THE AMERICAN SOCIAL HYGIENE ASSOCIATION (June 1946)
SOME NOTES ON THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND, DEVELOPMENT AND FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES OF
THE NATIONAL VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATION FOR SOCIAL HYGIENE IN THE UNITED STATES
WILLIAM F. SNOW, M.D., Chairman of the Board of Directors, June 1946
The American Social Hygiene Association, now in its thirty-fourth year of national and international service, grew out of a merger of national voluntary medical, educational and law-enforcement agencies which had been attempting separately to do something about the problems now generally grouped together under the heading “social hygiene”.* The agencies which joined in 1914 to form the new national voluntary social hygiene association were:
The American Vigilance Association, which had been organized in 1906 through the effort of such pioneers as James Bronson Reynolds, Grace Dodge, Dr. O. E. Janney and Anna Garlin Spencer, for the purpose of attacking what was then known as “the white slave traffic”.
The American Federation for Sex Hygiene, organized in 1901, and comprising social hygiene societies in twelve states.
The first of these state and community groups was the New York Society for Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis, organized by Dr. Prince A. Morrow in 1905.
The other societies, some of which are still active under their original charters, were: Organized in:
1906 Pennsylvania Society for Prevention of Social Diseases
1907 Chicago Society of Social Hygiene (now the Illinois Social Hygiene League
1907 Milwaukee Society of Sanitary and Moral Education
1908 Spokane Society of Social and Moral Education
1908 Maryland Social Hygiene Society
1908 Connecticut Social Hygiene Society
1909 St. Louis Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis (now the Missouri Social Hygiene Association)
1910 California State Society for the Study of Prevention of Syphilis and Gonorrhea
1910 Oregon Social Hygiene Society
1910 Colorado Society for Social Health
*So far as is known, this term was first used to describe activities in this whole field, in a newspaper article which appeared in Chicago.
At a meeting held in Buffalo in September, 1913, these two main groups voted to consolidate their efforts in a unified national, campaign. Two years later the American Purity Alliance merged its interests and resources with those of the new national agency.
(Note: The minutes of the meetings at which the name of the association was changed are attached to the end of this entry.)
Incorporation of the American Social Hygiene Association as “a national voluntary non-profit membership organization” took place under the laws of the State of New York in March, 1914. The Constitution adopted at that time reflected the far-seeing vision of the men and women who framed it. Consisting of only two Articles, this documents so broadly and competently stated the problem and opportunities ahead, that no change has ever been found necessary.
The Constitution reads:
The name of the Association shall be The American Social Hygiene Association.
The purpose of this Association shall be to acquire and diffuse knowledge of this established principles and practices and of any new methods which promote, or give assurance of promoting, social health; to advocate the highest standards of private and public morality; to suppress commercialized vice, to organize the defense of the community by every available means, educational, sanitary or legislative, against the disease of vice; to conduct on request inquiries into the present condition of prostitution and the venereal disease in American towns and cities; and to secure mutual acquaintance and sympathy and cooperation among the local societies for these or similar purposes.
The Officers and Board of Directors elected for the new Association furnished an equally wide range of background, interests and experience. They were:
President: Charles W. Eliot, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Vice Presidents: Active:
David Starr Jordan, Stanford University, California
William T. Foster, Reed College, Portland, Oregon
Felix M. Warburg, New York, N.Y.
Rt. Rev. Walter T. Sumner, Chicago, Illinois
Jane Addams, Chicago, Illinois
R. Fulton Cutting, New York, NY
James Cardinal Gibbons, Baltimore Maryland
Treasurer: Henry L. Higginson, Boston, Massachusetts
Secretary: Donald R. Hooker, M.D., Baltimore, Maryland
Board of Directors
Chairman: Charles W. Eliot
Thomas M. Balliet, New York Henry James, Jr., New York
Hugh Cabot, M.D., Boston Edward L. Keyes, Jr., New York
Mrs. Martha P. Falconer, Lawrence Litchfiedl, M.D.,
Darlington, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Jerome D. Greene, New York James Bronson Reynolds, New York
Rev. William A. Greer, New York Mrs. Raymond Robins, Chicago
Wirt W. Hallam, Chicago E.R.A. Seligman, New York
Robert W. Hebberd, Albany, N.Y. William F. Snow, M.D. New York
Thomas N. Hepburn, M.D., Mrs. Anna Garlin Spencer
Hartford, Connecticut Meadville, Pennsylvania
Donald R. Hooker, M.D., Baltimore Percy Werner, St. Louis
Edward Jackson, M.D., Denver, Colo
James Brownson Reynolds William Freeman Snow M.D.
Counsel, Law Department General Secretary Education, Dept
Bascom Johnson James H. Foster
Assistant Counsel Assistant Secretary
National headquarters were at 105 West Fortieth Street, New York and two branch offices were maintained: Walter Clarke, Field Secretary, was in charge of the Central States Division office in Chicago, and Thomas D. Eliot, Field Secretary in charge of the Western States Division office in San Francisco
HOW THE ASSOCIATION’S PROGRAM HAS DEVELOPED
The American Social Hygiene Association’s program as it was mapped by the founders to implement the Constitution, as it has progressed through the years, as it stands today, is an example of many roads taken towards a common destination. It has been marked by flexibility of method, by adaptation to circumstances, and by consistent readiness to take hold wherever has appeared at any given time the greatest opportunity for service, the ultimate goal being illumined meanwhile by unchanging ideals.
1914-1920. Getting Started. World War I.
Thus, while the organization was in its infancy, with World War I beginning in Europe, the broad program which had started so promisingly in all fields of social hygiene work had to be adapted to our participation in the education and maintenance of our military forces at home and abroad. All of the officers and staff were assigned to active duty with the War or Navy Departments; or with the Commission on Training Camp Activities, during the entire War Period. Despite the urgent demands of this emergency job, progress continued on the long-range program, and before the First World War was over the Association’s program had become widely recognized internationally as the “Four-fold American plan”
Medical and Public Health Measures–
– to combat syphilis and gonorrhea as dangerous communicable diseases, and hazards to family and personal health and happiness.
Legal and Protective Measures
– to repress prostitution as an organized business; to safeguard youth from conditions leading to sexual promiscuity and sex delinquency, and to aid victims of such conditions in restoring themselves to normal lives.
– to provide sound character-training in childhood and youth, as a major influence in the promotion of high moral standards of sex conduct; to furnish accurate and suitable sex instruction as a part
of human relations education and of training for marriage and parenthood.
Public Information and Community Action
– to enable the people to take full advantage of the protection and safeguards provided against venereal diseases, prostitution and promiscuity; and to build informed and favorable public opinion leading to community social hygiene action as needed.
Since young people between the ages of 15 and 30 are the chief victims of venereal diseases, since they are also the age-group most constructive social hygiene efforts in home, school, church and community, it goes without saying that social hygiene from the beginning has been a program for and of youth.
The Chart (Page 8) shows how further program adaptations have occurred through the years, to meet other national emergencies or to permit joining in special projects which have promised –and achieved –greatly-to-be-desired results.
1921-1925 Postwar Period
Following World War I, in the critical period of transition to peacetime conditions, Association efforts had to be largely focused on helping the States and communities facing curtailment of necessary Federal and other official funds, to hold the gains made during the War period, especially in regard to efforts to prevent the return of flagrant commercialized prostitution and red light districts.
ATTACHMENT: CHANGE OF NAME AMERICAN FEDERATION FOR SEX HYGIENE TO ASHA
The following are the grounds of its application:
To secure a name similar to that of numerous societies in other states, affiliated with the American Federation of Sex Hygiene and to promote the consolidation of the American Federation for Sex Hygiene with the American Vigilance Association an unincorporated society having purposed similar to that of the American Federation for Sex Hygiene.
(Application signed by Charles W. Eliot, Free.) authorized 2/9/14 Amended Certification of incorporation.
At annual meeting held in Buffalo, New York on the 27th of August 1913 a resolution was adopted to amend the certification of incorporation by increasing number of Directors from 15 to 21. It was further resolved: That the certification of incorporation shall be amended: and extended to read:
The purpose of this Association shall be to acquire an diffuse knowledge of the established principle and practice and of any new methods which promote, or give assurance of promoting, social health to advocate the highest standards of private and public morality’ to suppress commercialized vice; to organize the defense of the community by every available means, educational, sanitary or legislative, against the diseases of vice; to conduct on request inquiries into the present condition of prostitution and the venereal diseases in American towns and cities; and to secure mutual acquaintances and sympathy and cooperation among the local societies for these or similar purposes. Charles W. Eliot, President. Amended certification of application signed by:
Donald R. Hooker, Secretary
Thomas M. Hellist
Edward I. Seyes, Jr
Thomas N. Hepburn
William F. Snow
Jes B. Reynolds
and dated January 21, 1914 approved certification signed by Edward J Cavegan, Justice of Supreme Court.
AMERICAN SOCIAL HYGIENE ASSOCIATION
At a special meeting of the American Federation of Sex Hygiene on December 3, 1913 in New York City the constitution and By-Laws of the American Social Hygiene Association were by unanimous vote, adopted as with the Purpose: — of this Association shall be to acquire and diffuse knowledge of the established principles and practices and of any new methods, which preisiste, or give assurances of promoting social health; to advocate the highest standards of private and public morality; to suppress commercialized vice; to organize the defense of the community by every available means, educational, sanitary or legislative, against diseases of vice; conduct on request inquires into the present condition of prostitution and the venereal diseases in American towns and cities; and to secure mutual acquaintance and sympathy and cooperation among the local societies for these or other purposes.
First slate of officers:
President:-Charles W. Eliot
Vice President:– David Starr Jordan
William T. Foster
Felix M. Warburg
Walter T. Sumner
Honorary Vice President:-
(Miss) Jane Addams
R. Alton Cutting
James Cardinal Gibbons
Secretary:– Donald R. Hooker
Treasurer:– Henry L. Higginson
Charles W. Eliot
Herman N. Biggs, M.D.
William H. Welch M.D.
Edward L. Keyes, M.D.
Kay Lyman Wilbur
Philip E. Nether
Frank N. Heller
William F. Snow, ASHA General Director until retirement; Chairman of Board until his death in June 1950.
Source: American Social Health Association Records, 1905-2005. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Social Welfare History Archives. Minneapolis, MN: https://www.lib.umn.edu/swha
For Further Reading:
“The Case Against the Red Light” (1920), a pamphlet created by the American Social Hygiene Association for the United States Public Health Service