No-one likes a Universalist with a social disease

Prowling the Internet tonight for websites related to the dissemination of practical information to persons in developing countries, an interest I’ve had since childhood. (Yes, I was a bit of an odd child, but then again, I figured once The Bomb dropped, and assuming I survived, I thought it would be worth knowing how to dig a well. In any case, I found New Zealand Digital Library among other resources.)

One of the other resources I found was from Cornell University, HEARTH: Home Economics Archive – Research, Tradition, History which is much like the Making of America library I also like.

So I made a search, and what search term did you think I used? “Universalist,” of course.

Well, little did I guess home economics includes the steamier enterprise formerly known as “social hygiene.” They were all about stamping out venereal disease. The following is from the Journal of Social Hygiene, June 1945, page 338, itself an article reprinted from a decade earlier.

This is the passage that hit:

Frederick W. Betts, D.D., chairman of the Syracuse Moral Survey Committee
and pastor of the First Universalist Church of that city, in a History of that Committee’s three years’ work, said:

“Up to 1913 Syracuse was known everywhere among its citizens and the travelling public as a ‘wide-open city.’ Commercialized vice flourished openly in every form.”

Further on in the article, it is clear the problem was V.D. and the source was brothels. So good for him (and tough for Syracuse) in his public ministry.

More: Earlier issues of the same journal show the Ohio state convention (the only denominational body in that state to work on veneral disease) has “endorsed the syphilis campaign and propose to adopt a comprehensive educational program for young people in the various church congregations” (May-June 1938, p. 358).

Looks like Max Kapp is mentioned in the March 1937 issue. (More syphilis) and following the link to the listed 1915 journal, you can read Betts’s rather thrilling survey of the Syracuse red-light district.

M.Div. students, I’d use this stuff for a paper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.