In the early twentieth century, anti-white-slavery activists sought to construct a new position for women inspectors in the Immigration Bureau. These activists asserted that immigrant girls traveling without a family patriarch deserved the U.S. government's paternal protection, yet they argued that women would be best suited to provide this protection because of women's purported maternal abilities to perceive feminine distress. By wielding paternal government authority—marked by a badge, the ability to detain, and presumably the power to punish—these women could most effectively protect the nation's moral boundaries from immoral prostitutes while also protecting innocent immigrant girls from the dangers posed by solitary travel. In 1903 the Immigration Bureau launched an experiment of placing women among the boarding teams at the port of New York. The experiment, however, was short-lived, as opponents of the placement of women in such visible positions campaigned against them. This episode reminds us that the ability to represent and exercise federal authority in the early twentieth century was profoundly gendered; and women's increased participation in government positions during the Progressive Era was deeply contested.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.
* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 1st May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.