Poverty-stricken Galicia constituted, alongside Russian Poland, the main market for the Jewish traffickers who took advantage of the difficult financial situation of impoverished girls and their families. Lvov’s journalist and screenwriter Moshe Richter immortalized Lvov’s trafficking story in his largely unknown play White Slave Dealer: A Family Drama (Yid. Shklafen-Hendler: Familien-drama) shown in 1910-1911 in New York’s Yiddish theaters. The play tells a story of indigent Redlich family living in Lvov and trying to make ends meet. When on the horizon appears a rich candidate for Leyke’s hand, her parents eagerly marry off their daughter to this stranger whose hastiness and decisiveness do not wake any suspicion. Soon, the married couple leaves Lvov to New York where the groom came from, and the family does not hear from Leyke ever again. After a year, through, by accident through a police investigation they learn that the groom was a trafficker and Leyke was sold to a brothel in New York. The scenario of the impoverished families marrying off their daughters to strangers who do not request a dowry and offer promising future was not unusual and that fact begun to bother the Jewish elites in Galicia from the very beginning of the twentieth century.
Jewish circles in Lvov were the forerunners of the anti-trafficking campaign in Galicia and the entire Habsburg Empire. In 1903, on her tour in Galicia Bertha Pappenheim visited Lvov and sought support among local leaders and women to establish organization combating trafficking. In the fall of the same year around sixty representatives of Galician Jewish communities and German organizations involved in the fight against trafficking assembled in Lvov to discuss the prospects of combating trafficking in Galicia. Following the Congress Galician rabbis actively engaged in the anti-trafficking campaign by preaching about the dangerous traffickers circulating between shtetls in the synagogues and study houses. Reform rabbi of Lvov, Yechezkel Caro, went a step further and formed the same year the first in Galicia organization aimed at combating the traffic in women – Jewish Association for the Suppression of Trade in Girls. The Association did not engage women’s support, as it took place in Russian Poland, Germany, and England.
Jewish journalists from Eastern Europe, referring to famous women’s bible Tsenah u-renah (Hebr. Go forth and look) composed in the Galician town of Janów, called for the involvement of Galician Jewish women in the anti-trafficking work. “Go forth and look, daughters of Israel, how your sisters in Germany are forming organizations to protect the women (…) and what do you do?” – preached Hebrew weekly from Cracow. Jewish women in Galicia responded at the first opportunity, numerously joining a new organization in Lvov. After 1906, when the anti-trafficking movement gathered momentum in the Habsburg Empire, Lvov hosted another organization aimed at fighting the traffic in women – nondenominational section of Austrian League for the Fight against Traffic in Girls. This new venture was a cooperative project of Christian and Jewish intellectual elites of Lvov. At the forefront of the section stood Jewish physicians Emma Lilien and Felicja Nossig, as well as Christian Polish feminist Henryka Pawlewska, cousin of Marie Sklodowska-Curie.
Dotknięta skrajną nędzą Galicja stanowiła, obok zaboru rosyjskiego, główne miejsce działalności żydowskich handlarzy kobietami, którzy wykorzystywali trudną sytuację finansową ubogich dziewcząt i ich rodzin.