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Prostitution - Should It Be Legalized

Prostitution is considered the oldest profession, one of the first jobs that a woman could have. Without a man, it was one of the only means through which women could support themselves and their families. But throughout the history of America it has been argued as to whether it should be legalized or not. Today few states allow prostitution, but where it is legally monitored it appears safer compared to states where it is not. But understanding the current debate means a step back in time.

The expose of the various social injustices throughout the country brought about a successful publishing industry by 1902. Numerous aggressive magazines were printed for the purpose of exposing these injustices. Roosevelt would soon term the writers of these reports as muckrakers. Not to be daunted, the muckrakers continued to bring the need for reform to light, exposing among others the railroad barons. While the muckrakers certainly did not shy away from speaking out against big business, their most effective arguments targeted social evils, including slums, prostitution, the abuse of child labor and industrial accidents. Increasing amounts of publicity as well as an aroused conscience in the public were utilized to right these social wrongs.

Progressives were also concerned about the number of corner saloons in many cities due to the link between prostitution and alcohol. Anti-liquor campaigns received fervent support from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. As a result, some states eventually passed laws which restricted, controlled or completely abolished alcohol. In 1919, the 18th Amendment ushered in a temporary era of Prohibition and put a stop to sales of alcohol, at least legal sales.

Throughout the first century of America, the consumption of alcohol had been discouraged in numerous states. 13 of the 31 states had alcohol prohibition or temperance laws in effect by 1855. For awhile, the public was distracted from the temperance movement by the Civil War; however, following the end of the war, the number of saloons around the country increased dramatically, along with all of the trappings associated with them; including public drunkenness, gambling and prostitution. This led to what would be known as the Women’s War in 1873. The goal of the ASL was national prohibition. During the election of 1915, the ASL sponsored candidates with a pro-temperance stance and as a result, their candidates swept the Congressional elections. The 18th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1917 and was ratified the following year.

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