Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery: Prostitutes in the American West, 1865-90

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University of Illinois Press, 1987 - History - 179 pages
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They were called "frail sisters," "fallen angels," "soiled doves," and "whores." They worked the brothels, saloons, streets, and "hog ranches" of the American frontier. They were the prostitutes of the post-Civil War West. This book details the destitute lives of these nearly anonymous women. Anne Butler reveals who they were, how they lived and worked, and why they became an essential element in the development of the West's emerging institutions. Her story hears little resemblance to the popular depictions of prostitutes in film and fiction. Far removed from the glittering lives of dancehall girls, these women lived at the borders of society and the brink of despair. Poor and uneducated, they faced a world where scarce jobs, paltry wages, and inflated prices made prostitution a likely if bitter choice of employment. At best, their daily lives were characterized by fierce competition and at worst, by fatal violence at the hands of customers, coworkers, or themselves. They were scorned and attacked by the legal, military, church, and press establishments; nevertheless, as Butler shows, these same institutions also used prostitutes as a means for maintaining their authority and as a lure for economic development. Based on research in more than twenty repositories in Wyoming, Arizona. Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas, using census lists, police dockets, jail registers, military correspondence, trial testimony, inquests, courts martial, newspapers, post returns, and cemetery records, this book illuminates the dark corners of a dark profession and adds much to our knowledge of both Western and women's history.--From publisher description.

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User Review  - omniavanitas - LibraryThing

This book is interesting, if a little dry. I haven't encountered a lot of serious writing on prostitution during this period, and I think this book could at least point you in the right direction if you're looking to do further research. Read full review


The Prostitutes
Companions and Colleagues
Lives without Comfort
Officers of the Law
Legal Entanglements
The Military Game
Bibliographical Note

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About the author (1987)

Anne M. Butler is Trustee Professor Emerita at Utah State University and past editor of the "Western Historical Quarterly".

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