Red Light Abatement Act

The Red Light Abatement Act was a vice law brought about by the California Progressives, who wanted to get rid of prostitution. They felt that it was not only immoral, it also caused physical harm to the people who engaged in it. While they were not aware of the microscopic effects on the body, they were certain it caused damage. The Act was passed by the California legislature, and signed by Progressive Governor Hiram Johnson in 1913. Under the Act, brothels around the state were eventually shut down.

The act worked by going after the owners of the buildings where the prostitution took place. If prostitution was found in a landlord's building, a fine was levied by the city. This led many property owners to be more vigilant of the activity which took place in their buildings, as well as to institute discriminatory renting practices, such as not allowing single women to rent a first floor apartment. In some places, women could not rent an apartment at all.

After many years, most red light districts ceased to exist under this act. San Francisco was one of the last to disappear. The unintended side-effect of this particular act was prostitution moved into the streets, and thus it became harder to find and prosecute, as well as more dangerous for prostitutes.

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