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Prostitution, Polygamy, and Power: Salt Lake City, 1847-1918 Hardcover – September 5, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; First Edition edition (September 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 025202768X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252027680
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,497,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Professor Jeffrey Nichols has adeptly told this important and long-overdue history. His definitive history of Salt Lake prostitution belongs alongside the works of Anne Butler, Paula Petrik, and Mary Murphy." Montana, the Magazine of Western History

Book Description

After the transcontinental railroad opened Utah to large-scale emigration and market capitalism, hundreds of women in Salt Lake City began to sell sex for a living, and a few earned small fortunes. Businessmen and politicians developed a financial stake in prostitution, which was regulated by both Mormon and gentile officials. In this book, Jeffrey Nichols examines how prostitution became a focal point in the moral contest between Mormons and gentiles and aided in the construction of gender systems, moral standards, and the city's physical and economic landscapes.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Val Holley on October 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The richness and diversity of Utah history tends to be obscured by Mormon history. So much energy is expended canonizing Utah's saints that few resources remain for celebrating and preserving the capricious, ironic, and improvisatory. ("[In Utah] people talk only of the Prophet, hogs, and Fords," cracked Bernard DeVoto in 1926.)
In New York City, for example, A. J. Liebling and Joseph Mitchell chronicled gorgeous demotic street scenes for the ages. But as far as I know, nothing comparable in Utah literature ever emerged. The stories a Liebling or Mitchell might have dug up had they toured Utah, however, are at least hinted at in Jeffrey Nichols's study of prostitution in Salt Lake City (and Ogden) during the years just before and after statehood (1896). (In fact, as Nichols tells us, a very young Harold Ross covered the red-light district for the Salt Lake Tribune two decades before founding The New Yorker.)
Despite the unique religious and moral strictures in Utah's criminal code, prostitution as an industry had no better or worse luck surviving in Salt Lake than elsewhere. If other cities experimented with regulation but then gravitated toward total suppression, Nichols shows that Utah moved in lockstep with the rest of the country. A few hilarious bits bubble up through the book's erudition. One sumptuous brothel flourished for a time inside the Brigham Young Trust Company building. Later, a high-profile madam included the governing councils of the Mormon Church among the Utah dignitaries to whom she sent engraved invitations to the opening of her Palace bordello.
For Utah history buffs, Nichols's bibliography and notes alone are worth the price of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Morgan on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title of this book is what grabbed me first. I saw it in the library, and decided I had to read it. It is an academic work (the author teaches history at Salt Lake City's Westminster college), but it is also well-written and appears to be supported by solid research. I am not an academic, but it certainly looked to me as though the author did his homework and then some. This book does a good job of exploring the tensions that existed in Salt Lake City as a result of radically differing cultural opinions on religion, sex, and how the two ought to fit into society. It gave me a great deal of insight into what it must have been like to live in Salt Lake City between 1847 and 1918, and it did a good job of explaining both sides of the divide between those who practiced polygamy and those who turned a blind eye to prostitution. I've lived in Salt Lake City all my life, and it was also extremely interesting to discover a side to my city, and to specific neighborhoods, that I knew very little about before I read this book. If you enjoy Utah history, this is a worthwhile book to read.
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