This paper examines how the shift from a geographically fixed sexual black market to migratory sex work provided women an opportunity to act as independent agents and create a community detached from the influence and control of the men organizing the ring. The women involved in this operation defied the traditional “victim” role the FBI assigned to prostitutes in Mann Act cases. Often referred to as “highway girls,” these women exhibited autonomy in their work choices and habits. Historians of gender and the 1950s have addressed white women’s sexuality in the context of Civil Rights racial tension or in connection with societal expectations that confined women's sexuality to marriage. This Mann Act case (declassified as a result of my FOIA request) provides a new context to examine women’s sexual choices, as well as sexual black markets in the rural South, while testing prevailing notions about women in the 1950s.
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