Sex workers helped build America. These women came to the Wild West/The Old West (whatever you wanna go with!) and smashed every expectation of womanhood.
They became business oligarchs, they built entire communities and forged their own independence.
It’s a one hell of a tale! But before we dive into it, lets super quickly knock out the basics:
How did the West come to be?
Well, around the mid 1800s there was a huge boom in the amount of land being built in the South West of America; most of this land was built for mining and as new sources for coal and metal mining were discovered, towns sprung up overnight to house the influx of workers that appeared to mine it.
Suddenly you had entire towns with 1000’s of men and maybe a dozen or so women. Now you don’t have to be good at maths to see that the ratio here is a little off.
Having spotted the er…supply and demand issue, business minded women start arriving in these towns and setting up shop as sex workers.
Soon these women were earning in one job, what they might otherwise earn in a week as a factory worker or clerk.
There were of course risks….a lot of risks…but in the Old West it was pretty much the same risk level as a working man had; communities, rules and law were still being worked out and murder, beating and at work incidents/deaths we’re sadly not rare hazards for any gender or line of work!
BUT the clients were many, the going was good and soon the cash was flowing!
So, women started opening their own brothels. This in turn led to women buying land, companies and eventually building business empires of their own.
Soon entire towns revolved around one damn good brothel. This wasn’t luck. The ladies running these brothels had business smarts for days. Seriously they could have smashed The Apprentice (and probably Donald Trump too…)
One of the best examples of this is Mattie Silks:
A small town girl, Mattie opened her first brothel at just 19; making her the youngest madam in America. She invested her profits back into the business, as well as growing her income and holdings by buying real estate and land.
Within a few years she was running one of Denvers most popular brothels, greeting patrons with a full on orchestra – because this wasn’t just sex…it was Silk sex, and it was classy as fuck.
But Mattie didn’t stop at having a kickass classy brothel chain and all of the cash. She also paid her staff a salary that made them some of the highest paid women in the country.
OK, so, these women had created businesses that made them some of the richest women in the country and bought tons of new income to the growing West. But is that really building America? Don’t you need stuff like, schools, hospitals and churches, as well as places to have sexy time?
And they did that too.
These women had made themselves pillars in their communities and you can bet your arse they were there when times were rough!
Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Diamond Jessie Hayman, opened her brothel doors to feed, clothe and shelter anyone that needed help. And Diamond Jessie was far from alone!
For example: Lou Graham, donated tons of money to build up Seattle’s schools and also saved countless businesses and banks during a period of depression. Anna Wilson’s will requested that her huge mansion be turned into Omaha’s first emergency hospital. And former slave turned influential brothel owner, Mary Ellen “Mammy” Pleasant, campaigned tirelessly for the de-segregation of streetcars in San Francisco.
These women were doing way more for their communities than just providing cash and a good time. They were building them up, and turning them for shit holes to sustainable home steads!
Now you best believe these communities didn’t forget the women that helped make them!
In 1890, Wyoming refused to become a US state, if it’s women were not allowed to keep the vote (which they had been granted in 1869) saying:
‘We will remain out of the Union one hundred years rather than come in without the women’
This was really interesting where can I find out more? I’d suggest checking out A Renegade History of the United States, by Thaddeus Russell (great name!), it has an amazing section on this.