Brothels, Bordellos, and Bad Girls: Prostitution in Colorado, 1860-1930

Overview

Prostitution thrived in pioneer Colorado. Mining was the principal occupation and men outnumbered women more than twenty to one. Jan MacKell provides a detailed overview of the business between 1860 and 1930, focusing her research on the mining towns of Cripple Creek, Salida, Colorado City, and similar boomtown communities. She used census data, Sanborn maps, city directories, property records, marriage records, and court records to document and trace the movements of the women over the course of their careers, ...

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Overview

Prostitution thrived in pioneer Colorado. Mining was the principal occupation and men outnumbered women more than twenty to one. Jan MacKell provides a detailed overview of the business between 1860 and 1930, focusing her research on the mining towns of Cripple Creek, Salida, Colorado City, and similar boomtown communities. She used census data, Sanborn maps, city directories, property records, marriage records, and court records to document and trace the movements of the women over the course of their careers, uncovering work histories, medical problems, and numerous relocations from town to town. She traces many to their graves, through years filled with abuse, disease, narcotics, and violence.

MacKell has unearthed numerous colorful and often touching stories, like that of the boy raised in a brothel who was invited to play with a neighbor's children and replied, "No, my mother is a whore and says I am to stay at home."

"Delicacy, humor, respect, and compassion are among the merits of this book. Although other authors have flirted with Colorado's commercial sex, Jan MacKell provides a detailed overview. She has been researching these elusive women for the last fifteen years. Such persistence allows her to offer rich detail on shady ladies who rarely used their real names or even stuck with the same professional name for long."—Thomas J. Noel, from the Introduction

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Editorial Reviews

Rocky Mountain News
Delicacy, humor, respect and compassion are among the merits of MacKell's treatment of this touchy subject. Her 15 years of research unearthed revealing details.
The Historian
Brothels, Bordellos, & Bad Girls is an extensively researched local history, balancing both primary and secondary sources with intriguing references to interviews with (and respect for the privacy of) living descendents. . . . MacKell gives a well-deserved human face to these hard-working western pioneers who, in their time, were ignored as human beings and seen only as whores.
Denver Post
. . . a real contribution to Colorado history.
Roundup Magazine
Now this is a book you can read in one sitting. Not that it is less than scholarly; it is comprehensive, extensively researched, well organized, well written, but most of all it is readable. In fact, it is compelling. . . . Brothels, Bordellos, & Bad Girls is a fascinating book because it puts a human face on prostitution.
ForeWord Magazine
This is serious social history at its best; MacKell combines skilled use of carefully collected data with an engrossing analysis of the many forces in play when women choose a way of life that seldom ends in true reward or real independence.
History: Reviews of New Books
Brothels, Bordellos, and Bad Girls is an interesting piece of Colorado's popular history and enhances our understanding of some of the social relations that formed within the state's numerous mining communities.
Reference & Research Book News
Neither romanticizing nor ridiculing these women, MacKell recounts both their tragedies and occasional happy endings. While detailing the realities of the business, she also creates vivid portraits of some participants.
The Durango Herald
. . . a godsend for screenwriters and novelists looking for plots. . . MacKell has been an industrious researcher.
CHOICE Magazine
The depth of MacKell's research brings the stories of scores of individual women to life. . . . Recommended.
Salida Book Review
MacKell has unearthed numerous colorful and often touching stories.
The Cortez Journal
The topic is interesting--or should one say, "titillating"--the author knowledgeable; the presentation non-judgmental and the work, scholarly with end notes, a bibliography and index. . . well-written.
Canon City Daily Camera
Brothels, Bordellos, & Bad Girls tells a rarely told tale, of the "tainted" women who helped settle the west.
Thomas J. Noel
Delicacy, humor, respect, and compassion are among the merits of this book. Although other authors have flirted with Colorado's commercial sex, Jan MacKell provides a detailed overview. She has been researching these elusive women for the last fifteen years. Such persistence allows her to offer rich detail on shady ladies... (Thomas J. Noel, "Dr. Colorado")
USA Today Magazine
The topic is interesting, the author knowledgeable, the presentation nonjudgmental...All sorts of interesting facts pop up in this work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826333438
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 619,938
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan MacKell resides in Victor, Colorado, and is director of the Cripple Creek District Museum in nearby Cripple Creek. MacKell is also the author of Cripple Creek District: Last of Colorado's Gold Booms

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Table of Contents

Foreword
1 Red-light districts 1
2 Life as a harlot 18
3 In the beginning there was Denver 52
4 How Colorado City came to be 70
5 Women of the western slope and central Colorado 83
6 Southern belles and ladies of the plains 107
7 The shady ladies of Colorado City 124
8 The Cripple Creek influence 152
9 Traveling gals 187
10 Cracking down 196
11 Closing down for good 230
12 A memory slowly fades 246
App. 1 A sampling of Cripple Creek prostitutes in 1900, by address 265
App. 2 A sampling of traveling gals in Cripple Creek 268
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2005

    An outstanding book on Colorado prostitution

    If you want to know about Colorado prostitution in the 1800s and early 1900s, this is the book to buy. It is well researched and written and contains a wealth of information. Jan MacKell spent 10 years collecting material. Her text is well documented with research that consumed thousands of hours. She used a myriad of primary sources and thus presents the reader with material never before assembled and published. Through her history the reader can garner an appreciation of the ladies and the environment in which they worked. Many of the women she talks about were brave, resourceful, and energetic businesswomen who held court in rough and tumble wilderness areas of the west. It was strictly a man¿s world in which these women provided friendship as well as social and sexual services. They were the only females in some areas, thus providing a woman¿s company to men starved for this commodity. The author reveals the history of prostitutes and the business of prostitution across what is now the state of Colorado. If writers in other states would follow her example a comprehensive history of the old west pioneer prostitutes could be assembled. I highly recommend this book.

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