Band of Sisters–Human Trafficking Then and Now

When I began researching modern-day slavery for Band of Sisters (1910-1911)–which RELEASES TOMORROW, I didn’t know what I’d find.  Was it as much a problem then as it is today?

Stories of human trafficking–labeled “white slavery,” particularly among new immigrants, flooded the news in the first decade of the twentieth century just as they do today. But it was the strikes of NYC’s shirtwaist factory workers that made public women’s desperate need to make a living wage in safe circumstances.

High drama for women was a matter of public record—everything from the passing of the Mann Act in 1910 addressing the fear of white slavery, to the horrific Triangle Waist Factory fire in 1911 that underscored the need for women’s rights and protection of workers.

Even though our world is different from that of Band of Sisters era, many countries today are no more advanced in providing rights, safeguards or living wages for women and children than the U.S. was in 1910.  Sadly, some are further behind.  Sadder still, human trafficking has mushroomed.  It’s more widespread today than at anytime during history.

Many of the same ruses are used by traffickers to lure women into their snare today as then:  better paying jobs for themselves and/or money for their families, flirtation, pretense of emotional caring and support, bogus offers of marriage, or actual  marriage before selling wives, offers specifically for modeling jobs, offers for education, appeals for help of various kinds, plays on sympathies, etc.

In some cases, after having sex with someone they trusted, or after being drugged and forced into having sex, women or children were/are blackmailed.  Fearful that their families will not believe them or will accuse them of promiscuity and reject them, or fearful for their lives or the lives of their families, they feel compelled to sneak out and “service” men when called.

Sometimes women or children are sold to traffickers or users by members of their own family, or by someone they trust.  Once trapped—sometimes after being unwittingly drugged and/or blackmailed—women are often transported far from their home (crossing borders to other states or countries).  Held against their will through abuse, enforced poverty, lack of ID, lack of language skills, or lack of visas or passports, they may simply not know whom to trust or where to go for help in the country or area in which they find themselves.

Isolation, threats to their person or their family, repeated brain washing that they are dirty, worthless, unwanted, unloved, and good for nothing but sex with paying customers, are all tools that traffickers use to intimidate and control their victims.

Fear of what will happen if they try to escape, fear that they have ruined their lives and will have no other way to live, fear for themselves and loved ones threatened, resulting health problems, feelings of hopelessness and a constantly reinforced sense of self-worthlessness all form formidable prisons for victims of trafficking.  Even if it seems victims can physically escape, they may not be able to break the emotional or mental chains that bind them.

All those things happened in 1910-1911, and they continue to happen today.

Band of Sisters tells this story through its characters–a story just as real and in need of a solution today as ever.  We’ll meet the characters from Band of Sisters next week.

In the meantime, there are things we can do to be part of the solution, to help bring about the abolition of slavery and hold out a hand of hope to its victims.  Check out the resources on the Band of Sisters page on my website (  Organizations already established offer hands of hope and healing.  They just need us.

If you know of other organizations to help or resources to raise awareness, please let me know so I can add them to this list.

Significantly, on Tuesday, September 4, Americans across the country will telephone their senators to urge them to vote for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (S 1301).  See this link from World Vision for what you can do to help make sure our senators hear us.

Summer is waning.  The front porch swing is calling our name.  Let’s brew a pot of sassafras tea, add some honey, and pour over ice.  So refreshing!

Looking forward to seeing you here, in the garden, next week.

God’s blessings for you,




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