Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 January 2017
In the early twentieth century, police-regulated prostitution experienced a burst of attention from Polish-language news media. In this article, Keely Stauter-Halsted considers the extended moment of “moral panic” that unfolded when a series of public exposes revealed the scope and potential dangers of sex trafficking. Taking into account the ways “respectable” urban audiences absorbed revelations of illicit commercial transactions on city streets and increased “white slavery” activity beyond the Polish lands, Stauter-Halsted stresses the image of the prostitute as a threat to the embattled nation. The figure of the impoverished, morally compromised streetwalker encroaching on bourgeois social spaces and invading the bourgeois home challenged the sense of middle-class respectability so crucial to Polish national regeneration. By exposing innocent members of the community to sexually dangerous behavior, the prostitute came to represent decay, degeneration, and venereal disease attacking the national body, a conclusion used by social purity activists in their protoeugenics campaigns.
1. “chwili, Z,” Kuryer Codzienny, 27 September 1901, 2 Google Scholar. Recognizing the absence of municipal regulations permitting police to restrict the prostitutes’ reign to certain portions of the city, the author argues that “the inhabitants of Warsaw have the right to the establishment of a particular limit to this open demoralization” so that it no longer affects “great portions of the population and threatens … children.“
2. The letters appeared in Kuryer Codzienny, 1 and 6 October 1901. Although only a few excerpts appeared in print, according to the editors, the paper received “a large number of letters from all parts of Warsaw,” testifying to the “amount of grief this … public scandal is causing in our town.” “chwili, Z,” Kuryer Codzienny, 1 October 1901, 2 Google Scholar
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6. For Britain, see especially Walkowitz, Judith R., Prostitution and the Victorian State: Women, Class, and Society (Cambridge, Eng., 1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Nead, Lynda, Myths of Sexuality: Representations of Women in Victorian Britain (Oxford, 1988)Google Scholar; and Mahood, Linda, The Magdalenes: Prostitution in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1990)Google Scholar. For France, Alain Corbin's Women for Hire: Prostitution and Sexuality inFrance after 1850 (Cambridge, Mass., 1978, 1990) remains the classic study of prostitution in nineteenth-century France. Prostitution in imperial Germany has not yet been the subject of a full-length monograph. Some of the themes touched on here are addressed, however, in Richard J. Evan's compelling study, Tales from the German Underworld: Crime and Punishment in the Nineteenth Century (New Haven, Conn., 1998), esp. 166-212. For Italy, see Gibson, Mary, Prostitution and the State in Italy, 1860- 1915 (New Brunswick, 1986)Google Scholar. For Russia, see Engelstein, Laura, The Keys to Happiness: Sex and the Search for Modernity in Fin-de-Siècle Russia (Ithaca, 1992)Google Scholar; Bernstein, Laurie, Sonia's Daughters: Prostitutes and Their Regulations in Imperial Russia (Berkeley, 1995)Google Scholar.
7. George L. Mosse argues that in die nineteenth century certain “sexual symbols of the nation” that effectively “fixfed] a woman in her place,” requiring female bourgeois respectability to “protect the normal in society [and] the health of the nation.” Since prostitutes fell outside the bounds of what society deemed “normal” sexual behavior, their active ties became subject to critique and reform as part of a larger national mission. Mosse, George L., Nationalism and Sexuality: Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in Modern Europe (New York, 1985), 90–97 Google Scholar. Jeffrey Weeks notes that late nineteenth-century discussions of prostitution in Britain grew out of concerns about national decline and degeneration. Weeks, Jeffrey, Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800, 2d ed. (London, 1989), 122-32Google Scholar. See also Nead, , Myths of Sexuality, 90–91 Google Scholar.
8. Polish-speaking peasants in the Habsburg monarchy were released from serfdom in 1848. Those in the Romanov empire were emancipated in 1861. Peasants in Prussian Poland achieved their personal freedom gradually beginning in 1806. See Kieniewicz, Stefan, The Emancipation of the Polish Peasantry (Chicago, 1969)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
9. The Jewish role in sex trafficking out of the Polish lands is controversial and has not received adequate scholarly attention. The classic text on this is Bristow, Edward, Prostitution and Prejudice: The jewish Fight against White Slavery, 1870-1939 (Oxford, 1982)Google Scholar. See also Schrank, Josef, Der Mädchenhandel und seine Bekampfung (Vienna, 1904)Google Scholar, and Hamann, Brigitte, Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship (Oxford, 1999), 333-35Google Scholar.
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11. For an analysis of episodes of moral discourse and their meaning, see Rose, Sonya O., “Cultural Analysis and Moral Discourses: Episodes, Continuities, and Transformations,“ in Bonnell, Victoria E. and Hunt, Lynn, eds., Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture (Berkeley, 1999), 217-18Google Scholar.
14. On the importance of domestic purity and conventions of respectable femininity as the underpinning of a stable society, see Nead, , Myths of Sexuality, 12–39 Google Scholar.
16. On the vital interplay between the ideals of middle-class respectability and nationalism, see Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality.
17. Notions of sexual “deviance,” referring to forms of sexual activity outside procreative heterosexual marriage, had been popularized by medical experts such as Richard von Krafft-Ebing in the latter years of the nineteenth century. Unlike other forms of nonnormative sexual behavior, such as onanism or homosexuality, prostitution was a public and open threat to the core values of bourgeois morality. See Oosterhuis, Harry, Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual Identity (Chicago, 2000)Google Scholar.
18. Spector, Scott, “Where Personal Fate Turns to Public Affair: Homosexual Scandal and Social Order in Vienna, 1900-1910,” Austrian History Year book 38 (2007): 17 Google Scholar.
19. Several Polish-language medical journals began publishing research on prostitution and venereal disease by the 1860s. The work of Dr. Józef A. Rolle was particularly influential in promoting discussion among medical doctors. “Choroby weneryczne (1854- 1864),” Pamiatnik Towarzystwa Lekarskiego Warszawskiego 8 (1865); “Spostrzezenia z dziedziny chorób sifilitycznych,” Przegląd Lekarski 3, nos. 1, 2 (1864); “Materiafy do topografii lekarskiej i hygieny Podola: Prostytucja,” Przegląd Lekarski 8, nos. 38, 39, 40 (1869). The Warsaw journal, Gazeta Lekarska also published data on venereal disease among Warsaw prostitutes in vol. 10, no. 34 (1871): 508-11.
20. See, for example, the work of Nathan Wood on sex scandals, prostitution, and Jack the Ripper themes in die early twentieth-century Kraków boulevard press. Nathaniel D. Wood, “Urban Self-Identification in East Central Europe before the Great War: The Case of Cracow,” East Central Europe/LEurope du Centre Est/Eine wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift (ECE) 33, pts. I—II (2006): esp. 23-24; Wood, “Becoming a ‘Great City'“; and Wood, , “Becoming Metropolitan: Cracow's Popular Press and the Representation of Modern Urban Life, 1900-1915” (PhD diss., Indiana University, 2004), esp. 172Google Scholar.
21. The European public experienced heightened awareness about the dangers of prostitution beginning with the publication in London newspapers of the “Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon” series on sex trafficking in 1885 and reports of the Ripper murders in 1888, both of which found their way into Polish papers as models for later reporting. This spreading anxiety can be traced through Walkowitz, Judith R., The City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late Victorian London (Chicago, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Corbin, Women for Hire, esp. 261-98; and Engelstein, , The Keys to Happiness, 359–420 Google Scholar; Bernstein notes that in the Russian empire, during the years prior to World War I and the revolutions of 1917, “Russian prostitution served as an ideal locus for the various strains of social dissatisfaction and political dissent.” Bernstein, , Sonia's Daughters, 8–9 Google Scholar.
22. Boleslaw Prus reflects some of this concern in his Kroniki (Warsaw, 1957), 6:12- 13, including letters to the editor of Warsaw's Kurjer Poranny in January 1883: “W sprawie przyzwoitości publicznej,” no. 9 (9January 1883): 2; “Plaga uliczna,” no. 10 (10January 1883): 3-4; and “Przeciw nietoperzom nocny,” no. 14 (14January 1883): 4.
23. Reports of Warsaw street rioting appeared in several daily papers, including “Krwawy dramat,” Słowo, 25 May 1905, 3. Views of other papers can be accessed via “Prasa o pogromach,” Słowo, 27 May 1905, 3. For an overview of these events, see Z, Zaleski dziejów prostytucji, 75–84 Google Scholar; and Sikorska, Jolanta, “'Sądy dorazne’ nad prostytucją w Warszawie w maju 1905 roku w świede prasy,” Rocznik Warszawski 35 (2008)Google Scholar. Two competing journals devoted to reforming the sex trade grew out of these May 1905 events: Czystość (Purity), published in Kraków and Warsaw and Swiatplciowy (Sexual world) in Lwów.
24. The medical community published a steady stream of studies warning of the venereal disease scorge during and immediately following the Great War, including Ciechanowski, Stanislaw, “Niebezpieczenstwo społeczne chorób wenerycznych,” Przegląd Lekarski 40, no. 6 (1916): 125-28Google Scholar; and Sokołowski, Alfred, Wielkie klęski społeczne (Warsaw, 1917)Google Scholar. In the summer of 1918, a small group of Warsaw physicians formed die Polish Eugenics Society, arguing that the “Great War led to a greater rate of infection of venereal diseases and made the batde with them one of the most important social and racial problems.” Wesolowski, Waclaw, “Walka z choróbami wenerycznemi a obrona rasy,” Zagadnienia rasy 1, no. 1 (July 1918): 7–12 Google Scholar. Meanwhile, civic authorities protested the shortage of police doctors to conduct medical inspections on the swelling ranks of prostitutes during the war. “Magistral stoł. Król. Miasta Krakówa do c.k. Namiestnictwa w Bialej,” 24 July 1916. Archiwum Państwowe Miasta Krakówa i wojewodz (APKr), Dyrekcja Policji w Krakówie (DPKr, Director of Police in the Kraków District), 110, 1043-44.
26. In particular, two hygienic journals, Zdrowie, in Warsaw, and Przegląd hygienieczny, in Lwów, began publishing lengthy studies on prostitution and venereal disease in the early years of the twentieth century.
27. The two most active such organizations, which grew out of the international movement to defend against trafficking in women were the Warszawskie chrześcijańskie Towarzystwo ochrony kobiet, founded in 1902, and the Żydowskie Towarzystwo ochrony kobiet, established in 1904.
28. See the discussion of the Czystość purity society below.
29. Discussions among early Polish feminists about sex trafficking can be traced through die biweekly journal, Nowe Słowo.
30. The trial of 27 alleged traffickers in 1892 in Lwów, and the 1902 cases in Bytom and Piotrków prompted sensationalized investigations into white slavery. See Keely Stauter-Halsted, “'A Generation of Monsters:'Jews, Prostitution, and Racial Purity in the 1892 L'viv White Slavery Trial,” Austrian History Yearbook 38 (2007): 25-35; and Posner, Stanislaw, Nad otchtania: W sprawie handlu żywym towarem (Warsaw, 1903)Google Scholar.
31. The idea that many prostitutes were “born criminals” with little self-control or ethical sense first appeared in Cesare Lombroso's La Donna Delinquente: La prostituta e la donna normalin 1893, later reprinted as Cesare Lombroso and Ferrero, William, The Female Offender (New York, 1915), esp. 147-91Google Scholar.
33. On the threat to the bourgeois Polish family posed by prostitution, see Wolski's, N. E. account of the prostitution plague, Obrona rodziny (Warsaw, 1907)Google Scholar.
34. “Is the view of the house of God a place for such an abomination?” she wonders. “chwili, Z,” Kuryer Codzienny, 1 October 1901, 2 Google Scholar.
37. Newspapers aimed at domestic servants warned repeatedly of the dangers to young girls of a permanent fall into prostitution. “Raz na miesiąc: Gawęda,” Pracownica polska, no. 9 (September 1910): 14-15.
38. The classic treatment of the “Maiden Tribute” series is Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight, 81-134. On the paradigm of “moral panic” introduced by the “Maiden Tribute,“ see Irwin, Mary Ann, “'White Slavery’ as Metaphor: Anatomy of a Moral Panic,” Ex Post Facto: Journal of the History Students at San Francisco State University 5 (1996): 1–22 Google Scholar.
39. Ironically, the majority of the victims in this case were Jewish, but they were nonetheless portrayed with all the standard traits of middle-class Christian women. See Stauter- Halsted, “'A Generation of Monsters.'“
40. Posner, Stanislaw, Nad Otchlania (Warsaw, 1903) concerns the trials of John Meyerowicz in Bytom in 1902 and a larger group of traffickers in Katowice in 1899Google Scholar.
41. Ibid., vii-4.
42. Ibid., 4.
43. “Kronika,” Nowe Słowo, no. 10 (15 May 1903): 26. The author concludes by quoting Bertha Pappenheim during her visit to Kraków that “90 percent of the girls shipped from Europe to brothels in other parts of the world come from Galicia, [a total of] 8-10,000.“
44. Korczak, Janusz, Głos, 21 May 1905, 322-23Google Scholar. Korczak's was one of a flood of journalistic investigations published in the aftermath of the so-called Alfons pogroms during the first week of May 1905, in which Jewish workers and craftsmen in Warsaw attacked several Jewish-run brothels, ultimately forcing the pimps out of business.
45. The Jewish role in the Polish sex trade before World War I has not been fully explored in the historical literature. The best account of Jews and international sex trafficking remains Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice.
46. Przyjaciel sług, no. 3 (6 March 1898): 9-10; no. 8 (7 August 1898): 4; no. 12 (12 December 1898): 15.
47. Posner acknowledges this phenomenon in his 1903 study. Newspaper reports of the 1892 Lwów trial also note that “all the  defendants [were] Jews.” “Handlarze Kobiet,“ Słowo, 31 July 1891, 4. Habsburg police and diplomatic efforts to track traffickers focused almost exclusively on Jewish suspects. See the records of the Viennese Central Police Administration, Archiv der Polizeidirektion Wien (Archiv BPD), Bestand Prostitution und Madchenhandel.
49. Szczygielski, Bronisław Topór, Kobieta-Ciato: Odyseja kobiety upadlej (Warsaw, 1914), 1–14 Google Scholar.
51. This phrase is used by a journalist for the Lwów newspaper, Gazeta Narodowa, as an explanation for the lack of public discussion about the disappearance of hundreds of poor Polish girls into Middle Eastern brothels and harems. “Handlarze dziewcząt,” Gazeta Narodowa, 19 October 1892, 2.
54. Several reasonably reliable surveys of prostitution in the Polish lands were written in the interwar period, among them Macko, Józef, Prostytucja (Warsaw, 1927)Google Scholar, Zaleski, Z dziejów prostytucji, and Rząśnicki, A., Prostytucja a proletariat (Warsaw, 1920). These texts tend to be critical of foreign powers for introducing prostitution and venereal diseases during periods of army occupationGoogle Scholar.
55. On the system of police regulation in the Congress Kingdom, see Sikorska- Kulesza, Zło tolerowane; Sikorska-Kulesza, , “Miasto-przestrzen niebezpieczna dla kobiet (prostytucja w Królestwie Polskim w drugiej polowie XIX wieku),” in Przetomy w historii: XVI Powszechny Zjayd historyków Polskich (Torun, 2001), 341-49Google Scholar; and Sikorska-Kulesza, , “Prostitution in Congress Poland,” Acta PoloniaeHistorica 83 (2001): 123-33Google Scholar. Baczkowski, Michal provides insights into the police-run system in Austrian Galicia in “Prostytucja w Krakówie na przelomie XIX i XX w.,” Studia historyczne, vol. 43, no. 4 (171) (2000): 593–607 Google Scholar.
56. See, for example, the elaborate system introduced by Lwów police beginning on 1 March 1906 for registering prostitutes who also maintained legitimate full-time employment and were “screened” by their work in coffee shops or restaurants. These women were known as “discrete” prostitutes and were inscribed in a third registry specifically devoted to this category. “Prostytucya we Lwówie,” Swiat płciowy, no. 7 (February 1906): 24-26.
57. Correspondence of Lwów Police Chief Łepkowski to the C. K. Ministerstwo Wewnetrzne, 21 August and 19 September 1912, Archiwum Glowne Akt Dawnych (AGAD), C. K. Ministerstwo Wewnetrzne (CKMSW), sygn. 213. Here, Łepkowski notes that “following the city's massive growth with its new buildings, public institutions, educational facilities, and schools, die Imperial Central Police Directory has repeatedly … sought to eradicate several brothels.“
58. Łepkowski to C. K. Ministerstwo Wewnetrzne, 21 August 1912, AGAD, CKMSW, sygn. 213.
60. Reporters analyzed the loose definitions of prostitution applied in Austrian Galicia and the power legal ambivalence provided to law enforcement officials. According to Austrian regulations, a woman could be forcibly registered as a “suspected” prostitute if “she is discovered alone with a man in the room of a hotel, tavern, [or] coffee shop … and he testifies [she] is odierwise unknown to him; [or] if a woman is seen at different times with different men on the street or in public places and her manner at these times … builds suspicion that she is selling sex.” Quoted from Instrukcya dla magistratów miast o 10.000 lub więcej ludnos'ci, i miast posiadających salogi wojskowe, względem wykonywania nadzoru nad publianemi nierządnicam (Lwów, 1859). Cited in “Prostytucya we Lwówie, [part 2],“ Swiatptciovjy, no. 7 (February 1906): 18-19.
61. The tendency for the upper classes to assume all working girls engaged in prostitution was common throughout Europe at the close of the nineteenth century. See, for example, Gibson, , Prostitution and the State in Italy, 3–4 Google Scholar; Bernstein, , Sonia's Daughters, 47–52 Google Scholar; and Mahood, , The Magdalenes, 68–74 Google Scholar.
62. Several contemporary forensic authorities argued that external anatomical features helped distinguish a woman's sexual proclivity and sexual “perversions.” Among diese were the Frenchman, Ambroise Tardieu, and the Italian, Cesare Lombroso. Works of both audiors were translated into all European languages, including Russian and Polish. These theories may account for the comment from an author who interviewed sex workers in Lwów about their motivation. The anonymous writer reported diat one of his respondents noted she engaged in sex as a livelihood because “I could not survive without it and it is more pleasant than food and than everything!” Still, the author allows, it is not clear whether this woman was driven to prostitution because of an excessive sexual drive. Rather, he concludes, “only a police doctor could testify to this.” “Prostytucya we Lwówie, [part 2], “30.
63. See, for example, the police registries in APKr, DPKr 439-440.
64. By 1910, Vienna had reached a population of 2,031,000; Budapest 880,000; Warsaw 771,000; Prague 640,000; and Kraków 150,000. See Wood, , “Urban Self-Identification in East Central Europe,” 12–13 Google Scholar.
66. Kumaniecki, Kazimierz, Tymaasowe wyniki spisu ludności w Krakówie z 31 grudnia 1910 roku (Kräkow, 1912), 28, 31.1 am grateful to the anonymous referee for Slavic Review for this citationGoogle Scholar.
67. Prostitutes registered in Kraków during the period 1879-1911 mainly originated in villages and small towns in Galicia that were served by railway lines. Some 65 percent of registered prostitutes fell into this category, while the remainder were longtime residents of Kraków itself (8 percent) or its suburbs (3 percent) or migrated from elsewhere in the Habsburg monarchy (21 percent) or abroad (4 percent). Baczkowski, , “Prostytucja w Krakówie,” 595-97Google Scholar.
68. On the migration of single women to the cities of Austrian Galicia, see Zyblikiewicz, Lidia A., Kobieta w Krakoune w 1880 r. Studium demograficzne (Kraków, 1999)Google Scholar.
69. Archival records indicate that many registered prostitutes held full-time positions as servants, seamstresses, cashiers, or other salaried employees while also earning money for sex. See, for example, APKr, DPKr 439-440.
71. Dr. Alfred Sokołowski noted, for example, that 42,000 residents of Warsaw sought treatment for venereal diseases in 1909, a figure that represented only a small fraction of those actually suffering from these ailments. Sokołowski argued that such diseases were a leading cause of blindness and infertility and that in certain districts of southwest Poland (Galicia), more than 95 percent of die population had been infected since die midnineteendi century. Sokołowski, , Wielkie klęski Spokane, 311-13Google Scholar.
72. APKr, DPKr 439-440.
73. The 1905 police registry for Lwów suggests a degree of permeability between die world of commercial sex and more mainstream pursuits for poor women. Six registered prostitutes were already married, four of whom “conducted this business with die agreement of dieir husbands,” while eight left the police rolls during die year to get married, twelve to take up “honest work,” and three to appease family members. “Prostytucya we Lwówie, [part 2],” 32.
74. Edward Rosset relied partially on statistical research conducted in Germany to explain the close connection between domestic help and prostitution in the Polish city of Łódż. Rosset, Edward, Prostytucja i choróby weneryczne w Łódżi (Łódż, 1931), 17–18 Google Scholar.
77. “Ordynancya służbowa w sejmie galicyskim,” Nowe Slowa, no. 8 (1907): 186-91. Emphasis added.
78. D. L. to Nowe Słowo, no. 2 (15 January 1903): 36-38.
79. The chief medical inspector estimated that some 75 percent of serving girls suffered from venereal diseases. “Informacye wiadomości: Nadzór nad służba,” Pracownica polska, no. 12 (15June 1913): 189.
81. “Prostytucya we Lwówie, [part 2],” 24-26.
83. “Kroniki,” Nowe Stowe, no. 7 (1 April 1903): 155-56.
84. “Prostytucya we Lwówie, [part 2],” 27-28. This was also the case with Chana Weinberg, who explained at an 1892 trial of accused traffickers in women that she turned to prostitution because of “the cruel treatment of her aunt.” “Handlarze dziewcząt,” Gazeta Narodowa, 20 October 1892, 2.
85. “Prostytucya we Lwówie, [part 2],” 27-28.
86. By the early years of World War I, a full 25 percent of newly registered prostitutes in Warsaw were the wives of enlisted soldiers, who had been forced to resort to prostitution as a solution to wartime privation. Of the 2,689 new names inscribed on the Warsaw Police Department's sanitary registry of prostitutes, a full 584 comprised reierwistki or wives of reservists. Rząśnicki, Prostytucja a proletariat, 7.
87. All five were noted to have been Jewish. If the women hoped to obtain legitimate marriages even after engaging in commercial sex, there may have been wider acceptance of short-term prostitution in some social groups than in others. “Prostytucya we Lwówie, [part 2], “27-28.
88. “Handlarze dziewcząt,” Gazeta Narodowa, 20 October 1892, 2.
89. “Our country … still has no Society for the Protection of Traveling Girls,” Prus complained. Prus, Bolesław, “Kroniki tygodniowe,” Kuryer Codzienny, 24 January 1897, reprinted in Kroniki (Warsaw, 1953), 15:24–25 Google Scholar.
90. “Kroniki,” Nowe Słowo, no. 5 (1 March 1903): 114-15.
93. “Prostytucja w Lwówie,” Śwat płciowy, no. 6 (January 1906): 34-35. Wagener's comments were made during a September 1905 conference on international trafficking of women held in the German port city of Bremen.
94. Wróblewski, Augustyn, “O moralności plciowej,” Czystość, no. 1 (20 June 1905): 2–3 Google Scholar.
95. Czystość, nos. 13-14 (1 January 1906): 171-72.