men were carried off the hull by the surf and drowned. At last a lady put off from shore in a small boat, and, at the risk of her own life, saved that of one of the men left on board the vessel."

"A distinguished ex-Governor of Ohio . . . relates that on one occasion, while addressing a temperance meeting at Georgetown, District of Columbia...his attention was attracted by the sobs of a disconsolate and seedy looking individual in the rear part of the room. On going to the person and interrogating him, he was told the usual tale of woe, among other sad incidents that during his career of vice, he had buried three wives. The Governor having buried a few wives of his own, sympathized with the inebriate, and consoled him as much as was in his power. Said he: 'The Lord has indeed inflicted you.' The mourner sobbingly replied: 'Yes, yes, he has,' and pausing a moment, and wiping his nose, he continued, 'But I don't think the Lord got much ahead of me, for as fast as he took one away, I took another.'

July 2, 1870

The Social Evil

. . . . Men's lusts and women's needs are not to be obviated by legislation. This is professedly a Christian country, but we cultivate the moralities under protest. When it shall be considered as disgraceful for a man to commit acts of immorality as it now is to dishonor his bank check, we shall have some hope for men in the matter. . . . While Magdalen cannot make sufficient by honest labor to board and clothe herself--having the while that which will bring her money, if not more easily, certainly more quickly--what can be expected of Magdalen? The iniquity is that the sorrowing self-despising Mary is condemned for submitting to her necessities, while Master Joseph, self-complacent in his new role, is approved for consulting his own pleasure. . . . Not those who fall, but those who resist, are the real objects of sympathy. Bearing privation and holding fast to honor and virtue--they are the salt of the earth, if we could but know them. . . .

The moral aspect of the whole question lies with society at large, especially with the women, the mothers, the female leaders. Legislation can do little in a matter which concerns the natural instincts of human nature. But it can do something. The stupid practice of making arrests and midnight descents is as great immorality and public disgrace as the evil itself. It is too frequently a means of black-mail. It is a way a scandal. Such coarse brutal repression does not touch causes. Penalties on landlords are just as useless. The big fish break the net. Thus it is notorious that ecclesiastical rents have been from time to time drawn from these sources without imputation on the clergy, the law being inoperative and interference vexatious. The only repressive agency admissible is a system of police license and rigorous visitation. This is not authorizing sin by statute, but simply recognizing social and physiological facts. In this way, and in this way alone, until a wholesome moral sentiment can be induced, can legislation deal with the subject. By means of visitorial supervision some check may be placed on the terrible consequences of indiscriminate intercourse. If these consequences affected only the chief actors, they might be passed with indifference; but when we know how the innocent are implicated, and what frightful maladies are engendered and constitutionally transmitted, the public health justifies the most stringent and peremptory interference.

 Nov. 4, 1871

Excerpt from Mr. Riddle's Speech on the Social Evil (Prostitution) in Washington DC

"With the exception of the Morning Chronicle, the Washington press unqualifiedly condemned it as indecent, injudicious and unfit for utterance."

Ladies and Gentlemen: I am here because I was asked to be, and for the same reason I arise to address you. No reluctance from indifference to this subject controls me; but in the presence of this momentous question, I frankly don't know what to do . . . The fact that I am permitted to discuss it at all to such a numerous and variously constituted assemblage as this, marks a most important change in the public temper in reference to it. Six weeks ago he would have been a bold man who should dare to appear before a mixed or unmixed crowd and venture upon its discussion; and the woman who has brought this thing to an issue is something more than a heroine. Knowing this thing, so daintily called, 'the social evil,' as greater than the sum of all other human evils, as reaching further and striking deeper, we must appear as not knowing it. A nod of the head, a distinct wave of the hand, is all the allusion that has been permitted to it. And now we are brought to face it, to struggle with it, directly and seriously, as best we can.

This is no new thing; if it was we might deal with it. It is as ancient as antiquity. It commenced with the first outbreak of man's passion and woman's folly; and is incident to every phase of human society, whether barbarous or semi-civilized. It stained man's savage life, and curses his highest civilization. Old philosophy knew no remedy for it, and the principles of Christianity, as we practice and apply them, have not eradicated. What can be done with it?....

Exact the ten commandments and your courts cannot enforce them; attach penalties to the mandates of the later scriptures, and give your police courts jurisdiction over them, and they remain as now unheeded.

There are things that cannot be dealt with by law, and he is wise who will not attempt it rashly.

I have no names and no denunciation for the more guilty of either sex involved in this sin. I am willing to think that both are often the victims of unhealthy conditions of society, inherited weakness and passion, and of temptations strong as necessity . None can measure for none can know the degree of crime that attended a first fall. We only know that society has awarded unequal punishment to offenders at most of equal guilt. In the nature of things, we know that woman cannot be the chief criminal; and yet whatever may be the punishment adjudged her by our common judge, society supplements it with a final irrevocable doom, that all men and all women conspire to execute.

A daughter goes down, and forever, in the whelming flood, to be no more named; a son, reeking and dripping, comes up out of it, to be received and welcomed. We wonder why this should be. The solution is easy. Woman left to the impulses of her nature, in her horror of such impurity, would banish both, guilty men as guilty women; men, more largely involved, make common cause--they shield and shelter each other, and decree that woman shall receive all men alike, with little reference to morality. And as they make, they enforce the law, and woman submits. Men have not the hardihood to ask her to receive their less guilty paramours, and she does not. . . .

But what can we do? Who shall do it? Where shall we commence? Who will help; who will give money and sympathy; who will dare to oppose?

It is said that our municipal authorities have decreed that the haunts of this sin, the only refuge of these banned and exiled outlaws, shall on a given night be set upon by the armed police. I shrink from this. . . . So cruel and cowardly does this 'raiding' seem to me, that were I an officer and received an order to set upon the miserable abodes of these helpless outcasts, and to break in upon them and seize and hurry them off to noisome station houses, and then in the morning to parade them through the streets to the police court, and there present them in the presence of the ribald, blasphemous, reeking throng that crowd that stew, to receive justice--as we call it--I would resign.

"Regulate this thing; regulate it; exclaim voices never heard in opposition to any wrong. Yes, regulate it; it needs it, and then regulate the regulators, mayhap. "License these places," men say. No doubt a revenue could be raised from them, but what could be done with such money?.....Oh this is an awful phase of this dreadful subject . . . Things unfit to be spoken of good are unfit to be.

November 2, 1872:

GRANT OR GREELEY - WHICH? (The 1872 Presidential Candidates)

This article was part of the issue that led to the arrest of Victoria Woodhull, Col. Blood, and Tennie C. Claflin for sending "obscene" literature through the mail. Fortunately, Woodhull, Blood, and Claflin foresaw the government's actions and smuggled some of their plates so they could reprint the issue months later.

In the absence of an electoral ticket of the Equal Rights Party [Victoria Woodhull's party], we suppose that most men who would have voted for the candidates of that party, will vote for one or the other of the parties whom the men standing at the head of this article represent. If it were the man merely who is to be voted for, on account of his personal fitness, it seems to us that no person can be at a loss as to whom he should support. General Grant is, at heart, favorable to many of the reformatory movements; especially is he favorable to the cause of woman. He, as well as Mrs. Grant, believes that women ought to vote when they want to. Mr. Greeley believes that women are good cooks, and that cooks ought not to be voters. In a word, Mr. Greeley is utterly opposed to any reform in favor of women. This, so far as personality is concerned, should secure him the opposition of every woman who thinks she is as capable of self-government as man; and the support of every woman who thinks she was created to be ruled by men.

But it is not a fact that it is Grant or Greeley for whom votes are to be cast. It is for the parties which those men represent, and this puts an entirely different face upon the question as to which should receive the support of reformers. That ought to be determined without reference to the candidates, since, whichever will be elected, will be the slave of the party which elects him. General Grant acknowledged that he could not do what he wanted to do for woman, which was what was done for the Negro by his urging upon Congress the legislation in his behalf. Now, the question for women to decide in the support of these men is, which party is the more likely to do them justice.

Most of the leaders in the woman movement are advocating the election of Grant on account of the reference made to women in the platform of the Republican party. We differ from them as to the honesty of that reference. . . .The "respectful consideration" which is spoken of in that platform, it seems to us, could more fittingly have been bestowed when it was sought from Congress, which had the power to grant it, but did not. We believe that every hope women find in the fourteenth plank will prove a deceit. That plank could not possibly have been framed so as to seem to say more and really mean less. . . .

When we think of it, however, we cannot help repeating the Teacher of Nazareth's parable of the Two Sons, recorded in St. Matthew XXI:28-31:

But what think ye! A certain man had two sons, and he went to the first and said: "Son, go work today in my vineyard."

He answered and said: "I will not"; but afterward he repented and went.

And he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said: "I go," and went not.

Whether of the twain did the will of his father. They said unto him, the first. Jesus saith unto them, 'Verily, I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you."

Now, may it not be barely possible that this teaching of Jesus is applicable to the present situation The Liberal party which said it would not go work in the vineyard for woman may do it; while the Republican party which said it would work in the vineyard for women may not do so. At all events, we always prefer an outspoken opponent like the Liberal party, to a deceitful friend which we fear the Republican party is. . . .

 

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Webmaster's Note: Except for some headings, these are actual extracts from the Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly. Some spelling and punctuation has been changed. Certain articles have been edited for brevity. Sentences or paragraphs that have been removed are indicated with the ellipsis (....)