Prostitution and Social Reform in Muncie from 1870-1910

This project explores prostitution in Muncie, Indiana from 1870-1910 and the evolution of social attitudes among upper-class citizens related to prostitution. Although there have been many studies investigating the social effects of prostitution in large cities, such as Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, there is a gap in the research when it comes to small cities. The East Central Indiana Gas Boom was the catalyst for Muncie’s growth, attracting factories and workers, which in turn drew brothels. This poster presentation demonstrates how through a series of reform movements aimed at cleaning up prostitution the so called “oldest profession” prompted strong, Protestant beliefs that ultimately attracted the Ku Klux Klan into Muncie. Muncie is best known as the focus of the Lynds’ groundbreaking Middletown studies (1929, 1937), which portrayed it as an idealized American city, recently industrialized and epitomizing the transition from rural to modern. To better study the practice of prostitution and reform, an interactive map locates both brothels and prominent social reformers in the city, showing the spatial divide between the two groups. Using newspaper reports and community journals as a documentary foundation, this project argues that prostitution influenced all of Muncie, including the upper-class. 

  • Claire Enk
  • Poster
  • Diving into Gas-Boom Muncie, Indiana, this project relies on arrest records and addresses to create a map of prostitution in order to observe the social responses from the reform-seeking Woman’s Club, leading to the introduction of the Ku Klux Klan into Muncie society.

  • History

4 thoughts on “Prostitution and Social Reform in Muncie from 1870-1910”

  1. Wow–this is a fascinating and impressively detailed project! Thank you so much for your work. The late nineteenth century is such an interesting period–both morally strict and unusually permissive. I’m not familiar with Muncie now. What is the south side like, I wonder, compared to the rest of town? Good job!

    1. Hi Roger! Thank you so much for looking at our project. It was a fascinating period to study!
      Muncie south side still has a reputation for being the more “seedy” part of town, which is interesting to see those historical associations still being the same in present day Muncie.

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