Feminizing White Slavery in the United States

Gunther Peck

in Workers Across the Americas

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199731633
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894420 | DOI:
Feminizing White Slavery in the United States

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Between 1890 and 1910, a dramatic shift occurred in cultural perceptions of public policies toward “white slavery” in North America, with stories about trafficked female prostitutes displacing stories about working-class victims of monopoly capitalism—a “feminization” also seen in contemporary debates about human trafficking. This chapter asks why stories about sexual traffic and sexual violence have so effectively displaced stories about working-class labor in the past as well as the present. Focusing on the work and discoveries of undercover U.S. immigration agent Marcus Braun in North America and Europe, it argues that feminization was bound up with the intrinsic challenge of seeing “slavery” within the transnational business of human trafficking, a challenge that set the stage for both policy failure and bureaucratic expansion simultaneously. That bureaucratic mischief was fueled not only by the systematic disengagement of working-class organizations from antislavery rhetoric at the turn of the 20th century but also by the conflicted efforts of border authorities and investigators like Braun to foment and control a traffic in ideas about human trafficking.

Keywords: whiteness; trafficking; prostitution; sexual violence; immigration

Chapter.  11709 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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