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An interstate crime of love

It was a horrible crime, addressed by a strict statute.

The crime: white slavery.

The statute: the Mann Act.

MannActPassed by Congress in 1910, it outlawed the interstate and international transportation of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose…”1

Bringing women or girls across state lines for such purposes became a felony, punishable by up to five years in federal prison.2 If the girl was under age 18, it was punishable by up to 10 years in prison.3

So the last thing in the world we might ever want to find sitting big and bold on the branches of our family tree would be a man convicted of violating the Mann Act. Right?


Not so fast.

Guest blogger Linda Fitzgerald of Seattle shared with The Legal Genealogist this early Valentine’s Day tale of a crime that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. And it’s too good a tale not to share with you.

You’ll understand, of course, that names and citation details have been withheld to protect … well … let’s call them the innocent.


The Mann Act – A Love Story

By Linda Fitzgerald, Past President
Seattle Genealogical Society

In 1929, jobs were super scarce in the Midwest. C.J. was experienced in working with dynamite in the mines there,4 so he decided to try to get a job in the mining region of Idaho.

He successfully found work5 and started saving for a ticket to bring his girlfriend, Jacky, out to Idaho so they could be married.She finally arrived, and so did trouble.

Did I forget to mention that she was not yet aged 16 years,6 that her father (Daddy-O) disapproved of C.J., and wouldn’t give permission for them to marry?7

Right. That kind of trouble.

Part of the mystery of the saga is how Daddy-O found out where they were and who he contacted in Idaho. Obviously he did so because a complaint was registered with the authorities against C. J.,8 and a Federal Marshal arrested him and put him in jail.9

The family story was that the authorities kept Jacky in jail because there were no juvenile facilities to house a young girl. My personal opinion, based on knowing Jacky, is that some of those cops had raised a teen-aged daughter and figured she’d run away as soon as she was out of their control. They were absolutely correct! If C. J. pleaded “not guilty” at trial, the authorities needed her testimony to convict him and Daddy-O definitely wanted vengeance (the more, the better). Jackie would have figured all that out right from the start.10

The result is that C. J. pleaded guilty to violation of the Mann Act, was sentenced to one year in Federal Prison,11 and Jacky was released and sent back home.

After his release from prison, C.J. returned back home to the Midwest. Daddy-O was still alive, but died before too long,12 and C.J. and Jackie wasted no time getting married.

The marriage lasted through two children, WWII, and some hideous, dreadful personal crises. They are buried on their favorite island in Puget Sound where they built many beautiful memories for the entire family.13 They loved each other and a lot of other people, including me.

So when you read that an ancestor has been convicted of such a repugnant crime as to “transport knowingly any woman or girl in interstate commerce or foreign commerce for prostitution, debauchery, or any other immoral purpose,”14 you might want to make sure you get all the facts.

Perhaps, as Paul Harvey used to say, there is “the rest of the story.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!


  1. §1, “An Act To further regulate interstate and foreign commerce by prohibiting the transportation therein for immoral purposes of women and girls, and for other purposes,” 36 Stat. 825 (25 June 1910).
  2. Ibid., §2.
  3. Ibid., §4.
  4. Discussing a picture of a group of men, including C.J. and the author’s father, in a mine, the author’s father told her each man’s job in the mine.
  5. Discussions with C.J.’s daughter.
  6. U. S. Federal Census, 1930, Missouri, from
  7. Discussions with C.J.’s daughter.
  8. NARA records of the U. S. District Court, 19th District of Idaho, Northern Division at Wallace, Idaho.
  9. NARA records, report of H. M. Breshears, U. S. Marshal, and R. C. West, Deputy.
  10. So did the authorities. The judge increased her bond from $500 to $1200. NARA records of the U. S. District Court, District of Idaho, Northern Division).
  11. NARA records of the U. S. District Court, District of Idaho, Northern Division.
  12. Missouri State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Death,
  13. Personal information known to the author.
  14. §1, 36 Stat. 825.
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