6. Kidnapping Prostitutes into Forced Rehabilitation at Inwood House, New York
Lower Manhattan was littered with Flop houses, opium dens, taverns and brothels littered the streets and alleys below 23rd street during the 19th century. Wages were notoriously low and many women found themselves supplementing their factory wages as hired escorts and prostitutes. To counter this most unladylike profession, the New York Magdalen Society formed in 1830 to reform females who had “abandon themselves to prostitution.” Women of high society went downtown and invaded the brothels and taverns, kidnapped young prostitutes, and then forced them to live in a home and undergo rehabilitation.
The inmates labored inside the commercial laundries for no pay and down time consisted of religious instruction and additional domestic training. The Magdalen Society moved their home to Inwood in upper Manhattan in 1907. Overlooking he Hudson River, the inmates were kept inside by a 13 foot wall that surrounded the property. Escapes often resulted in injuries that never fully healed, forcing the women to remain at Inwood Home until their death. In the 1920s, women that suffered from venereal diseases were treated with bichloride of mercury, which often poisoned them. The reports of abuse, neglect, and even death inside the Inwood Home never ceased to infiltrate the news.