Guest Blogger JOANNE SUNDELL Dishes on Prostitution in the Old West

I’m delighted to be a part of Petticoats & Pistols as a guest blogger this weekend! It’s like stepping right into the middle of all the action in the Old West, so “pucker up,” and “load up,” heh heh. Thank you to Karen Kay and Cheryl St. John and all of the wonderful writers in Petticoats & Pistols who’ve allowed me this platform so I might blog about my newest historical romance, THE PARLOR HOUSE DAUGHTER. You already know a great deal about prostitution in the Old West, but you might discover a few things here you didn’t know. Tune in and let’s have fun, finding out! (There IS something in it for you, heh heh . . . winning one of TWO hardcover giveaways!)  


If, in the mid-19th century, women traveling west didn’t happen to be married, they “happened” into the world of prostitution. How difficult it must have been for either path chosen, given the restrictions and dictates of the Victorian Era in America. It’s no wonder that moral women feared sex and intimacy and so-called “immoral women” benefited from such fears. Acceptable for men—the double standard being alive and well in the 19th century—it was common for men to frequent bordellos and parlor houses or to take on a mistress. Two of the most famous men in Colorado’s colorful, turbulent history, Horace Tabor and William Byers, were linked with rumors of having a mistress. More than rumor, Willam Byers’ mistress tried to shoot him on his front lawn in front of his wife, Elizabeth.  Horace Tabor fared better, marrying Baby Doe.


In Denver, the Queen City of the Plains, it was common for the legislature to let out early if a new parlor house was opening for business. Remnants of the old tunnel system leading from the state capital, used for such nefarious, pleasurable activities, are still in evidence today. This fact, however, is not what led me to write about the shadowy world of prostitution in historical Colorado in my latest Five Star-Gale release, THE PARLOR HOUSE DAUGHTER, but the fact that in 1880, along a six block stretch of what is today Market Street—over one thousand women “worked the line.”


I had to find out about these women! I had to find out how they survived violence and drugs and disease and melancholy. I needed to know the “how” of their survival. Call it the nurse in me, but I wanted chapter and verse on how a prostitute made it through her day; whether in a crib at the “end of the line” in some rugged mining camp, or in a fancy parlor house at the “top of the line.”  Until I involved myself in research for this book I never realized where the saying came from, “the end of the line.”


Another term that popped out of my research is the term, “hippie.” I discovered that the term likely comes from the fact that customers frequenting Hop Alley in Denver were led to a cot with a little table on which drug necessities were placed. A basin was provided as well. The customer would be placed on their “hip” and left alone. Placed on their side, often getting sick from the toxicity of the opium pill, the customer would often throw up in the basin. Placed so, the customer wouldn’t suffocate. Thus the term, “hippie.” As many of you likely know, there was a symbiotic relationship between prostitutes and the Chinese, each watching out for the other, each having a shared interest in their livelihood.


As many of you also know, most men loved to love a prostitute, and treated them with respect, even in the most bawdy and rugged mining towns. I must say, I was surprised to learn, however, that in the mining towns, on a Friday—pay day—it wasn’t unusual for one prostitute to turn 50 to 80 tricks! The men lined up outside, never taking their boots off (those rascals) once inside. In the lesser bordellos, and certainly the one room cribs, sheets were rarely changed, certainly not in between tricks. Prostitutes would place a rubber sheet or oilcloth over the bottom of their cot to keep their customers’ muddy boots from doing even more damage. There was little to no washing done in between customers. Imagine the disease transmission of the day!  Imagine, too, the level of fear and violence many women faced on a daily basis. It wasn’t an easy environment on any account.


Streetwalkers and those women relegated to cribs represented the “end of the line” for prostitutes, earning twenty-five to fifty cents a trick. These women were either too old, too ugly, cut up, diseased, or hooked on opium to secure a place in any of the higher-end brothels. Hurdy-Gurdy gals did not turn tricks, but rather, did take a “turn” on the dance floor with customers. Hurdy-Gurdy gals and prostitutes, in fact, hated each other. No friendly camaraderie here! Bartenders and professors (piano players) were revered by all the women, hurdy-gurdies and prostitutes. To catch the eye of a bartender or professor was a lucky day, indeed. To marry a bartender or professor was “the mother lode!”


Prostitutes who worked in fine parlor houses represented the “top of the line,” earning fifty dollars a customer, and usually only entertaining one customer a night. Their madam—who never missed a trick or detail about her “girls” or their guests—and any bouncers hired, protected them. They made good money but usually didn’t see much of it. Most went for clothes and monthly doctor exams and expenditures related to the up-keep of the house and their rooms and entertainment costs. A good house usually had ten to fifteen rooms for the “girls” located upstairs. Downstairs was decorated like a palace, with parlors and dance floors and mirrors and a fine piano … serving the best food and champagne the city could offer.


To address my initial statement as to how prostitutes survived during such tough times and under such conditions … the true answer is that many did not. The average age to enter the profession was fifteen, as this was usually when a girl started her cycle. Today it’s much earlier, but in the mid-19th century it was fifteen.


Many prostitutes stayed in the business until the age of thirty, give or take. If the girls were lucky enough to reach thirty, that is. You can imagine that in some of the lesser houses, and certainly in cribs or on the street, many of the women took their own lives due to severe melancholia. Often without the support of family and friends, and often alone during holidays, many ended their lives, swallowing a vial of opium. Violence was common, too, and many were killed, either by accident or on purpose. Disease afflicted many prostitutes at the end of the line, due to unsanitary conditions; not to mention lack of nourishment.


Two things about prostitution in Colorado’s colorful history surprised me. I didn’t realize there were so many levels of prostitution, and I never before realized that we all owe them a debt of gratitude for truly softening the West and bringing some degree of civility to an uncivil territory. These wonderful women are our true heritage here in Colorado. I say “hazzah” to Mattie Silks and Jenny Rogers in Denver and “hurrah” to “the lady on the barroom floor” in Central City!


I would love to know if any of you—if you could—would step back in time now, right onto the pages of THE PARLOR HOUSE DAUGHTER, and trade places with vulnerable, determined Rebecca Rose … and put your life at great risk, daring to fall in love with unreachable, aggravatingly handsome Morgan Larkspur? What has your research led you to discover about prostitution in the Old West? Were any of you like me, and thought all Legends in Lace were like “Miss Kitty” on Gunsmoke? Can any of you imagine how tough it had to have been to “work the line?”  Do any of you have questions re other aspects of prostitution? Brass check, anyone? heh heh


I appreciate so much the opportunity to guest host today. Petticoats and Pistols is such a prestigious, wonderful, informative blog, and I’m so happy to be included! I look forward to your comments. Let’s “hook up.” (term from the Civil War: “hookers”) 


Joanne Sundell



ISBN: 978-1-59414-722-7 (available on Amazon or on-line at any bookstore or call 1-800-877-4253. ext 8119)


“This is historical romance of a satisfying order.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“A classic western story of the good, the bad, and the ugly.”  BOOKLIST,,

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85 thoughts on “Guest Blogger JOANNE SUNDELL Dishes on Prostitution in the Old West”

  1. How interesting! The danger must have been exciting to start with but I am sure none of these ladies would want it for their daughters. This isn’t a topic I have ever researched but thinking about it I realized that I have enjoyed reading about it.
    I love the cover of your book. Goes to show you that the old saying ‘don’t judge a book by the cover’ really can be true because I expected an old west book about an overprotective mother. Looking forward to reading it.

  2. Fascinating! I have wondered about these gals. Living in the West, as I do, we have some “ghost towns” nearby with notorious districts attached to them. I knew they had it rough, but not thinking past that. You have opened my eyes and made me more curious about these poor ladies. Miss Kitty was a real queen compared to the real thing.
    The Mustang Ranch is really like a Palace compared to these ladies of the 1800’s.

  3. Joanne, I meant to ask about your dogs. They are beautiful! What breed are they? Plus I love the background of your picture. It reminds me of one of my favorite places in Colorado.

  4. Wow, I knew there were different levels, but I did not realize it was so extreme… what a drastic difference… Thanks for sharing such insight!

  5. I remember watching Gunsmoke when it started – and the other westerns – and thinking about how classy Miss Kitty and so many others were, not thinking about the prostitution angle. Who knew? WOW – how naive we were back in the 50s. Wonderful research – so intriguing.

  6. Hi Joanne!

    Welcome to P&P. We’re so delighted to have blog with us. And what an interesting subject.

    One of the neatest places I’ve visited was Cripple Creek, Colorado. They’ve restored a parlor house called The Old Homestead. It was the place to go if you had quite a bit of money. Pearl DeVere was the madam and she only employed six women that she called “boarders.” It was a very exclusive place. A prospective client had to submit a financial statement before he could gain admittance. And then it was by appointment only. There was no just dropping in. Of course since Cripple Creek sat in the midst of gold mines, there was no shortage of customers. But they still had the “row” of cribs where the lesser fallen women lived. I think all towns in the West had their parlor houses and crib rows. After all, it’s the oldest profession. lol

    I love the cover of your book! It hooked me with that back shot of the dress. Great title too. There’s something about “The Parlor House Daughter” that stimulates my imagination and curiosity. I want to know more.

    Hope you enjoy your stay with us and come back soon.


  8. I am in the medical field and was curious about one thing. When a prostitue contracted a STD, where would she receive treatment and also what were the treatments back in those days?

  9. HI Joanne,
    It’s great to have you here at Petticoats. I hope your power comes back on soon!
    Great blog today. I did two books about prostitutes and enjoyed your research. A hard life for women to be sure.

  10. Hi everyone!

    I’m back up and running now with “power” in the Colorado Rockies! Thank you to my daughter, “Doc Zoe,” for letting you know about our outage here this morning. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I discovered I couldn’t participate in the Wildflower Junction today … so I called my daughter instead.

    Thank you, indeed, for your understanding here.

    I hope the power holds. If not, I’m hitting the merlot early!!!


  11. Hi, Connie!

    Thanks so much for stopping in and commenting! As far as mothers and daughters and prostitutes and daughters … I was shocked to discover cases where some prostitutes/madams actually set their own daughters up in “the business” at a very early age. In one case a mother started all three of her daughters down the road to the end of line as early as 12 years old. The girls learned to drink, cuss, and do drugs very early in life. How sad.

    My huskies are my babies, Zellie and Xander. This pic was taken out on one of the many trails we cover in warmer weather, out back of our house in Grand County, Colorado.

    How nice of you to stop by this morning, Linda!!!

    My best,


  12. Hi, Mary,

    So happy you braved the “ghosts” of times past here in the Old West, Colorado mining towns, especially. Many of these stalwart women are still roaming their old parlor houses, bordellos, and cribs . . . waiting for their next “customer.” The Legends in Lace will forever live in our hearts and minds, I believe. Honestly, I don’t know how some of them managed to get through their days, much less their nights. It was so easy to accidently take too much opium or get shot or knifed, accidently or on purpose. In Denver, there was actually a type of Jack the Ripper scare around the turn of the century, sending many of Denver’s prostitutes out of town.

    At least Miss Kitty had the marshall …

    I appreciate your comments,


  13. Connie,

    I hope you forgive my typo, in calling you “Linda” at the close of my response to you. I’ll try to “get it right” the next time. You’re welcome to call me anything you want, just keep it clean, tee hee.


  14. Hi, Colleen!

    Yes, I was surprised myself, at the levels of prostitution, and the meaning of Top of the Line and End/Bottom of the Line. Nor did I realize before that hurdy-gurdy gals and dancers didn’t get along at all well with prostitutes and they “really” hated their co-horts who took anyone upstairs after a dance, for a little extra money. I’m finding that the more I learn, the more I learn how much I don’t know! I researched what I needed to for my book, but there’s oh so much more to find out.

    I do think that to have been relegated to a “crib” and then (if you were lucky enough to still be alive) to the streets … had to have been the saddest way to leave this life. Hope they all went to a better one.

    Thanks for stopping by today,


  15. Hi, Teresa!

    Thanks so much for giving me a shout-out. I really appreciate your stopping by. Blogging is new to me and it heartens me when folks actually “do” stop by and actually “do” comment!

    All the best,


  16. Hey there, Karen!

    I, too, watched Miss Kitty and the Marshall, thinking it all quite the blissful existence for them both. I appreciate your comments about my research. I know there are other writers here who have much better research about prositution in the Old West under their belts, and so I appreciate your comments all the more.

    When Gunsmoke came along, wasn’t that about the same time as the Brady Bunch? How could we think about the dark underside of anything in life with Marcia, Marcia, Marcia on the tele!

    I thought about prostitution before but never realized the life span of the average whore was so short. Heck, now that I think about it, there were soooo many other ways to die in the mid-1800’s, from typhus or cholora or dysentery, much less all the many things that could take a prostitute’s life before her time.

    I hope the gals “working the line” today are faring better.

    Have a great rest of your day,


  17. HI Joanne…nice to have you here today!

    I’ve read a few books that have had prostitutes as some of the secondary characters, but none where we get to really see into their lives!

    I actually never knew there was such in depth history behind prostitution and it’s actually quite sad when you start to really think about it!

    Those poor women-they had no other choice really and when you have no choice-that’s when you get taken advantage of and mistreated…I mean-what are you going to do about it?

    I hope to get to read your book soon..I’ll certainly add it to my “to be read” list!

    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

  18. Hi Joanne! Fascinating blog! I never realized there were such extreme levels of prostitution. What a difference! Those poor women—it makes me sad to think of them. But, like others have said, they didn’t have much of a choice. What were they to do? Thank you for posting today and giving us all such insight into this topic.

  19. Hi back at ya, Linda!

    Isn’t Cripple Creek fascinating? I visited there for the first time last summer and was “hooked” immediately on the locale and the history. I believe you pass through Victorville (Victor), Colorado before you get to Cripple Creek, and what surprised me the most was the difficult access and the altitude. I can’t imagine travelling around during those days with any kind of ease. The fact that some of these old Colorado mining towns once boomed and overflowed with miners is amazing to me. Seems like it would take a lot of prostitutes and miners a lifetime to even travel there!

    Yes, I agree. The Old Homestead is legend in Colorado. If I’m not mistaken Cripple Creek is touted as one of the most haunted places in Colorado. There are accounts, as recently as 2005 of sighting maybe even Pearl Devere, herself, turning on lights upstairs. I’ve heard that all the townsfolks really liked her and mourned her death openly. I love all of this and believe it, too!

    Oh, the dogs in my pic are my venerable 10 year old huskies, Zellie and Xander. They don’t have any wolf in them but you “can” get a husky-wolf mix in Colorado if you dare. As I’ve heard it, sled-dog racers are breeding huskies with wolves to get faster dogs. I could be very wrong here. Any sled-doggers, feel free to correct me. As for pets, any degree of wolf in a dog is dangerous as you never know when the “wild” in them will surface. I love huskies and have had them for over 20 years up here in the mountains. They’re a loyal, dependable, lovable breed. Besides, the older I get, it’s wonderful when they pull me up hills. Less work, tee hee.

    Thank you so much for commenting and thank you for allowing me this opportunity to blog with you.

    Happy Saturday!


  20. Hey Joanne, I haven’t read the other posts yet, but your post is fascinating.

    I read a book a couple years ago that really opened my eyes to the prostitue situ in the West. I can’t remember the title but it contained the following:
    – at one point, the heroine cut her hair shoulder length and dyed it black with something that made it hard and wirey
    – she stood over a pot and doused her privates with carbolic acid after each trick
    – she had her own private room and then a working room where she entertained the men
    – she had a cat

    Does anyone remember this book?

  21. Hey there, Chad!

    If only “you” were around to help these gals in the good old days of life on the line! They might have survived longer and would certainly have been more healthy!

    If you worked in a top parlor house, the madam would ensure that you received regular medical check-ups. Also, in a top house, the madam would carefully instruct “her girls” to let her know if any of their customers had any festering sores or suspicious areas, et al. You can imagine that this was a touchy subject as many of the clientele` in the top houses were the wealthy and elite. No madam wanted anything bad ever said about her house that might thwart customers from coming back. But…no madam wanted any of her girls “burned,” either.

    If a prostitute contracted syphilis she’d be labeled as “burned.” Once burned, it was hard, I’m sure, to get decent work (at least according to brothel and bordello standards). I don’t think I came across a specific treatment, per se, for syphillis. I’m not sure there was one. I know that carbolic acid was used for many things, including douching to prevent pregnancy. So was lysol … ouch. Opium seemed the drug of choice for everything else. You’ve raised a good question and I’m going to dive into research and see if I can come up with an accurage answer for you.

    I do know that many of the prostitutes relegated to the End of the Line due to age or illness or alcohol and/or drug addiction, had syphillis, too … one more problem that surely helped put them into an early grave.

    I don’t know if you ever caught the HBO series, DEADWOOD? It was set in 1876 Deadwood and my oh my … the characters and set seemed ever so true to what conditions must have been like back in the 1880 West. Talk about whores with festering sores!!!

    Thank you for stopping by today. My very best to you, sir,


  22. I have to give a big shout-out here to my baby girl, Doc Zoe, for coming to my rescue this morning and posting my power outage issue. In my first historical romance, MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER, I based my heroine on Zoe-Esther Zundelevich which just happens to be my daughter’s Hebrew name. My heroine in MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER, set in 1867 Colorado, Doc Zoe, was a Jewess, single, and a physician … all no-no’s in the Old West. Today’s Doc Zoe is a Jewess, single, a physician, and an army captain. All yes-yes’s in today’s West!


    Your Mama

  23. That was such an interesting post. I had no idea what end of the line meant until I read it. It makes me very grateful for the life I’ve lead.

  24. Hi, Melissa!

    Yes, it’s very sad, the path many of these women were forced to take in life. There is an “up” side to the reputation of prostitutes, however. In particular, they were known for their generosity, the madams especially. Often the prostitutes from the better houses in town would come to the rescue when someone in town was in need. Madams would openly donate money and time and stop by when someone was sick. There was a double, if not triple standard back then, where on the one hand the “proper townsfolk” would scoff at whores, yet on the other hand they would, in fact, take the helping hand offered to them by whores when in need.

    Some women did escape the line (still alive) and managed to marry and go on to live normal lives. Certainly some of the noted madams did very, very well in life as they were entrepaneurs and very smart business women.

    It’s almost Christmas time now and I do think that HAD to be a very difficult time for most prostitutes. Imagine having no friends, no family, no comforts of home … during this usually joyous time. I daresay many a prostitute must have fallen into melancholy during December and swallowed a whole vial of opium.

    It’s an interesting subject to me and to you. We’re kindred spirits, I think.

    Happy Holidays to you,


  25. Yep, got my power back, Charlene! Thank goodness. A few years ago the power was out up here in the Rockies for a week. Oy vey! Needless to say it was a return to the Old Frontier days of candles and fetching water and getting the fire place going. A good wood supply is ever useful, even in today’s “gas fireplace” world. I was a little nervous about my blog appearance anyway (I’m new at this) and then to have the power go out this morning … I’m just so glad all of you have understanding hearts!

    With two books on this subject you are the resident expert on this subject, I’m sure. My heroine in THE PARLOR HOUSE DAUGHTER is born to a prostitute in a crib in the mining town of Nevadaville/Nevada City in 1867, Colorado Territory. The town was home to over 6,000 miners then and today is but a whisper in time, right above today’s Blackhawk and Central City. There are supposed “cribs” still open today in parts of Colorado. I gotta find `em and pay a visit! Too much fun.

    Thanks so much, Charlene, for inviting me to blog with you today.

    My best,


  26. Hi, Margie!

    Yep, tough life for certain. I must say, it didn’t hearten me one whit to discover that some husbands coming west literally “dumped” their wives once out here. Of course these women had no way to earn a living and ended up in prostitution. I used to think, too, that every woman coming west could be a teacher and have since discovered that there were not that many teaching jobs open.

    When a prostitute had a child … that had to be rough, rough, rough! Your landlord or pimp or madam didn’t care about you at all unless you were on “your back” working for them. Then, if a prostitute was lucky enough to see her baby to term and have her baby and actually find a way to take care of her child for a time and provide for him or her … the child could grow up and shun you for all your efforts at motherhood. That had to be horrible, too.

    On a happier note … women have come a long way today and have a few more options in the workplace besides prostitution! Salute`

    Happy Holidays!


  27. Darn it, Anita Mae … I don’t remember the book you mentioned. If you can, I’d love you to post the title this weekend. Sounds very interesting.

    In a crib, sometimes there were two rooms. One would be the room with a cot and a trunk (whores always kept their things in a trunk) and the other room would be a little kitchen of some sort and a back door. From what I read, in many cribs there was little washing in between customers and no changing of the sheets. Ripe for disease transmission, of course. Your heroine sounds educated and sounds like she knew to try to keep clean with carbolic acid. That seems to be the disinfectant of choice in the 1800’s. The germ theory was just coming down the pike, but not in time to help out many of these women.

    Some women used dye and goodness knows what else on their hair and their bodies! The term “painted ladies” of course comes from rouge, et al, but I’m sure women did more to themselves than that.

    In brothels, a cut above cribs, a prostitute might have had two rooms as you referenced. It still all sounds difficult at best.

    I’m so happy you stopped by to chat.


  28. Hi Joanne, its nice to see you here. First off let me say I love your books, their great. Also I loved you blog today, very interesting facts. I guess I never thought about that much prostitution going on way back when, but I guess I should have know from the books I read and the movies we see. It was always there, I just didn’t think much about it.

  29. Hi, Cheryl!

    I know … can you believe it? 50 to 80 tricks in one day! On payday, usually Fridays, the miners would line up and wait their turn. Still didn’t take their boots off I hear, those rascals!!! It sounds like an absolute nightmare to me. Not worth it for the two bits they earned per customer. The oilcloth or piece of linoleum placed at the foot of t whore’s bed was to keep the bed clean from the muddy boots!!!

    I read where, in a hurdy-gurdy, sometimes the miners would be so “randy” they’d start having sex with their dancer on the floor in front of one and all. This wasn’t acceptable even then … to “go to it” on the dance floor, much less upstairs with a hurdy-gurdy gal. This makes for an interesting visual, does it not?

    I’m so happy for this opportunity on your wonderful blog, Cheryl!

    Happy Holidays!!!


  30. I agree, Maureen. We women don’t have to go down that road today unless we want to. At least health care is available to today’s Women of the Row (to some I hope). I’m betting it’s still a dangerous vocation.

    Back in the 1800s women had little choice and many ended up selling their bodies until they couldn’t anymore. If there is an upside here, I’d like to think that some made it out of the profession in a timely manner.

    Thanks for commenting!


  31. OK, “Quilt Lady,” I need more hints. I know several crafty folks and you could be one of them. The question is … which one, tee hee!

    Remind me, how much did I agree to pay you to say you love my books? Call me off-line and we’ll keep it just between us.

    Here in Colorado, so many fascinating women make up our colorful history. Not all of them had a happy ending but some did. I loved reading that in Denver, when a new brothel opened, the state legislature would let out early so all could frequent the new house. Those were the days I suppose.

    Quilt me in!



  32. Wonderful blog post, Joanne! So fascinating. I haven’t read much about the subject. Although I’ve read a little about Laura Evans, the Salida Madam. And I’d love to know more about the tunnels and the Colorado legislature. That’s amazing! Thanks again for this informative post.

  33. I did not realize there were levels of prostitution.
    I’ looking forward to reading The Parlor House Daughter.

  34. OMG! 50-80 “tricks” in one day?!!! I quote Cheryl with a shocked look upon my face.

    My Grandmother always said you could respect a woman who got paid for it instead of giving it away (lol). She had a lot of sayings.

  35. Up in Canada here, we used to have a $2.00 bill that was in common use until the twooney coin came out. Well, at least when I lived in Ontario, the $2 bill was in common use.

    But when we moved to Alberta in the early 80’s however, they were frowned upon. I didn’t understand it. When I offered it in payment, I’d get a derisive look and a pause before it was taken. I mean, money is money and I’d get them when I rec’d money from the bank teller so why not use them?

    When I offered it to a nice senior one time, however, she leaned over and whispered that it wasn’t respectful to use them. What? Apparently, out west in the earlier years, $2 was the price of a trick.

    So by offering a woman a $2 bill meant…

  36. I think I’ve solved the Quilt Lady mystery! Bettcha you’re the wonderful, talented friend who crafted the Manual Sign Language quilt to help showcase my 2nd book, A…MY NAME’S AMELIA!!! Very soon the quilt will be sent to the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, as promised. The school was so wonderful in helping me with my research.

    Thank you, Quilt Lady!!!



  37. Hey there, Gayle!

    Two great resources, of course, are Soiled Doves by Anne Seagraves and Our Ladies of the Tenderloin by Linda Wommack. They mention Laura Evans and many of the infamous Legends in Lace.

    Those tunnels ARE a hoot in Denver. When I got married, I had my reception at the Navarre (now gone) which was right across from the state capitol in Colorado. The Navarre was the last brothel in Denver. Tunnels went right to it!

    Hey, thank YOU, Gayle, for stopping by!

    Happy Happy …


  38. Estella,

    It makes me wonder today, what the levels are, too? Wonder how much has changed and has not? Maybe I’ll work on this next time in Vegas and try to find out. A book for modern times, perhaps???

    Thank you so much for blogging with me,


  39. This is such a fascinating topic. Women sure have come a long way and then again maybe not. This is still a much larger problem than people really know about. Now it’s not only women, but men and most unfortunately, children too. It’s so sad what humans are capable of.


  40. Sherry,

    I’m with you and Cheryl on the agog and aghast part re the number of tricks turned by these painted ladies!!! I’d certainly try to jockey for position at the Top of the Line and get my $30 to $50 per customer per night!!!

    I’m with your Grandmother. Wise indeed.



  41. Hey Joanne:

    I literally cannot wait to read The Parlor House Daughter. When I was writing Chances, I did a lot of research on the Row in Denver (including Anne Seagraves’ works and Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery by Anne M. Butler) and chose to include Mattie Silks and her girls in the book. There were so many fascinating deatails that it was tough to know where to start! I just knew I had to have my conservative hero encounter them.

    I remember my first historic walking tour of downtown Denver and my thoughts about the Row and what a wonderful setting it would make for a novel. I am so intrigued to get your “take”.

    Huzzah to you and the wonderful coments and reviews thus far! I can’t wait to have your book in hand.

    Pamela Nowak
    CHANCES, 1/08
    CHOICES, 9/09
    Five Star Expressions

  42. Hi, Joanne! What a fascinating and eye-opening post! I haven’t read that much about this subject. Thank you for the information. You’ve done an amazing amount of research!

  43. Anita Mae … I love the history and meaning behind the $2 bill! That might even trump “the brass check!”

    Thank you sooo much for sharing, and all the way from Canada. I’ve only been to Whitehorse and would dearly love to see more of Canada. Perhaps some day …

    Aya (is that how it’s spelled???)


  44. Hi Deidre,

    I agree that problems still exist today for some women and men and even more unfortunately, for children. All of the talk in the news lately about sex trafficking … it’s hard for me to process this. I know that Chinese women were brought over to this country in the 1800’s and led even more miserable lives than the prostitutes already here. In cages and that sort of thing.

    Maybe genetically the “bad parts” in us all will die out. We can only hope.

    Thanks so much for stopping by,


  45. Hey there, Miss Pamela!

    I’m so happy for your visit here. I’d like everyone to know that Pam is one of Five Star-Gale’s STARS, her debut novel being on BOOKLIST’S Top 10 list this past year. Congratulations again, Pam!!!

    You’re the research go-to girl, for sure! I want to add Ladies of the Tenderloin by Linda Wommack to your list. A wonderful resource, too. My heroine is born in a crib in Nevadaville, Colorado Territory in 1867 and her story leads her to The Row in Denver. I’ll be nail-biting, waiting for your opinion.

    Heck, I can’t wait to get my hands on CHOICES!

    Have a wonderful holiday down there in the big city!



  46. Hey there, Deborah!

    Thanks for the research compliment. It goes right to my historical-romance-writing heart! Music to my ears. As you can see from some of the other posts, there are other authors who’ve researched the subject, likely better than moi`.

    Any historical is a research labor of love. I’m particularly drawn to this story and this subject because prostitution was so prevalent in the Old West, and many of these women are our heritage. Thought I needed to find out what makes them tick and how they managed to survive. At the end of the day they have my absolute respect. I would like to believe I wouldn’t have shunned them if they’d walked down the street past me and that I would have waved back, if one of the Ladies waved to me from their fancy carriage, advertising in the afternoon sunshine along 14th street in 1880 Denver.

    Though prostitutes often engaged in “cat-fights” they held The Line together in some things, and were often more than generous to those in town who didn’t deserve it. Besides telling a love story in my latest book, I wanted to tell the story of how some of the Women of the Row actually managed to survive in such a harsh world.

    Thanks so much for your comment,


  47. Wow, that was enlightening. Most of it sounds pretty horrid. Interesting how hippie came about – yuk. I probably would have gone the route of a farmer’s wife and a lot of them probably died early too with different difficulties.

  48. Joanne

    I hate it when I do stuff like that, too. But, sometimes, there’s just too much going on inside my head.

    When you were doing research, did you come across many cities that had a House of Mirrors? So far, I’ve found the one in Denver and one in Cheyenne, both dating from the same era. Made me wonder if it was a “fad” of sorts in the 1880s.


  49. Wow, that was something I hadn’t thought much about at all–it sounds like a pretty harsh life for “soiled doves,” but it sounds in keeping with life in general–it definitely wasn’t an easy time to live! Sounds like some of the vocabulary has outlived its origins!

  50. I have enjoyed this interview. I remember from high school history class the women that followed General Hookers Union army also recieved the name Hookers. Its amazes me how women found ways to survive in such auster environments.

  51. Wow I learned a lot today about how it was, I can’t believe 50 to 80 tricks in one night. There is so many diseases out there it is wonder there weren’t more deaths. I hope this doesn’t still go on but I had heard of a place in Las Vegas that has a few of these places.
    The cover of your book looks very good can’t wait to read it, after reading your blog today I really am anxious to get it.

  52. Truly amazing and interesting information. What a fascinating time frame full of rich history and strong women. I couldn’t imagine enduring even half of what these women had to go through.I am sure you had to research a lot in order to convey a true historic background for The Parlor House Daughter. From what you have written in the above blog you can bet that I am going to get a copy. Really looking forward to reading it. Congratulations on what looks to be another great book!

  53. Your guest spot is fun reading, Joanne. I kept comparing your information with what I’d seen on the miniseries, “Deadwood.” In the series, the interaction that surprised me most was the acceptance of the proper women and the prostitutes, as well as the women who were no better than they had to be. I loved that “Deadwood” gave us every nuance of social style instead of just the two extremes that Hollywood likes to throw at us–the virgin or whore allegory. I wonder how the truth of the old West would have played out without Hollywood’s influence.

    I once heard a fellow writer from Wyoming talk about how local girls (I think, her aunt included) earned their college money in the 40s-60s by “working the miners” (and I don’t think she meant with a pick and shovel.) Apparently prostitution was a community business in a cash-poor economy. When the gals later finished school and got married, bygones were left as bygones, just as they are today.

    And then there were the Eastern school teachers who rode the stages west each summer to “work the mineers” until school began again in the Fall. Hmmmm!

    Great topic, Joanne

  54. Wow, that was such an interesting post, Joanne! I feel so badly for the women that had to enter into prostitution out of desperation, which I figure was most of them. I can’t imagine how dangerous it was, especially under those circumstances. I’m so thankful that there are so many more opportunities for women now. I can imagine that any one of those women would have had a story to tell! I look forward to reading THE PARLOR HOUSE DAUGHTER. It looks like a great story!

  55. Hey Joanne – I tried googling for that book about the soiled dove I’d mentioned earlier but no such luck since I don’t remember the title.

    I might still have it with my books in the sunroom but it’s cold out there with only plastic sheeting over the screens.

    The temp at this moment is -45C/-49F so it’s darn cold out there!!!

    I want to snuggle down and bake but after church is the Christmas program practice and then a 45 min drive to another city where kids have a Christmas party they’ve been truly waiting for. sigh

  56. Anita:

    Was the book FORGIVING by LaVyrle Spencer? Her book was set in Deadwood and it was the sister of the heroine who was the prostitute. The heroine is a newspaper editor. The sister ended up in prostitution because her father sexually abused her. Ring any bells?

    Pamela Nowak

  57. Joanne! (big wave!) What an awesome weekend you’re having with us here in Wildflower Junction! Your blog has fascinated all of us–and the Fillies truly appeciate you giving your weekend while facing rather difficult odds. Thank you!


    HI EVERYONE! I must profusely apologize for my computer ills this weekend. As if it wasn’t enough of an issue to have the power go out for a good chunk of the day yesterday, last night my computer went “all the way south!” Can we say Murphy’s Law, anyone?

    Living in the mountains, although snowing and gorgeous this morning (for skiers!), there’s no ease in Internet access. I finally found a “friend in the storm” who agreed to let me in and let me use her computer this morning. Our local library opens this afternoon, then I hope to be there. YOU GUYS ARE ALL GREAT FOR PUTTING UP WITH ME THIS WEEKEND. SURE HOPE I DON’T WEAR OUT MY WELCOME AT THE WILDFLOWER JUNCTION!

    I’m so happy that you’re tuning in and so very grateful for your patience and understanding!!!


  59. Hi Jeanne,

    I’m not sure which fared better, but you’re probably right in choosing to be a farmer’s wife. I think it’s so interesting that a lot of women coming west ended up actually being “liberated” in the sense that their husbands were out in the fields working or away working, and women had to learn their jobs and do them AND their own chores! Not sure there would be enough lotion in the West to keep feminine hands soft.

    Thank you so much for commenting,


  60. Hi, Fedora!

    I love your name!!! I agree that living in the Old West couldn’t have been easy on any front, really. When you factor in all of the medical issues one could contract … it’s pretty overwhelming. For my second book I was researching ranching in Colorado Springs, circa 1860, and some of the letters I read opened my eyes to the fact that “most days, most people woke up not feeling very well.” They just dealt with things and went on with their day. I’m sure the life span was shorter.

    So happy you stopped in,


  61. Hi, Nancy!

    It just so happens (heh heh) that my next book(s) are set in Civil War, Virginia and my heroine fought in the war. Women fought on both sides, although in disguise. Times were tough for “all” then “all the way around.”

    I do love to learn the origin of words and meanings and think the term “hooker” is interesting to learn, indeed.

    Thanks for sharing this!


  62. Brenda,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m not privy to what’s going on today but there “must” be issues still in this difficult “oldest profession.”

    I love my cover, too. She IS the Parlor House Daughter!

    Happy Holidays!


  63. Dear Rebecca,

    Needless to say, you’re my heroine in THE PARLOR HOUSE DAUGHTER! You’ve a lovely name and I, for one, appreciate it to the bottom of my heart, your lovely comments.

    Happy Happy …


  64. Hi, Anne!

    How wonderful that you stopped in … one of THE BEST in Women Writing the West! I’m honored and I thank you. You, like Pam Nowak, would be a wealth of information. How much do you charge for your research, tee hee. There’s so much to learn, is there not?

    I loved the series DEADWOOD. My husband and I never missed an episode. It was all “out there” with little hidden under any Victorian Era sheets. To me, it was “dead on” in it’s portrayal of the different roles women played at the time. I loved Calamity Jane, especially. I believe she was just like that.

    Anne, thanks for stopping in and much continued success to you!!!

    All the best,


  65. Hey there, Zara!

    Another wonderful name!!!

    If you do have occasion to read THE PARLOR HOUSE DAUGHTER, I’d love your opinion. As you can see from some of the posts here, there are wonderful, talented writers commenting who are experts on the Old West. What a great Wild Bunch, I say!

    Thanks for stopping in,


  66. Pam,

    It is I who thank you for putting up with me this weekend. I can’t seem to keep “my horses in any kind of row!” I hope you will remember my blog experience at the Wildflower Junction as a step back in time to frontier days. As I look out of my friend’s window onto the snowy landscape … it’s easily 1880, Colorado!!!

    I hope to be checking in at the local library later today but after that, I fear I won’t have internet access until I get my computer fixed. I’m taking it to the “local doc” this afternoon. Geez, sure hope the patient lives!

    You’re the best to invite me and to be so understanding. Here in Colorado we love our wildflowers and now we “really love Wildflower Junction!”

    Have a wonderful rest of your day!!!


  67. JoAnne,

    I am so addicted to your books, I was wondering if you had any works in progress for me to read after “The Parlor House Daughter”?

  68. Hi Lori!

    I’m so happy “you’re happy” with my cover. I love the vintage look. I also love the fact that it’s a view from her back … more mystery there perhaps.

    Thanks so much for stopping by. I know folks are super busy now which makes me appreciate your posting all the more.

    Merry, Merry …


  69. Hi Chad!

    It just so happens (heh heh) that my next release is MEGGIE’S REMAINS~A Romance to Die For, out next July from Five Star-Gale. There just might be an ARC coming your way for being so nice and representing “heroes all” here on http://www.petticoatsandpistols! You’re what romance is all about for our wonderful heroines!

    It also … just so happens … that my WIP is a two part series set in Civil War, Virginia. The title of the first is THE QUAKER AND THE CONFEDERATE~Hearts Divided, while the title of the second is THE QUAKER AND THE CONFEDERATE~Hearts Persuaded. This has been tricky for me as I’ve never written a series. Tune in tomorrow …

    Thank you so much for stopping by. You’re OUR KIND OF HERO!

    Merry, Merry,


  70. Hi, Joanne!

    I read about “Parlor House Daughter” on the listserv for Women Writing the West. I am writing a novel set in Cripple Creek, and part of it is set in a parlor house. Its working title is “Golden Mountain.”

    I am glad you made it to Cripple Creek. The parlor house museum — the Old Homestead — is a treasure. I joined the Cripple Creek District Museum after visiting there and seeing peeling paint outside. They have a rich history but a slim budget.

    I live near L.A. and have no connection to Colorado — I’m just in love with the Old West.

    I am new to blogs, as you said you are. (It took me all day to write a comment on your fine guest blog.) Your guest blog was very interesting and well done.

    I see I am too late to win a copy of “Parlor House Daughter.” I guess I’ll buy one.

  71. Joanne, its a joy meeting you and hearing about your book! I love my favorite authors as well as new to me authors! (Then many become my favorites too). One thing I love about this blog is the wealth of info I’ve gotten from the post about the various things historical. Alot I didn’t know about with prostitution in the old west! Most I knew of it was from reading in my romance books either when its mentioned or part of the story. This was all totally wonderful to read about. For sure too putting your book on my wishlist! Again thanks for the great info!

  72. Pamela, “Was the book FORGIVING by LaVyrle Spencer? you might be onto it.

    I had actually thought it was LaVyrle, so I did an amazon search and came up with that but didn’t mention it because I don’t remember the sister…only the prostitute and her cat.

    I think I’ll email Joanne anyway and let her know you ‘found’ it. Thanks.

  73. Hi, Pam T!

    Hey, you have a connection to Colorado now … me! I’m so excited about your book and “your” research. The mining towns in Colorado trigger our romantic imaginations, do they not? Cripple Creek and Victor were so hard to access, it boggles my mind!!!

    If you buy my book, I’ll buy yours, tee hee!

    I’m so happy for this opportunity to have blogged with PetticoatsAndPistols. I was introduced to this site by the wonderful and very, very nice Karen Kay, one of the hosts. She’s THE expert on Native American Romance!!!

    I wish you much success with your WIP. Maybe we’ll see each other at next year’s WWW conference. Harriet Rochlin (I love her for so many reasons, not just because she’s an incredible writer) is organizing the conference, in the LA area. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee or a chardonnay … whatever you prefer.

    Happy Holidays,


  74. Hey there, Caffey!

    What a lovely post. Thank you. Sorry you missed out on the giveaway, darn it. I do run contests on my site and am just about to draw from the Harry Potter Sorting Hat to pick the winner of my holiday contest.

    My books are available on amazon and there’s no charge for shipping. Also in many libraries. In Denver, the Tattered Cover carries them, otherwise they are online at any bookstore. I’d love for you to go to my site, and sign up for my Newsletter and perhaps win the next contest draw.

    It’s quite the compliment that you appreciated my research for this book. Thank you so much. Warms my heart.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours!!!


  75. Hi, Joanne!

    So nice to hear from you. I will be sure to be at the L.A. Conference. I am helping Harriet with it now. I’ll look for you! I will buy your book, too. I’d love to read it.

    I tried to go back and read your post about Cripple Creek. I think you went by way of Florence, didn’t you? We went to Cripple Creek through Divide. It wasn’t a scary drive. It’s eighteen miles from Divide to Cripple Creek. I think it is about thirty miles from Florence to Cripple Creek.

    Anyway, Happy Holidays!

  76. Hi,
    I’m a little late getting in on the “action,” but just wanted to congratulate you and say “good job.” Very interesting article and your book sounds fascinating!
    author, Cowgirl Dreams

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