January 8, 1910


Working Girls Would Be At-
tracted From Vicious and
Immoral Resorts.

A free public dance hall for the poor girls of Kansas City, to be built and maintained by the city or by some charitable institution, thinks Dr. I. E. Mathias, chief probation officer of the juvenile court, would be an agency of reform that would do an inestimable amount of good.

"Perhaps I am not orthodox, and maybe this scheme looks somewhat sensational, yet I think that it would do an immense amount of good," said Dr. Mathias yesterday. "Girls will dance, and so will boys. How much better it would be that they should have their good times in a free public hall, where they would be protected from rowdies and immoral young men, than in the public dance halls where there are temptations and immoral surroundings, that work to their downfall."

The probation officer was discussing conditions in Cincinnati, where he and Judge E. E. Porterfield of the juvenile court went last month to attend a national meeting of juvenile court officers.

"This meeting was held in a church that maintained a free dance hall," Dr. Mathias continued. "Everybody is allowed to attend the weekly dances at the church, as long as they conduct themselves properly. There are no toughs and thugs, and the dance is as orderly as any social affair conducted by society people.

"In the ordinary public dance halls of Cincinnati liquor is sold, and the dances usually end in fights or drunken brawls. It was to give the poor girls and young men a chance to attend respectable dances that this church put in a dance hall.

"Many churches have built expensive gymnasiums for the boys. Charitable institutions here as well as in other cities have made ample provisions for the reform of bad boys. But these good people forget about the girls. Perhaps there is a sewing room set aside for them, or a kitchen where they are taught to cook. These things are all right. But how about their good times? The boys have their gymnasiums, their summer camps and their night schools.

"Did it ever occur to you that a girl enjoys a good time the same as a boy? She does not care for gymnasiums, summer camps or the like. The young woman's chief amusement is dancing, but the young men can do things and go places where girls cannot.

"What is left for the poor working girl? She can go to these public places where there is every influence to drag her down, but if she has any pride or self-respect she will prefer to remain at home and do nothing. Of course we do not have the evil surroundings in the public dance halls of Kansas City that the young woman finds in those of the large eastern cities, but here they are not what they should be.

"The city probably could not build a dance hall. The erection of such a building and its maintenance would be more in the province of the charitable institutions or churches. I think one or more of them in Kansas City would do much to better the conditions of the poor working girl, even more than some of the other philanthropic ideas that have been advanced in the uplift of the poor young men and women of this city."