Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society's Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society's Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil

Article excerpt

Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society's Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil Neil Miller. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010. 209 pp. $26.95

Freedom from fear is a key element in a civil democratic society, but how is that freedom achieved and maintained? Traditionally, America has defined that freedom as an individual's right to pursue his or her own interests as long as this freedom does not impinge on the freedom of others to do the same. How communities strive to maintain that balance fluctuates from decade to decade and from location to location. A secure environment for some includes a positive moral climate in which children, and in earlier decades, women are not exposed to vice (e.g., profanity, sexual misconduct, gambling, prostitution, drugs) live or in print. Neil Miller's extensive research of Boston's Watch & Ward Society follows one community's struggle to find that balance and to maintain a social and cultural tradition amidst a flood of immigrants who were changing that culture. It gives us a glimpse of how, in their enthusiasm to rid their community of the evils of immoral books, gambling, prostitution, lewd theater, and burlesque, Boston elites and police quietly conspired with booksellers to prohibit access to books considered objectionable, shut down bawdy houses and gambling establishments, and regulated performances in the burlesque houses and theaters for more than half a century. For many, "banned in Boston" is synonymous with the Watch and Ward Society; Miller points out in this work that they were not alone in their efforts to protect their community. …

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