Hookers in Fort Smith

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At one time, Fort Smith distinguished itself in the way it dealt with a profession regarded by many as undistinguished. It is one of the very few American cities to have had legal and regulated prostitution. From to within a proscribed vice district, prostitution was legal, madams and prostitutes were d and the women were subject to regular health inspections. Only a handful of states left the legal issue of prostitution up to the counties and cities within its borders and Arkansas was one of them.

However, Fort Smith, and doubtless other cities in the state continued to prosecute women for engaging in the practice.

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Even during the period of legalized prostitution in the city, Fort Smith tried and convicted women for prostitution in areas of the city outside the vice district known as The Row. BeforeFort Smith authorities tried to eliminate it everywhere, or at least keep it under control. In in the city's police court, prostitution cases were ajudicated. The Digest of City Ordinances that was published in contains 15 separate sections governing prostitution-related offenses.

The ordinance at that time prohibited the presence or keeping "a bawdy house Nevertheless it seems to have little deterent effect in abating the expansion of commercial sex enterprises in the city.

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Whereas there were over cases in ; inthere were as many as cases in ; and cases in According to Barbara Meil Hobson's historical study of U. Fort Smith was an exception to this statement. The ordinance read as follows:.

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This was the language passed by the Fort Smith City Council in that legalized prostitution within the Row and defined its boundaries. The ordinance further stipulated that any owner of a house that was used for prostitution in the Row was required to obtain a permit from the city clerk for this privilege.

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Similarly, all keepers of houses of prostitution were required to purchase s for engaging in prostitution within the district. Both of these groups made monthly payments to the city of the exact same amounts that they had been paying monthly in the way of fines. Other restrictions required the construction of fences around the houses that would be a minimum of eight feet in height, and prohibited the entry into any of the houses of any male under 21 years of age and any woman under The most ificant innovation was the introduction of the bimonthly health inspections by a city health officer.

According to the ordinance he was to inspect both inmates and keepers and to revoke their s if they were found to be sick and to withhold their s until they were restored to health. Amidst a wave of law-and-order vigilantism and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan statewide and locally in the s, the city board of commissioners acted to repeal the ordinance.

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Prostitution would continue to flourish on the Row and in other locations in the city despite the prohibition. Regular raids, fine and even health inspections would continue to characterize how the city handled the vice into the s.

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This essay was taken from an earlier article written for the Times Record's Insight history of Fort Smith and from a study of Fort Smith prostitution done in for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. The Ordinance by Ben Boulden. The Ordinance by Ben Boulden At one time, Fort Smith distinguished itself in the way it dealt with a profession regarded by many as undistinguished.

Hookers in Fort Smith

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