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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2019

9 - The End of an Era

from Part III - Change and Decline in the Brothel Trade


This chapter traces the development of the anti-vice and good governance movements that eventually succeeded in securing the closure of Baltimore’s already ailing red-light districts in 1915. The most successful of Baltimore’s anti-vice movements had its origins in evangelical Christianity, but concerns over industrialization, urbanization, and women’s role in the changing economy ensured that it developed a diverse following. Women’s rights organizations, Progressive political reformers, and physician and public health advocates all focused on prostitution as a symbol of the perils of urbanization, economic inequality, and political corruption. The relationship between political reform and anti-vice reform eventually proved to be the most significant one, as reform Democratic and Republican victories in state elections ushered in a period of state support for anti-vice measures. Following the white slavery scare of the 1910s, Maryland’s governor appointed a new Police Board and a state-level anti-vice commission. The combined efforts of the Police Board and the Maryland Vice Commission would ultimately result in the closure of Baltimore’s formerly tolerated brothels.