In 1900, Episcopal Bishop Henry C. Potter protested against the spread of prostitution. When he protested, Tammany mayor Robert Van Wyck and Tammany boss Richard Croker reacted in very different ways. While Robert Van Wyck denied New York City having a low morality, Richard Croker acknowledged it and passed it off as something unavoidable. The fact that they responded so differently to the same situation and the same letter was very contradictory and both of their statements were not sufficiently convincing of there being no prostitution problem.
Robert Van Wyck had asserted that New York City had “the highest standard of morality in the world.” This was a claim that he could not sufficiently support and so it seemed unconvincing. He could not possibly have had proof for this claim as he could not have known the standards of morality of all the other cities in the world and also because he did not clearly define a high standard of morality. His statement also did not address prostitution directly and so his statement avoided the real issue. Since he did not respond to prostitution itself, he did not adequately refute what Episcopal Bishop Henry C. Potter wrote. Because he did not have proof and because he did not mention prostitution specifically, his counterargument to Potter’s letter was insufficient.
Meanwhile, Richard Croker had said that in any city there were “bound to be some unusually vile places.” Similarly, he could not have truly proven this claim because he could not have known about every city and he did not talk about prostitution expressly. Therefore, for the same reasons even though they were quite opposite claims, Richard Croker did not completely rebuff what Potter wrote.
Robert Van Wyck and Richard Croker’s individual arguments in themselves were weak, but taken together they were even weaker because they were contradictory. Both were associated with Tammany Hall and so both of them should have used similar assertions to refute Potter’s protest. Since their claims were so opposite, they were weakened because they, in some ways, cancelled each other out because if one was true, the other was not. This cast doubt over both of them making their statements ineffectual.

checked 11/7

Social reform movements filled the Progressive Era, and while Prohibition is the most remembered attempt to reduce “moral diseases,” prostitution was fought against as well. Paul Boyer, discusses the effects of these two particular reform campaigns and whether they had actual significance in the Progressive Era, which contained many important alterations to American society. Equally interesting as the battle against brothels is the analysis of reasons that women chose their exploitative profession. Boyer’s article states that prostitutes picked their trade over “boring, demeaning, or otherwise intolerable situations.” By today’s standards, prostitution is largely considered a demeaning job, to say the least; the fact that women preferred it to subservience in homes or working other jobs is a testament to the poor level of gender equality and respect in the early 20th century. Women who who toiled in the same factories or fields as men were not paid as much, and because of this, prostitution was an appealing way to earn a living. These women tended to have a higher-class lifestyle than most females of the day, and lived more easily than laborers. Desirable city life was also an important factor in the popularity of harlotry among women. Colorful urban centers like New York City were seen as the premier place to live, causing young women to flock to them in order to enjoy an exciting experience. Part of the impetus for women’s suffrage movements during the Progressive Era must have been prostitution as a testament to gender inequality. Changes were eventually made to allow women to earn respectable wages without being subjects to men’s pleasure.

checked 11/14