Today’s media feeding frenzy over the alleged sexual misbehaviors of both Presidential candidate Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton has opened a trap door to a very dark cellar of misogyny and sexual predation. Although these subjects have been explored in various forms and at great lengths throughout history, the most striking documentation may well be that of a hundred-year-old investigation of vice conducted in just one U.S. city – Baltimore, Maryland.
What makes this investigation so uniquely significant is that its multiple topics include Dr. George Walker’s study, The Traffic in Babies, laying bare the virtual killing of illegitimate infants. That study’s investigators – all men – posed as either fathers of pregnant-out-of-wedlock minors or married men responsible for pregnancies of minors. (At that time, age of majority was still twenty-one.) A woman had no protection from the lecherous advances of the males in her workplace; it was open season for sexual predators. Perhaps more significantly, society tended to circle its wagons around the perpetrators, punishing instead the victims and – in shocking numbers – their babies.
Under Cover of Respectability (Excerpt)
“The investigation disclosed one of the most serious features of the whole problem, to wit: That there are many well-to-do and prominent men who have wives and families but who do not hesitate to employ every possible means to induce the young girls in their ofﬁces to have immoral relations with them. We have many instances of reﬁned and gentle girls who have gone into these offices and ﬁnally succumbed to the men about them. Many of these men are of middle life and over. have grown children and even grandchildren, and yet they do not hesitate to use their employes in this way.
“Most of the girl employes come from plain people, with small incomes and very modest homes. Their employers represent prominent men of wealth who are intellectually and socially far above the fathers of the girls or any men with whom they have associated. When such a man begins to compliment a girl and pay her a little attention. she is very much flattered and is prone to let him continue his advances. He furthers his intentions by asking her some day when they are very busy to lunch with him; then later, when they are not so busy, to lunch with him again.
“Finally, he takes her to dinner after the ofﬁce work is ﬁnished. Then he asks her to stay in the evening to do some additional work, for which he pays her ‘ more than it is worth. or gives her a present. This course, with various digressions, is kept up until after awhile at an opportune moment his purpose is accomplished. His plan, though seeming to be an accident. has been carefully worked out from the ﬁrst.
“In occasional instances the employers coerce the girls into yielding by giving them to understand that they will lose their places if they do not. There are several men whom we have on our list who have openly stated that they would not employ a girl who is strictly moral.
“Another thing that has been found in studying the ofﬁce buildings is that usually there are several men in each building who look out for every young and pretty girl working there and try to devise some means by which they can get their clutches on her. This is worked through other girls in the buildings who act as go-betweens and introduce the girl to these men. A particularly vicious thing that has come under our notice is the continuous effort that has been made by these men to induce a pretty, quiet and perfectly moral girl of eighteen to come to their ofﬁces late in the after noon. The investigators were fully cognizant of this while it was being done, and knew all of the efforts and means that were employed. The girl was protected and has never yielded.
“In the whole course of the investigation there is nothing more reprehensible than some of the immoral practices of a number of Baltimore’s esteemed and prominent business and professional men. The practices of the red-light district are pale and mild compared to the acts of some of these so-called ‘Christian gentlemen.’ A few of them, not satisﬁed even with seducing the girls, carry it further and persuade and sometimes coerce them into perverted acts. “We are led to believe that of all occupations for women, the close association with a man in a private oﬁice is one of the most likely to lead to immorality. Parents and guardians should be fully aware of this danger that a young and inexperienced girl is liable to encounter.”
In addition to the moral implications of this investigation, serious as they were, the treatment of the resultant expectant mothers and their babies was like something out of a horror movie:
- Men made the arrangements for the “disposal of” the babies
- Doctors, midwives, nurses conspired to remove babies from the mothers as soon as they were born
- Mothers not allowed to hold – or even see – their babies
- Babies placed in one of two institutions, one of which had a mortality rate of anywhere from 71% to 100%
- Some babies sold; no vetting of prospective parents
- A few mothers allowed to work for their keep after delivery, allowing them to nurse their babies, which thrived.
- Bottle-fed babies withered away and died within a few weeks.
- Deceased babies were buried crudely in small boxes in a mass grave (see Part Two).
It was a male-dominated society, when ‘birth control’ consisted of douching with Lysol, which by law could only be marketed as a product for feminine hygiene, and men fled (according to the magazine ads) if it wasn’t used. One such ad infers that the man fled because a pregnancy resulted. The wonder, however, is why society conspired to cover up men’s sexual exploits by the horrible means described in The Traffic in Babies.
The pattern of hiding unmarried pregnancies and separating mothers from their babies continued for decades, but ‘disposal’ mercifully took the forms of orphanage care, foster care, and adoption. However, laws governing all aspects of child welfare, designed by predominantly male legislators, have continued to protect men’s identities. So when states began to seal adoption files, intended to protect adoptive families from intrusion by the mothers, but shutting out adoptees from knowledge of their parentage, perhaps the only real beneficiaries were the ‘baby daddies.’ The parties who have suffered the most from adoption’s archaic laws are the adoptees and their mothers.