White Slave Traffic • A Weekly Reflection with Louise

by | Mar 10, 2017 | Formation, Reflections

“[Madame de Lamoignon told me that,] although we try to employ good women, the majority of them are forced to leave because of bad conduct rather than on account of the necessities of the times. Moreover, these women, who have been gathered from allover and who are of all types, use coarse language and exhibit licentious conduct (L. 283).  I also have misgivings about those who have worked as domestics or who live in the city (L. 47). Little Anne Varon gives us little hope that she will be suited to the Company. In the event she has to be dismissed, see if you might send her back home rather than have her serve in Paris, where there are more girls lost than ever (L. 218). I learned from our Most Honored Father that you take great pains with the good girls who present themselves for the Company, […] if they intend to live and to die in the Company, and if they have resolved to return home if they are not suited for the Company since you know, my dear Sister, how dangerous it is for girls who remain in Paris (L. 434).”

Louise de Marillac, The correspondence of Saint Louise is full of similar phrases.



  1. The girls who took refuge in Paris did not have a good reputation, as St. Louise said: “At present the priests of Saint-Sulpice are sending for four girls from the refugee center to help our sisters. […] I fear that this mixture will create confusion and much harm, and that it will come from our sisters themselves.” (L. 350).
  2. There were many girls who fled from misery and war, seeking work and welcome in Paris. St. Louise did not ignore them, she knew that they were meat, in a sexual sense, for the soldiers: on the contrary, she made shelters to receive them and entrusted the Daughters of Charity to tend to them, looked for others places to rehabilitate them, like the Charity and in the General Hospital.
  3. Like the trafficking of blacks from Africa to America in the colonial era, as a large-scale business (acquisition of black slaves in Africa, transfer and sale in America), white trade still exists in the 21st century. It is the illegal trade of women for purposes of labor or sexual exploitation against their will and freedom, against their well-being and their dignity.
  4. White trafficking is even more repugnant than the illegal traffic of migrants. This ends with the arrival of the migrants to their destination, while the white trafficking involves the persistent exploitation of the victims in some way to generate illegal profits for the traffickers. From a practical point of view, victims of trafficking are also often more severely affected and more in need of protection than clandestine migrants.
  5. The white slave trade is an urgent and powerful cry to the branches of the Vincentian Family. If we are to save the poor, are there poor people more degraded in the mud than these poor women? And it is not too hard to find them. Vincentians, let’s save them!

Questions for dialogue:

  1. What to say, when we find out that some man even pays for those services that a woman lends him? Is it worthy of human beings, of Christians, of Vincentians?
  2. What position do we take before immigrants who arrive? What concept do we have of them?

Benito Martínez, C.M.


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