Gender and Undercover Investigation

in New York Undercover

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226266091
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226266114 | DOI:
Gender and Undercover Investigation

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During the first decade of the twentieth century, “ordinary” working-class women — not just “mean” women or prostitutes — increasingly frequented saloons, dance halls, and cabarets throughout New York City. The Committee of Fourteen, founded in January 1905, wanted to protect these women from the dangers lurking in such places. It did so by taking interpretation and implementation of the state's liquor laws into its own hands, coming up with what it called a Protest List of places that allegedly violated excise laws. The Committee of Fourteen employed undercover investigators who prowled through the city's hotels, saloons, cabarets, brothels, and other assorted resorts in search of “disorder,” and came up with detailed reports that formed the Committee's picture of conditions in any given establishment. However, the Committee's definition of moral behavior often conflicted with that of the city's immigrants and working class. The Committee approached “vice” as a business problem with a variety of emotional and moral implications that it wanted to address. Its definition and deployment of standards of morality and orderliness extended to interracial sociability, with major implications.

Keywords: New York City; women; Committee of Fourteen; liquor laws; moral behavior; undercover investigators; vice; morality; immigrants; brothels

Chapter.  13926 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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