The Sexy Side of the City: Prostitution and Social Reform in Muncie, Indiana from 1870-1910

Claire Enk Ball State University, Sophia Hoffert Ball State University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Jennifer DeSilva Ball State University
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.

Poster Presentation

When & Where

Irwin Library 3rd Floor