Added: November 7, 2015 – Last updated: December 3, 2016


Author: Jessica R. Pliley

Title: The FBI’s White Slave Division

Subtitle: The creation of a national regulatory regime to police prostitutes in the United States, 1910-1918

In: Global Anti-Vice Activism, 1890-1950: Fighting Drinks, Drugs, and “Immorality”

Edited by: Jessica R. Pliley, Robert Kramm, and Harald Fischer-Tiné

Place: New York, NY

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Year: 2016

Pages: 221-245

ISBN-13: 9781107102668 (hbk.) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9781316212592 (ebk.) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | American History: U.S. History | Prosecution: Police; Types: Forced Prostitution, Sex Trafficking



Cambridge University Press (Restricted Access)

Google Books (Limited Preview)


Author: Jessica Pliley, Department of History, Texas State UniversityAuthor's Personal Website,


»Responding to international and domestic moral reformers, the U.S. Congress passed the 1910 White Slave Traffic Act (the Mann Act), outlawing the taking of women over state lines for “any immoral purpose.” Enforcement of this expansive anti-sex trafficking law fell to the young Federal Bureau of Investigation. This essay considers the activities of the FBI's White Slave Division against a longer history of colonial regulation of prostitution.« (Source: Author's Website)

»On December 11, 1911, Violet Munroe reported to the Bureau of Investigation that a new girl had arrived at her Washington, DC, brothel, located at Delaware and H Street. The Bureau, which would be renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1935, quickly dispatched a special agent from its White Slave Division to interview the new arrival as part of an ongoing census of sex workers the division was in the process of conducting. The twenty-one-year-old told the agent that her name was Maud Martin, though she admitted that she had been previously known by the names of Jane Wright (in Philadelphia, PA), Pearl Hearte (in Detroit, MI), and Jane Clarque (in her hometown of Lapaire, NM). When questioned about her entry into sex work, Maud told Special Agent John Grgurevich that she had started practicing prostitution in Detroit eighteen months prior and had been in DC working in a different brothel for one month. She was probably attracted to DC by its relatively open sex market. Though the city had laws outlawing street solicitation, clandestine brothel-based prostitution thrived in a city that had a constant and shifting stream of visitors. The special agent noted Maud's physical description (138 lbs, 5'4 ½”, light brown hair, blue eyes, light complexion) and her family's national origins (father a US citizen, though described as a “half-breed Indian”). The Bureau's interest in Maud's nationality reflected the White Slave Division's goal to aid the Immigration Bureau's mission to expel immigrant sex workers from the country. Of the fifty-nine sex workers interviewed by Washington DC police and special agents of the Bureau on that day of December 11, 1911, three were found to be foreign nationals and were handed over for deportation to the Immigration Bureau. But the intensive inquiry into her entry into prostitution and the demand that Maud should list all “sporting houses” she had worked in – a command that Maud resisted, speaking instead in vague terms – served the White Slave Division's primary purpose of ensuring that prostitutes in America's brothels were not white slaves. To confirm that all of America's prostitutes voluntarily engaged in sex work the Bureau's White Slave Division launched an ambitious plan in 1911 to make a “census of women engaged in the business of prostitution.”« (Source: Cambridge University Press)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of the United States / History of the United States (1865–1918) | Police: Federal Bureau of Investigation | Prostitution: Forced prostitution, Sexual slavery / White slavery