U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Feminism, Criminology and the Rise of the Female Sex 'Delinquent,' 1880-1930

NCJ Number
Contemporary Crises Volume: 11 Dated: (1987) Pages: 243-263
J Messerschmidt
Date Published
263 pages
The relationships that existed between social feminists, social purists, and criminologists during the Progressive Era in the United States between 1880 and 1930 have resulted in young women being much more likely than young men to be arrested and processed for status offenses and promiscuity.
Thus, the State today provides a mechanism for reproducing the 'double standard' of sexuality and, therefore, masculine control of female adolescent sexuality. The feminist movement of the late 19th century and early 20th century was involved in a number of moral reforms, particularly an attack on prostitution. Feminists eventually joined in a coalition with the conservative social purity movement to raise the age of sexual consent in an effort to protect young females from allegedly being forced into prostitution through what was called the 'white slave traffic.' However, the final result was not a decrease in the sexual exploitation of young females. Instead, working-class females were denied the right to engage in heterosexual activity when they pleased. The result was the creation of a new class of female offenders, the teenage sex 'delinquents.' Thus, reformist feminist energies were eventually channeled into a conservative and morally repressive movement that expanded State agencies for social control and left unchanged the causes of women's economic and sexual exploitation. Notes and 44 references.


No download available