Dr Mara Keire

Featured Publication

For Business and Pleasure: Red-Light Districts and the Regulation of Vice in the United States, 1890-1933 (Johns Hopkins University Press, March 2010). 

For Business and Pleasure: Red-Light Districts and the Regulation of Vice in the United States, 1890-1933

Mara L. Keire’s history of red-light districts in the United States offers readers a fascinating survey of the business of pleasure from the 1890s through the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

Anti-vice reformers in the late nineteenth century accepted that complete eradication of disreputable pleasure was impossible. Seeking a way to regulate rather than eliminate prostitution, alcohol, drugs, and gambling, urban reformers confined sites of disreputable pleasure to red-light districts in cities throughout the United States. They dismissed the extremes of prohibitory law and instead sought to limit the impact of vice on city life through realistic restrictive measures.

Keire’s thoughtful work examines the popular culture that developed within red-light districts, as well as efforts to contain vice in such cities as New Orleans; Hartford, Connecticut; New York City; Macon, Georgia; San Francisco; and El Paso, Texas. Keire describes the people and practices in red-light districts, reformers' efforts to limit their impact on city life, and the successful closure of the districts during World War I. Her study extends into Prohibition and discusses the various effects that scattering vice and banning alcohol had on commercial nightlife.


  • Rape Culture
  • War on Drugs
  • Feminism

 “The Vice Trust: A Reinterpretation of the White Slavery Scare in the United States, 1907 - 1917,” Journal of Social History, Volume 35, Number 1 (Autumn 2001): 5-41.


“The Committee of Fourteen and Saloon Reform in New York City, 1905 - 1920,” Business and Economic History, Volume 26, Number 2 (Winter 1998): 573-583.


“Dope Fiends and Degenerates: The Gendering of Addiction in the Early Twentieth Century,” Journal of Social History, Volume 31, Number 4 (Summer 1998): 809-822 (nominated for the 1998 Article Prize, Berkshire Conference on the History of Women; reprinted in James A. Inciardi and Karen McElrath, eds., The American Drug Scene: An Anthology, Third Edition, 2000)


Current DPhil Students

  • Oenonie Kubie
  • Emma Day

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil or  Masters students looking at US Women’s History; US Urban History; History of Drugs, Vice, and Crime; History of Progressive Era

I currently teach:

FHS Masters
GH XVII: History of the United States Since 1863

Methods and Evidence in the History of the United States of America

In the Media

‘Ask an Academic: Debauchery’,  The New Yorker, 14 April 2010


‘The “White Slavery” Panic’,  BackStory, National Public Radio, 22 November 2013


Sarah Laskow, 'Most American Cities Once Had Red-Light Districts,' Atlas Obscura (15 March 2017):


'In our Time',, BBc Radio 4, 15 June 2017