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Brothels, Bordellos, and Bad Girls: Prostitution in Colorado, 1860-1930 Paperback – October 16, 2007
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"Delicacy, humor, respect, and compassion are among the merits of this book. Although other authors have flirted with Colorado's commercial sex, Jan MacKell provides a detailed overview. She has been researching these elusive women for the last fifteen years. Such persistence allows her to offer rich detail on shady ladies who rarely used their real names or even stuck with the same professional name for long."
." . . a real contribution to Colorado history."
"MacKell has unearthed numerous colorful and often touching stories."
"The depth of MacKell's research brings the stories of scores of individual women to life. . . . Recommended."
""Brothels, Bordellos, & Bad Girls" tells a rarely told tale, of the "tainted" women who helped settle the west."
." . . a godsend for screenwriters and novelists looking for plots. . . MacKell has been an industrious researcher."
"Delicacy, humor, respect and compassion are among the merits of MacKell's treatment of this touchy subject. Her 15 years of research unearthed revealing details."
"The topic is interesting--or should one say, "titillating"--the author knowledgeable; the presentation non-judgmental and the work, scholarly with end notes, a bibliography and index. . . well-written."
""Brothels, Bordellos, and Bad Girls" is an interesting piece of Colorado's popular history and enhances our understanding of some of the social relations that formed within the state's numerous mining communities."
"Neither romanticizing nor ridiculing these women, MacKell recounts both their tragedies and occasional happy endings. While detailing the realities of the business, she also creates vivid portraits of some participants."
From the Inside Flap
This look at prostitution in Colorado, 1860-1930, uncovers the lives and woes of "working girls" in mining towns such as Cripple Creek.
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MacKell admits in the intro that it's difficult to verify whether women were prostitutes or simply lived in sketchy areas and/or performed in dance halls, and she's done her best not to speculate. She also acknowledges that descendents might be upset to learn their foremothers worked as prostitutes. Given these alleged concerns, however, she's eager to catalog the name of any woman who might possibly have been a prostitute, sometimes on evidence no more convincing than "she was a single woman who lived on the same street as several brothels and died young." She regularly draws conclusions unwarranted by the evidence she provides and gives facts that have little to do with the claims they're meant to support. One of many examples of this is on page 36, where she says, "Domestic violence was shockingly commonplace," then lists several incidents of violence between prostitutes and customers--but none between intimate partners or members of the same households.
She makes numerous unwarranted assumptions; for example, on p. 142 she mentions a madam who relocated to L.A., "where she no doubt continued her profession." These kinds of comments--she no doubt did X, surely she thought Y, every prostitute wanted Z
--occur frequently throughout the book and, especially given MacKell's stated goal of de-mystifying prostitutes' lives and avoiding speculation, are inappropriate and careless.
There are nonsensical sentences such as this gem from page 126: "Sometime after that, if he was still present at all, Sam Dale seems to have disappeared."
The overall organization, both within and between chapters, is poor. As a result, material is often repetitive or disconnected. Chapters 4 and 7 both deal with Colorado City, but there's no apparent reason for separating them into distinct chapters at all, let alone for interspersing two other chapters between them.
I'm very disappointed in the University of New Mexico Press. There are plenty of raw materials and solid research here, but a good editor was needed to shape a messy manuscript into an intelligible, thoughtful, well-articulated resource that would be valuable both to academicians and to casual students of history. I feel that the choice--by both MacKell and the publisher--to release this in its current form did a disservice to her years of research and hard work. I'll finish slogging through the book because I'm interested in the subject, but I'll be muttering angrily at MacKell and her (nonexistent?) editor the whole time.
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