Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront

Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront

by Penny A. Petersen


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Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront by Penny A. Petersen

Sex, money, and politics—no, it’s not a thriller novel. Minneapolis Madams is the surprising and riveting account of the Minneapolis red-light district and the powerful madams who ran it. Penny Petersen brings to life this nearly forgotten chapter of Minneapolis history, tracing the story of how these “houses of ill fame” rose to prominence in the late nineteenth century and then were finally shut down in the early twentieth century.

In their heyday Minneapolis brothels were not only open for business but constituted a substantial economic and political force in the city. Women of independent means, madams built custom bordellos to suit their tastes and exerted influence over leading figures and politicians. Petersen digs deep into city archives, period newspapers, and other primary sources to illuminate the Minneapolis sex trade and its opponents, bringing into focus the ideologies and economic concerns that shaped the lives of prostitutes, the men who used their services, and the social-purity reformers who sought to eradicate their trade altogether. Usually written off as deviants, madams were actually crucial components of a larger system of social control and regulation. These entrepreneurial women bought real estate, hired well-known architects and interior decorators to design their bordellos, and played an important part in the politics of the developing city.

Petersen argues that we cannot understand Minneapolis unless we can grasp the scope and significance of its sex trade. She also provides intriguing glimpses into racial interactions within the vice economy, investigating an African American madam who possibly married into one of the city’s most prestigious families. Fascinating and rigorously researched, Minneapolis Madams is a true detective story and a key resource for anyone interested in the history of women, sexuality, and urban life in Minneapolis.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780816665242
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publication date: 07/08/2013
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 645,573
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Penny Petersen is a historical researcher and the author of Hiding in Plain Sight: Minneapolis’ First Neighborhood.

Table of Contents




Introduction: The Public Women of Minneapolis

1. Women’s Work of all Kinds: Paid Labor, Sex Work, and the Reform Movement

2. The War on the Madams: Purity Crusades and Liquor Patrols

3. Red Lights Along the Riverfront: The Madams Make their Move

4. Reforming the City: Doc Ames, “White Slavery”, and the End of an Era

5. Vice Report: After the Bordellos Closed



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Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Along with books like Twin Cities Prohibition and Augies Secrets, Minneapolis Madams forms a fascinating picture of twin cities history. If you come from Minnesota or you like organized crime stories then you should definitely read this.