By Michelle Shocklee
My last two posts here on the blog have been about strong, courageous women who spent most of their lives helping to free girls and women caught in the dark underworld of prostitution. Josephine Butler lived in England in the late 1800s, and Katharine Bushnell was her American counterpart. The topic of forced prostitution isn't pleasant, yet sadly it remains relevant in 2021. Human trafficking continues to be a world-wide problem that involves millions of victims.
|Rose Livingston, circa 1913|
It's believed Rose was only ten years of age when she was taken from her home and transported to New York City's notorious Chinatown, an area known for prostitution and opium dens. There, she would become forcibly hooked on opium. The man who held her captive sexually abused her, and by the time Rose was sixteen, she'd given birth to two children.
But unlike thousands of young women, then and now, Rose was rescued from the horrors she'd endured. A missionary, a person very much like Josephine and Katharine, learned of Rose's situation and helped her escape. With the help of her rescuer, her addiction to drugs came to an end. She was also introduced to the Christian faith.
|Rose Livingston dressed as a man|
Like Josephine Butler, Rose gained many enemies, including men involved in "white slavery" in Chinatown. While Josephine was never physically attacked, Rose endured many beatings as she worked to rescue young women. One beating left her jaw and face permanently injured. At one time, she was even shot.
Rose took the fight to the lawmakers and helped the Mann Act pass, an act named after Congressman James Robert Mann of Illinois. The act made it a felony to engage in interstate or foreign commerce transport of "any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose".Rose became known as the "Angel of Chinatown." Upon rescuing a young girl, she would then work to help the victim recover the life they'd lost, or build a new one. She was also involved in the Women's Suffrage movement, believing that if women had the vote, more changes would come to improve women's lives.
Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online at michelleshocklee.com.
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