chapter  Chapter 3
17 Pages

The Motherhood of the Commonwealth

ByElisabeth Israels Perry

Belle Israels would have found Marne’s “bunny hug” appalling. This dance was one of many invented in working-class bars around the turn of the century, and by 1912 the rage among all social classes across the country. The dance itself was bad enough. Israels drew part of her inspiration for dance hall reform from temperance and anti-prostitution advocates, who argued that alcohol weakened a girl’s ability to resist sexual temptation and that promiscuity often led to prostitution. Such arguments persuaded Israels that dance halls, with their combination of suggestive music and dancing and lack of chaperonage, should not be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages. Israels and her committee believed that the road to promiscuity was paved on the dance hall floor, and that promiscuity led almost inevitably to prostitution. In addition to regulating existing dance halls and creating model ones, the Committee on Amusements also addressed dancing styles.