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Sin’s riverboat and Mary in a bikini

July 14, 2013

The Smithsonian tells of when the Union army, trying to save its soldiers from venereal disease, gathered up Nashville’s loose women onto a riverboat, and ordered them up the river. Alas for the general who ordered this, none of the towns upriver allowed the boat to debark its passengers. They eventually returned, and the riverboat captain presented a bill for the substantial damages done to his vessel. George Spalding, the resourceful provost marshal of Nashville, then hit on a better plan: legalize the trade in Nashville, but require the women practicing it to acquire a weekly surgeon’s certificate that they were free from disease. He also set up a hospital, shown left, to treat those infected. That actually worked, reducing significantly the fraction of soldiers incapacitated.

The Santa Fe Reporter is raising flak for the cover to its summer guide depicting the Virgin Mary drinking a margarita and wearing a bikini. Personally, I wish more religious icons featured alcohol.

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