From Old to Juvenile: The Rise and Spread of California Prostitution
Prostitution has spread from foreign countries into the United States in the past two centuries from a few hundred in the 1860’s to thousands 20 years later, then women who never thought of prostitution as their way of life turn to it because of their financial statuses. In the 19th century immigration caused by the Gold Rush was the main stimulant of prostitution in California. In early 1900’s California’s high booming cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco demanded more women to please the 93% of men working there among all non-Native Americans residing (Russell). It wasn’t until two decades later when The Great Depression took place and adults had no jobs that even children were to seek jobs in streets. Poverty struck and some became homeless, orphans, crime driven, and even prostitutes at the time (McElvaine). With the stop of brothels in San Francisco the spread of child prostitution arose in Los Angeles due to its poor laws against adolescent prostitution. In the article by M. Anne Jennings in her article “The Victim as Criminal: A Consideration of California's Prostitution Law”, the author explains the rise of the overall prostitution including the involvement of children as follows, “Although prostitution existed to some degree in the colonial and pre-Civil War periods, not until the industrialization, the westward expansion, and the influx of immigrants that followed the Civil War did prostitution become entrenched in this country.” Juvenile prostitution became more explicit to California as legislations became stronger on the typical legal aged prostitute, and because the demand for better pleasure was also in effect. Although some states were able to control prostitution as it became an ascending issue leading to the involvement of children, California for example has not been capable to successfully control it. The prostitution profession escalated because of California’s high immigration rates from San Francisco’s Gold Rush era; in the same way, the Great Depression-forced women to go into prostitution as the last type of source of income; lastly, California’s poor legislation-penal code 647(b) against prostitution. Because prostitution is not and was not regulated to a controllable manner, child prostitution is now the modern type of prostitution and is ascending rates in California and many other states. In San Francisco, California immigration from foreign countries due to the Gold Rush period (1848-1855) was the stimulant of California’s prostitution. In 1848 just before the rapid rise in population to San Francisco, there were about three hundred women, "pioneer prostitutes" migrating from Mexico, Peru and Chile and 200 out of those were prostitutes (Asbury). Women were so scarce in the early years of the Gold Rush that if they were seen in the streets they were treated with greatest respect and gallantry (Tong). Gold attracted so many countries and eastern states that the prostitution of San Francisco quickly became a Red Light district by the end of 1852 (Asbury). The prostitution profession expanded rapidly and men became vulgar because of their new riches and relied on liquor, gambling, and prostitution because a quick fortune could be found in San Francisco. Prostitute immigrants from France, Mexico, Chile, Germany, Ireland, China, and Turkey went to San Francisco all with the purpose to become rich off the gold that miners provided. Population grew so fast that California was incorporated to the Union in 1950 at 20,000 people (Harvard University Library). Most of the prostitution came from China due to its large amounts of shipments that took them to San Francisco. By 1854 the importation of women for commercial sex was expanded due to the increase in demand. The following table comes from statistics of the U.S. Census Bureau which keeps track of occupations of the people residing in a certain or city in this case...
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