Now that we know something about the women and the red-light district, let’s look at reform efforts.

Part 5: Reform and Control

Efforts to mitigate and eliminate red-light districts took many forms. Some tried to eliminate vice activities within a city completely. Others were meant to control the reach of vice, setting up segregated districts. Still others tried to change the behavior of the women and help them find their ways into more acceptable lifestyles.

Vice Commissions

Many cities established vice commissions to investigate the “social evil” in their community. Information about these commissions can be found in newspapers. Occasionally you might be able to find a published report.

Vice commission reports on Google Books:

Florence Crittenton Mission

The Florence Crittenton Mission was established by Charles Crittenton of New York in 1883. The purpose of the Mission was to help girls who wanted to leave a life of prostitution, or who were pregnant out of wedlock. A house may have been established in your city. A newspaper search generally yields this kind of information.

Social Evil

A common phrase describing prostitution is “the social evil.” Searching for “social evil” in newspaper databases will reveal a significant amount of material.


I hope you have found this tutorial helpful. If you find any interesting stories in your own city, I would love to hear them. Contact me.