“This your first time, honey?”

color.jpg“I could not make a demonstration of affection over men nor any pretense at response to their caresses.  For the life of me, I could not understand why they should expect it.  They had only bought my body.  I could not see why they should want more.”–Madeleine, An Autobiography

While visiting my brother several years ago and browsing through a

Seattle gift shop, I found a fascinating book on early western prostitution.  Inspired by those haunting stories, I wrote my fourth (and last) book for Leisure Books.  Entitled “BROKEN BLOSSOMS”, the heroine is fiercely protected by her father, an influentiasoileddoves.jpgl but corrupt judge in the 1890s.  When she discovers she is the daughter of a beautiful prostitute, we learn with her the degradation her mother endured to survive.

In 1849, when the West was at its most rugged, it’s estimated there were only 2 women for every 100 men.  Many of these females were illiterate and inexperienced but hoping to get married.  Others came for wealth and adventure.  Most had their dreams dashed and were forced to survive by the only thing they had to sell–their bodies. As their numbers grew, so did prostitution.  It wasn’t long before a class system fell into place, starting from the most elite: 

Courtesan or mistress–These women were sophisticated, beautiful and intelligent.  Their services were given solely to gentlemen of great wealth and power who paid them well for the privilege.  Because of the gentleman’s prominence, society inbed.jpggenerally accepted the courtesan/mistress, giving her a degree of respectability.

Parlor House Ladies–Ranging in age from 18-30 years old, they lived in well-furnished homes, dressed in elegant gowns and expensive lingerie, wore makeup and perfume, and charged everything to their madam’s accounts–which kept them in continual debt to her. 

To keep her business flourishing, the madam would parade her girls throughout the community in leisurely strolls or open carriage rides.  Often the girls carried cuddly poodles, a breed no decent woman would ever own.  poodle.jpg

This higher class of prostitute spent her days in the garden, doing needlework or reading.  She ate well–nourishing meals of steak, roast and lots of milk to keep up her stamina.  In the evening, her work began, and once a gentleman entered her bedroom, she was bound to service him as he wished, no matter how humiliating or painful it became.  Her fee would be about $25 (more if the man spent the night).  The madam received half. 

Brothel ‘Boarders’–Lower in the chain was the prostitute who worked in brothels located in the town’s red-light district.  She was both younger and older than her higher-class sister–about 16-35 years of age.  She earned less, too, roughly $10/customer. pros.jpgThe brothels were not as elegant as parlor houses, yet they were warm and welcoming.  The girls enjoyed care and protection from their madams–most of the time.

Crib Prostitute–In larger cities, she worked in ‘hog ranches’ or cribs, a string of miserable frame buildings comprised of two rooms each, a parlor in front and a bedroom in the back.  Or she lived in camps or mining towns.  Either way, she was beholden to a pimp.  On payday, it was standing room only, and a fast prostitute could service as many as 80 men a night, at 50 cents each. 

Streetwalker–the lowest class of all.  She was a desperate woman, ravaged by age, disease, alcohol and drugs.  She hovered on the brink of suicide and spent her days in shadowy doorways, waiting, hoping, for any man to take her.  

For propriety’s sake, newspapers were forced to fashion creative terms for ‘prostitute.’  Here’s a few: 

Calico Queen
Ceiling Expert
“Fair but Frail”
Girl of the line
Margarita
Nymph du pave
Painted Cat
Horizontal Worker

No matter what she was called, or at what level she plied her trade, the prostitute played an integral part in settling the West.  By the very nature of her gender, she provided warmth, comfort and pleasure to the men who craved it. 

It was a life few of us can imagine.  A job most of us will never have.  Thank goodness, eh? In future blogs, I’ll share some of their gripping stories with you. 

But for now, I’d love to know:  What was the worst job you ever had?  The strangest?  The most lucrative or lowest-paid? Let us know!  Share your story, and I’ll put you in a drawing to win a B & N gift certificate! 

Speaking of–don’t forget to enter our BIG FALL BONANZA contest.  Just go to our Primrose News Office Page!

My worst job?  I must’ve been about 13 years old.  Back then, babysitting netted 50 cents/hour, so when I was offered $1 to babysit on Saturdays, I jumped at the opportunity.  Little did I know, the lady of the house wanted me to clean it, too!  

 I swear, she stored up the mess all week long, just for me.  Talk about a pit! So for 8 hours, I cleaned every room in the place, washed her dishes, did her laundry, ironing, made beds, etc, etc, etc.  for $1/hour.  Sheesh!  Talk about slave wages!   

How about you?

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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns. Her newest sweet historical romance, HARRIETT, was the launch book for the popular Cupids & Cowboys series, More books are coming! Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com

39 thoughts on ““This your first time, honey?””

  1. Interesting post. The worst job I had was babysitting like you. I think mine was $2,but it was watching like 5 kids at a time. Wouldn’t do it now.

  2. The worst job I ever had was when I worked for a daycare in my hometown. The woman who ran the place was looney toons and being investigated by the State for putting a child under 2 in timeout in a corner for over 2 hours. My co-workers informed me of that when I started there and they also told me when I got my first paycheck not to be surprised if the check bounced! Egads! Years later after I no longer worked there I had to get my social security info investigated and corrected because the owner had to close down the daycare but she never even FILED my information.

    I can’t say I’ve worked anything that could be considered “strange” though. I mostly worked pizza/fast food joints and grocery stores and factories.

    The cardboard box factory paid the best at the time I worked it, over min. wage. The worst, babysitting because I watched three kids but the mother didn’t make a lot of money and rarely paid me.

  3. Well, currently I’m a stay-at-home mom and before that I’d had only one job (for 12 years). I worked in a cash office for a major super market and I really enjoyed it, so I haven’t had a job that I didn’t like. That being said, I do enjoy being a s-a-h mom more. 😉

  4. The worst job I had was in a car parts factory in Detroit. It was hot, back breaking work and my hands were blistered a lot and became very calloused. I was thrilled when I could leave this job.

  5. Wow, I had the worst job firmly in mind until Crystal said her car parts factory and I had a repressed memory emerge about a summer job in a truck factory.
    The one I WAS going to talk about it more strange and weird than bad.
    I was hired as live-in help for some family while I went to college one summer in Lincoln. One child about 8 and it turns out I was supposed to do her spring cleaning.
    Huge house, weird, weird people. Their was a live macaw wandering around the house and they had exotic birds, peacocks and chickens and other things. The had eggs warming to hatch in the house and it was my job to turn them, plus watch the child, plus clean the house. And it just STUNK the eggs just reeked up this huge house jumbled with STUFF.

  6. The living room, for example had FOUR LIFE SIZE wooden horses in it and FIVE baby grand pianos. And it was such a jumble and such a big room they didn’t even stand out. I quit after four days because my sister’s boyfriend said, “You know their cellar is probably FULL of dead baby sitters.

  7. BUT the worst job I ever had…sorry for the three posts, blogger is only letting me make them short today. I worked one summer at a factory that made truck trailers, you know, the back end of the truck, not the cab. My job was mowing and filling in for people on vacation of this huge mean looking machines and repainting the lunch room. I had to pull the ceiling tiles down out of this grid that held them up and paint the tiles (those 2 x 3 foot ones) white then paint the metal grid holding them up black. How stylish. BUT when I’d pull the tiles down DEAD MICE would rain down out of the ceiling on my head….I am SOOOOO not kidding. Just a summer of endless nightmares. I’d hide under the tile when I tilted them and eased them out of their grid, up on a ladder, so the mice corpses would fall to the side but I swear I was nearly insane by the end of the summer … I’m a complete mouse phobic anyway and this did NOT help.

  8. And let me add…I have always found prostitution to be the saddest thing. It just hurts my heart to think of a woman believing herself so worthless. And the fact that most…if not all… women who end up as prostitutes are molested when they’re children, just breaks my heart. In a way the more high priced prostitutes are almost worse because they think being degraded and used can have any kind of honor or respect attached to it which underscores their completely warped sense of themselves.

  9. I found your post to be really interesting.

    The lowest paying job I ever had was working as a proof reader for our little hometown newspaper. I don’t think I ever made more than $3 an hour. It wasn’t my worst job, but there was one bad thing that did come from it – I can’t really ever read the newspaper without “proofing” it while I read. And, I have the same problem while reading novels. If there is ever a typo it sticks out immediately. lol

  10. Wow, you all have had some bad jobs!!

    The lowest paying was babysitting (I’m sensing a trend here) for a family that I knew had more money than they paid me~the dad worked with my dad and while we were not rich my parents paid more than $1.50/hr (this was the 80’s). The man wanted to pay more b/c I saw a note on the counter one day from the wife to the husband “do not pay Tracy more than $1.50/hr!!” What? she thought I couldn’t read? I was sooooo tempted to toss that note!!

    Worst job: Hardee’s~hands down. I hated that job with a passion. People can be soooooooo crabby when they come into a fast food restaurant.

    Right now I’m a stay-at-home mom. Hardest job ever, but the Best Job Ever!!

  11. I worked at Arby’s. Unless the threat of destitution is looming over my head, I will never, ever work food service again. It’s the only job I know of where people think it’s their right to come in at SCREAM at you for no reason. To make it even worse – I worked at an Arby’s IN THE MALL! I won’t even tell you what the Christmas shopping season was like. I still have nightmares about it.

    Gotta say, I worked a factory job (after Arby’s) and loved it! Solitary work, NO general public and no one coming up to me and yelling in my face because they weren’t getting enough sex at home.

    Yeah, I went there. And man, I had no idea I was still so bitter….

  12. Hi Pam – Great post on prostitutes! I love the research too. I have a book on prostitution I bought in Virginia City, Nevada and actually wrote two books from the concept. I learned a great deal at a silver shop there from a former “lady” about present day prostitutes on Bunny Farms as well. Sorry I don’t have any “worst job” stories.

  13. Great topic, Pam! I don’t know what it is about soiled doves that seem to fire the imagination. Maybe it’s that we’re enticed by the bad girl image, something similar to the bad boy hero. But most of those women did lead a horrible life that ended oftentimes in suicide. I don’t think many really wanted to be in that profession–they just got trapped because there really weren’t many jobs for women back then. Maybe a schoolteacher or a seamstress was about all.

    My worst job was in a Timex watch factory. So many teeny tiny parts. In addition to getting them in the right places we also had to be fast. They gave us a quota to meet and kept upping it whenever you reached it. I hated that job.

  14. The worst and lowest paying lowest paying job I had was most definitely babysitting. I did it for three families that lived side by side by side. All three never thought twice about dropping their kids off with me no matter which family called me for that day or night. I quite often ended up with all nine kids and always paid for the ones I started out with.

  15. I’m just back from a morning spent at a bookstore panel with Victoria Alexander, Cheryl St. John and Kim Louise among others. I kept thinking about y’all and got in a real hurry to come home!

    Love all your comments!

  16. I did tons of babysitting, and it’s a shame some of us were so underpaid. I guess the parents figured we weren’t old enough to get real jobs yet so whatever we made, we were lucky to get, eh?

    And I so agree with the stay-at-home moms! Those were the happiest years of my life–also my poorest. But a happy family made up for it, I guess.

  17. I had some babysitting jobs but no real horror stories. The two jobs I hated the most were working at Dairy Queen (I still don’t like eating ice cream cakes, made way too many of them) and working security at a casino (had to be polite when I wanted to strangle people). My current job (police officer) provides me with enough strange and gross situations!

  18. Great blog, Pam. Gee, long time so see. *G* I have this book, too, and it makes for a fascinating read.

    Mary, I’m laughing about the dead babysitters in the basement. You never disappoint.

    Unlike you guys, I landed a great babysitting gig for my first job. I was thirteen or fourteen and there were two darling little girls with whom I fell in love. The parents were loaded and had air conditioning (which we didn’t have at home) so I spent a whole summer playing dolls and stuff, giving naps, being cool and drinking iced tea. I was even welcome to eat whatever I wanted – and they had a great color television. LOL AND I had enough money to buy myself school clothes, shoes and 45s of the Rolling Stones and The Monkees.

    My worst job EVAH was night shift telemarketing. In all the years since – until My Space bulletins – no one has asked me what color underwear I was wearing.

  19. The worst job I ever had was sitting day after day for months on end at a computer marking exams. It was debilitating, frustrating and a tiring job which paid extremely poorly. When it ended I was relieved since I had learned a lesson.

  20. I just thought of one worse than the babysitting. One summer for acouple of weeks I caught turkeys. They made break out. I guees it was the feathers. It was good money for a teenager but sucked.

  21. Mary, I think you’re going to go down in the record books as having the most bizarre jobs. Four life size horses in the living room AND 5 pianos?? Incredible. LOL. And I’m with you on those mice. You poor thing.

    Christy, I can relate about being a proof reader. Years and years of leading a critique group has ruined me for reading a book without critiquing its goals, motivation and conflict!

  22. Through high school and college I was a waitress which is such a demanding job. You are on you feet constantly and some customers can be awful. The money was good though and helped me with tuition.

  23. Tracy, Wendy and Lynn, I don’t think I’d like to work in fast food service, either. I just know I’d put on tons of weight. And I’d come home smelling like a French fry, too.

    Stacy, catching turkeys? Now THAT one I’ve never heard of!!

  24. Gosh, I haven’t worked outside the house in more than 28 years. I’ve been home all this time taking care of family and my daughter (now age 29) who was born with Angelman’s syndrome. I became a stay-at-home after she was diagnosed, when she was a year old.

    But prior to that, I did have several jobs. The worst was cashiering at a Two Guys dept. store in Oxnard, CA. The job itself wasn’t so bad, but many of the customers were migrant farm workers who spoke no English. They’d come through my line with a load of items, then just stuff a wad of money into my hand when I told them the total. Usually they gave me way more than their total, so I would take out what was needed and give them back what was left. But there were way too many occasions when the money they gave me wasn’t enough. Usually, they’d hand over the money and just start walking away with their purchases. I’d have to call them back, or in many instances have them stopped before they walked completely out of the store because they wouldn’t understand what I was saying to them. It broke my heart every time. So, that was my worst job. But it also prompted me to learn a bit of Spanish. :o)

  25. Maureen, you’re right about waitressing. In the right restaurant, the money can be good. My daughter would make $100 on a Sunday afternoon in a family restaurant and she stayed slim from all the walking. Since then, she’s turned into an awesome cook, and she credits her restaurant days for inspiring her interest and learning cooking tips.

  26. Okay, Charlene. I have to admit ignorance on Bunny Farms. I’m off to look that one up.

    Linda, Timex watches? I hope you wore magnifying glasses!

    Thanks for stopping by Cheryl! I’ve done telemarketing, too. Inbound, which is much better than Outbound.

  27. Since becoming a chef I have had my fill of rotten jobs. Paid peanuts to stand on my feet all day and make the most mundane and boring items. Have to get a serious career change.

  28. Wow! Fascinating post. I learned some things i had not known. My worst job was a tie between the job I did as a customer service rep which turned out to be lifting really heavy boxes all day and a cashier job where I had to run a register, stock shelves, and wait on customers with little or no help. The first one was horrrible because I injured my back and was fired the next day after injuring my back. The second was horrible because my lousy boss asked me to work until closing on my birthday because someone called in sick and then fired me at the end of the day.

  29. Pam- I think they’re called Bunny Ranches. I’m sooo naive, when I saw the signs in Nevada, I thought, “gee, they sure raise a lot of bunnies here.” Until I realized, “duh”, and I saw a Dateline or 20/20 expose on them on TV. Sorry, I was in a hurry when I wrote Bunny Farms.

  30. I think I have been pretty fortunate with my jobs. There has been something I liked about every job I have held. The most emotionally draining was working for a VA Medical Center and having to deal with people (my boss included) who cussed all the time. I am a fairly shy person and usually do not like confrontation, but I got to the point where I finally said “if you are going to talk like that, get out of my office”. I think my boss actually respected me even more after that — go figure.

    PS — I had to giggle when I read Horizontal Worker

  31. MY worst job must have been when I was about 14 or maybe just a little younger. This old gas station also sold antiques and he commissioned about 6 of us to clean the place out to make room for more stuff. Ok so here’s the thing out of my whole life even to this day I have not seen that place sell one antique. Any way we were all excited b/c we were going to get paid.The back room with all the antiques was FILTHY!!! I guarantee there was at least 25 years of dust all over everything! We had to make sure all the glass things were shiny and that it was spick and span back there. We also had to do inventory of the entire store..every little nail, screw and candy bar had to be counted. It was the most dirty, boring job I’ve ever done. Was it worth what we were paid? Yeah I guess so b/c growing up I didn’t get allowances b/c we just didn’t have extra money…would I do it again? Nah especially b/c all those antiques are still there with now 10 years of dust collected!

  32. Ellie, well, being a chef sounds rather glamorous to me. You probably throw great dinner parties, eh?

    Cherie, yeah, I’d be mad at the boss, too. Firing you on your birthday–sheesh!

    Thanks for clarifying, Char! And Buffy and Crystal, it’s great to hear from you!

  33. Oh, I tried to sell insurance, lasted about a month. As for the blog, fascinating stuff here! Is there any info on birth control or disease prevention from the era, or was that all just hit and miss…I did go to the prostitution museum in Virginia City…it was quite lame, did not learn/see anything scandalous LOL. But then, admission was only a dollar, I think. Ya get what ya pay for.

  34. Most of my books have a prostitute in them some how or another, just because they were a part of the west. This is a great post. When I visited my daughter in Ketchikan, AK I was fascinated by the “red light” district they had there until the Coast Guard moved in. I bought every book I could find on the subject and one day hope to write a book using some of that info.

    My worst job was working as a receptionist in a doctor’s office. I was young and he was a lecherous, disgusting man. The comments he made and the way his hands roamed, I quit after one month. It was the best job I’d had to that point pay wise, but it wasn’t worth it. And went to work in the toy department of a store right before Christmas!

  35. This is going to show my age – I made $1.10 for my first job. It was working for the high school counselors – clerical. An hour every day after school and then 8 hours on saturdays and then all summer. It made me feel like school lasted forever.

  36. okay – I guess I should clarify that that was $1.10 and hour lol. My mom tells me that’s how much she made for a day!!

  37. Hi Pam,

    I have SOILED DOVES in my research library. Interesting book, isn’t it?

    I’d have to say the lowest paying job (interesting enough, this could also be my highest paying job as well if you consider tips) I’ve ever had was a waitress position. The normal rate for waitstaff is $2.65 per hour! Of course, that’s just your base pay and you can’t depend on that. Tips are what you really depend on, however, you make on a day-to-day basis varies. There has been times that I’ve actually taken home a $2 paycheck after tips were taken out.

    As for the worst job I’ve had, I could go on and on…

  38. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article , but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

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