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Literature

Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West (2003)

Soiled Doves

In Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West, Anne Seagraves argues, “The ‘soiled doves’ and red light districts were as much a part of the early West as the piles of mine tailings, canvas shacks and garish saloons that dotted the landscape. These ambitious ladies were caught up in the Soiled Dovesexcitement of the frontier and the high demand for their professional services”. Working within the gray market, these sex workers were not always ostracized and many “spread a silken web of good deeds that sparkled in the wilderness. They contributed to the local charities, hospitals and churches and were the first to lend a hand during a disaster, or offer assistance to the survivors”. In this, Seagraves works to recover the narratives of these women whose experiences challenge the romanticized view of the West or of pioneer settlement, drawing upon the women’s own diaries, newspaper accounts, contemporary publications, and even the family histories of their descendants to portray them as three-dimensional individuals who contributed to the character of the West. Seagraves draws upon some other books with citations for those interested in reading more, but several of her stories and photographs have not previously appeared in print. While not up to the standards of pure academic history, this serves as a good introductory read for those with a casual interest in history and, most importantly, can encourage further reading. Soiled Doves will appeal to those interested both in the history of the American West and those interested in women’s history.

Discover the fascinating yet grey world of prostitution and the women who participated in the world’s oldest profession. Illustrated throughout with rare historical photos of women like Molly b’ Dam, Lil’ Lovell, and Mattic Silks. Soiled Doves will appeal to those interested both in the history of the American West and those interested in women’s history

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