Advocate of Moral Reform (1835)
"You can trust the landlord with your trunk, for the law holds him answerable for all you commit to his keeping. But you must stand guard over your own virtue, for no renumeration can redress its loss when force of art have taken it."
--The Advocate (1840)
is standing outside taking notes. She keeps track of every man who enters
a House and publishes his name in the newspaper. Sarah was the first
editor of the first American newspaper put out entirely by women, for
women -- the editor, the reporters, even the printers, were women.
They were members of the American Female Moral Reform Society, a group
dedicated to stamping out prostitution in the United States. What makes
their journal different from the typical reform organ of the time was
that they did not condemn the women for being prostitutes, rather, they
decided that men were the problem. Men were seducers, and once a
young woman was ruined, she had no legal recourse. She certainly
couldn't get a good man to wed her. The community shunned her.
What else could she do but turn to life on the streets? The newsletter
of the organization, The Advocate of Moral Reform, regularly printed
stories about good girls seduced and abandoned to fend for themselves.
Its goal was to educate young women to recognize a "libertine" when they
saw one, and show them how to exert moral pressure on young men so that
they would not visit prostitutes. The organization also ran "safe
houses" for women who came to the big city -- offering shelter and
training for "respectable" employment. The group was also successful
at getting legislation passed. In New York state, for example, they were
instrumental in passing statutory rape laws. Prior to that, there had
been no minimum age of consent.