History Unleashed – Prostitution in Dallas in the Early 20th Century

shutterstock_59973502Although in the late nineteenth century, many Texas cities passed laws against the practice of prostitution, they didn’t enforce them in any meaningful way. City government was also keenly aware of the money collected from prostitution houses in the vice districts – fines and rents that all knew were to allow the continued operation of the establishments. Prostitution was also thought by many to be a necessary evil – it wasn’t a question of whether prostitutes should still be active, but where they would conduct their trade.

In the first part of the twentieth century, when Frog-town was to be converted to The Reservation – the legalized red-light district in Dallas – wealthy businessmen bought residential homes and land to turn into commercial real estate where the red-light district could expand.  Efforts by the reformers, those such as the Reverend Upchurch and the North Dallas League, to close down the vice districts was met with anger by the poor owners of these residential areas, knowing that if the vice districts were illegalized, they would not be able to sell their residences as prime real estate.

Anti-prostitution crusaders worked to shut down the vice districts, but their efforts were ineffective until 1913, when the Dallas Council of Churches decided they could no longer accept the vice districts, and pressured Dallas City Council to shut down Frogtown. The women of Frogtown were given until 6 pm, November 3, 1913, to leave, or be arrested.

(Information gathered from The Texas State Historical Association and Dallas’ Frogtown – A True Tale of Prostitution by David Kirkpatrick)

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