Title: Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West
Author: Anne Seagraves
Length: 175 pages
Discover the fascinating yet grey world of prostitution and the women who participated in the world’s oldest profession. Illustrated throughout with rare historical photographs of women like Molly b’Dam, Lil’ Lovell, and Mattie Silks. This strong book provides touching insight into the lives of the ladies of the night, from pampered courtesans of the wealthy to enslaved Chinese girls.
Soiled Doves was one of my souvenirs from Death Valley. The moment that I discovered that this book existed, I knew that I had to have it. Still, it took me a day or two to really get myself to the point where I paid the $13 for it. After completing the book, however, I am very glad that I did!
Prostitution is a part of our history. It’s not called “the world’s oldest profession” for kicks and giggles. Regardless, prostitution is something that we, as a society, shun and look down upon. For the most part, it’s easier to pass judgment upon the occupation and not pause to give thought to the women who have lived it. Seagraves ventures to shed some light on the history and experiences of these women, specifically in the Western United States, during the westward expansion.
This book is fascinating in that Seagraves provides general historical information about the red light districts, the varying levels of brothels, as well as more in-depth portraits about individual women – some of which are backed up with newspaper article excerpts and photographs.
Seagraves is obviously dedicated to the history of women (specifically in the West) and has written numerous books on the topic. I know that I will most definitely be checking those titles out – though, I don’t know if I can wait until our next vacation out west!