Hello all! I know that I haven't written in forever. I have been reading I just got kind of swept up in life. I have been reading, and I'm going to spend this weekend trying to catch up with the reviews. I finished Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West by Anne Seagraves early March. I picked it up while in Seattle for the Emerald City Comic Con. I bought it while I was on the Seattle underground tour which was really cool and very dirty. A must for anyone with kids who like dirt grime, and general weirdness. Anyway, this book is a history, but it is in no way academic. There are sources and I believe that the author researched the book and only put forward what she found to be the truth. Having said that I still found this to be a fast, fun and quick read because she presents the book as a series of stories. The stories are captivating, many of these women had hard, terrible, joyous and happy lives. Each woman had her own reasons for going into prostitution or being a madam.
It was wild to read that often madams were pillars of the community. A town wasn't really a town until they managed to get some women to it. And the first women were usually prostitutes. A madam was first and foremost a businesswoman. Often these women were wealthy and would do things for the community. They'd build theaters, churches, orphanages. Usually a madam was the woman who donated the most to local charities, usually to offset the detriment to society that her establishment caused. These were raucous women who make their own money, choices and power. It's great to see historical context for women in power.
The prostitutes themselves had varied reasons for employing their trade, some were poor and had no choice, some had bad husbands, some were even looking for adventure. Some of these women went on to become successful madams, some married and many others died tragically. There were a few times in this book where the author seemed to slut-shame but after a while I think she was just reflecting the society around them. These women were seen as sort of pariahs. They could only really socialize with the men that paid them or other prostitutes. Many women were impoverished, working their trade in shanties or back alleys. These women had hard lives, they were chewed up and spat out dying young, like in their 30s!
Overall this book was SO informative it can be hard to separate fact from fiction especially in an era like the old west where truth and fiction have blended for decades. This book presented easy to read history and presented the facts for me.