Behind the closed doors of early America
In the early 1800's Boston's "The Hill" area had been a place of brothels, dance halls, and gambling houses. A former constable said that if an officer entered one of these houses of vice he risked his life and murder was done with impunity there. He also believed it would take military force to bring law and order (1 ).
In 1823 Boston Mayor Josiah Quincy and a group of volunteers raided the three or four block are that constituted "The Hill" the reason for the raid was to close down hangouts of prostitutes, gamblers, and vagrants, via liquor law violations (2 ).
There seem to be no stopping prostitution as a report 1855 by the Medical Board of Bellevue Hospital in New York City seems to indicate. The group issued a report to the Board of Governors of the Alms House of New York City which said "No rigor of punishment, no violence of public denunciation, neither exile nor the dungeon, nor yet the lingering malady with which Nature punishes [venereal disease] the practice, has ever effected its extermination [prostitution] for a single year" (3 ).
A study of two thousand prostitutes in 1858 in New York's House of Correction on Blackwell's Island found that only 15% claimed that seduction as the cause of prostitution. The reasons women gave for being a prostitutes were more than one third of the study participants reported having a "personal inclination" to prostitution, "wanting an easy life", or ironically,"being too lazy to work" (4 ).
It should also be noted during this time that between 1880 and 1910 the rate of premarital pregnancy increased from ten to twenty three percent (5 )