As the white slavery scare peaked in the United States in the early 1910s, department stores consistently figured among the most menacing sites mentioned by muckrakers for corrupting women’s morals. Worried about the reputation of departments stores in general and Macy’s in particular, the Straus brothers commissioned an anti-vice association, the Committee of Fourteen, to investigate why shopgirls might “go wrong.” Three women went undercover at Macy’s and reported on their experiences as department store employees. Their collected reports exposed the micropolitics of power that made some departments difficult places for women to work. This article alternates between general discussions of department stores and their workplace culture and specific case studies detailing how two male managers abused their power and the limited ways in which women could respond.

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