I write this introduction to Madeleine because it is a book that may be misunderstood by many and it deserves to be read without prejudice–with an open mind. And I commend warmly the courageous frankness of the author in writing it and of the publishers in bringing it out.
I will soon begin my twentieth year on the bench of a court in a city of about three hundred thousand people. It is a good, average city–certainly no worse and I sometimes think a little better than other cities of its size. But the problems of one city are much the same as those of all cities. During this time as judge I have dealt mostly with human problems that some people look upon altogether as moral problems. For seven or eight years I tried most of the divorce cases in such a city, with a record of having divorced some five thousand people in that time. And then for many years it has become my duty to preside in those delicate affairs known to the officers as “sex cases.” At first they concerned mostly the protection of society against prostitution. Then they turned gradually to the protection of women against society.
These cases are often conducted regardless of the technicalities of law. We cease to be a court; we become, rather, a place of adjustment of human frailties and difficulties. In a word, we now deal with people and the causes of bad things. We no longer deal merely with the things. We no longer use vengeance, violence, stupidity, and ignorance as the only remedy for these things. In this experience I was forced to the conclusion that there are no good people and no bad people–only good things and bad things. It gives me a great charity and a great sympathy–not for sin, but for sinners. It teaches me that while it is difficult at times to know how to fight sin without fighting sinners, in the end it is the better policy to conquer sin and save the people. For sinners are only people. We do not fight sick children–we fight the disease. People are only children grown up.
Thus it is that I have an intense appreciation of Madeleine. It ought to be read and pondered over. It is true. The Madeleines are right in your midst.
At first they concerned mostly the protection of society against prostitution. Then they turned gradually to the protection of women against society.
Not that I may not have some criticisms and that I may not differ in some conclusions… But the author has told us the facts–as fine, as splendid, and as sordid and as human as some of them are.
In dealing with the cases of hundreds of young girls I have cried out in an agony of hopelessness at times that not one of them could rise up to throw the facts in great bloody chunks into the faces of people, a people asleep that needed to be shocked–aroused. This Madeleine has done, and I congratulate her and thank her for it. It is a great public service. She has followed all the tortuous, trying paths of a young girl gone wrong, but not “ruined” necessarily, as the conventional lie would have us believe.
Never in history so much as now, facing mighty changes, after upheavals of war, have we needed more the truth about our smug society and the things we are responsible for that make for the “sins” we denounce, the sins that we will not lift one little finger to alleviate except by methods generally so narrow and absurd that they merely add to infamies they are intended to suppress.
I agree in the main with the conclusions of Madeleine, including most of what she says about the white-slave traffic and the utter lack of real humanity in a great many of our so-called welfare workers. And most of the real social workers who are human workers will also agree with Madeleine.
I stand for purity and decency in the home and the maintenance of those institutions that are dear and necessary to our civilization, but is it not high time that society changed the relative values it sets upon “sin”– especially those sins for which it is in large measure so much to blame? By numerous acts it encourages prostitution. For its own victims the remedy has been ostracism and jails. Such is its cry: “Stone her! Stone her!” Is there not even more reason now than in His time for society to change its attitude? Not that we wish to justify sin, but that we wish to do justice and in the end learn how to fight evil more and women less.
The Madeleines are right in your midst.
Of course Madeleine can hardly be recommended to youth of tender years, but neither could some portions of Shakespeare or the Bible. It would be a very good thing for girls having reached a reasonable maturity to really know more of our “Madeleines.” I believe that we should teach children–wisely and properly, of course–what evil is. We should tell them where it lurks and where and how it strikes.
If we take alone the smug and contented moral rather than the just and eternal human attitude, then, indeed, and only then, shall the “Madeleines” be numbered among the “ruined” and the “lost.”
Judge Ben B. Lindsey
Juvenile Court of Denver
The original 1919 version can be found here.
Madeleine Blair is an editor, memoirist, sex workers’ rights activist & professional companion based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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