In 1913, the play characterized in the popular press as “unquestionably the most widely discussed play of a decade” was not a brilliant interpretation of a classic, one of Shaw's problem plays, or one of David Belasco's realist inventions. The production that took the country by storm, Eugène Brieux's Damaged Goods (Les Avariés), was the first play on the American stage to deal openly with syphilis as a central theme.The staging of Ibsen's Ghosts in New York in 1894 was the first reference to venereal disease on the American stage. Unlike Ghosts, which never explicitly mentions syphilis, Damaged Goods focused on venereal disease as a central theme and discussed the condition in vivid medical terms. Though celebrated at the time as “The Greatest Contribution Ever Made by the Stage to the Cause of Humanity,”“Excerpts, Opinions, Etc. of Damaged Goods,” unidentified pamphlet in the Damaged Goods clipping file in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Billy Rose Theatre Collection [hereafter, the NYPLPA]. this forgotten play merits the modern scholar's attention not only because its immense popularity has been overlooked or because it broke what turn-of-the-century narratives called the “conspiracy of silence.” Rather, this essay will argue that the performance history of Damaged Goods, far from marking a threshold-crossing freedom in sexual discourse in Progressive Era America, reveals how Progressives utilized the stage to normalize and reinforce the social centrality of bourgeois marriage, reproductivity, and traditional gender norms, much as they had wielded other discourses to study, contain, and discipline sexuality during previous decades.Scholars bracket the Progressive Era differently, depending on their scope of study. I agree with social historian Ruth Rosen's definition that the Progressive Era marks the time of intense American reform movements from the turn of the century until 1918. This is not meant to erase extensive reform efforts as early as the 1830s. Perhaps it is more accurate to describe this period (1900–1918) as the latter half of the Progressive Era. See Lewis L. Gould's America in the Progressive Era, 1890–1914, Seminar Studies in History (Essex, U.K.: Pearson Education Limited, 2001). For Progressive reformation, see Mark Connelly's The Response to Prostitution in the Progressive Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), and David J. Pivar's Purity Crusade: Sexual Morality and Social Control, 1868–1900 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1973). While this regulation of sexuality rested upon a conservative agenda that the ostensible liberalism of the play obfuscated in its (and even our) own day, the play's portrayal of prostitution demonstrates a rather clear, though vexed, relationship between contagion and the dangers of unsanctioned sex.