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Upstairs Girls: Prostitution in the American West Paperback – September 1, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

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Total price: $36.17
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Prostitutes make up one of the most engaging chapters in the story of the American West. Upstairs Girls opens a window on the lives of these women for hire. Historian Michael Rutter offers a thorough and fascinating history of prostitution in the West, with details on why women turned to this profession and what their lives were like. Chapters on the notorious madams, the tragic Chinese sex trade, occupational hazards, rowdy dancehall girls, and the efforts of the ''Moral Purity Movement'' supplement the heart-breaking and sometimes humorous profiles on some of the most famous madams and prostitutes in history.

About the Author

Michael Rutter has authored or co-authored nearly 40 books and 600 articles for magazines and newspapers. He was awarded the Ben Franklin Award for Outdoor Writing and the Rocky Mountain Book Publishers Association Award. Michael teaches advanced writing at Brigham Young University. He is also a Christa McAuliffe Fellow.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Farcountry Press (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560373571
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560373575
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Excellent book, could not put it down. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the Old West Time period and History. The author gives you facts and background information that others writing about this period do not. Mr. Rutter answers those interesting questions that you would not out-right ask and other authors would not reach into the depths to answer. I have not read another book about this era that could compare to this one. Interesting and highly informative, a great read. Also packed with great pictures.
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Format: Paperback
I really wanted to love this book since I am completely fascinated by the subject matter. It just did not happen. The author seems to be a fan of Old West folklore and that passion comes across to the reader but that enthusiasm does not make up for poor writing and organization of the text. At times, the book was highly repetitive and too one-sided. This is a history book yet the author uses such statements along the lines of "It is obvious to people that..." or "As any student of history should know..." A personal pet peeve was the misspelling of actress Lillie Langtry's first name as "Lily."

I wouldn't cast the book completely aside and actually did recommend it to a few of my friends. I learned a lot and found it to be an interesting read - but that was only after I got past the writing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is very interesting and well written. Its easy to read and a book you can pick up and read in parts at your own rate of speed. Extremely interesting and gets you mind thinking of the things you don't see of the West in movies and TV. A very realistic look of a subject that has been glorified in current day and a reminder of of what life was like in the past not only in the West and USA but also in the rest of the world in the same time period.
A good study of life from all angles.
Highly recommend read.
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Format: Paperback
I got excited when I discovered Michael Rutter's Upstairs Girls at my local library, but while I found it factually interesting, I can't help feeling it failed to meet my expectations.

In terms of tone, Rutter failed these women like all the historians and newspaper men before him. He defines the daughters of joy by their role in the flesh trade, exploring their business dealings, their notable lovers and the memoirs of their clients rather than the women themselves. I can't explain the oversight, but I was disappointed by the superficial portrait Rutter painted of the Wild West's soiled doves.

Rutter touched on several business concerns, but omitted any information about children born in the red light district. Rutter mentions pregnancy alongside other occupational hazards, but ends the section before examining what happened to girls who carried children to term which is how I find myself here, still wondering what happened in such circumstance and why in heavens name didn't the author think to include such a detail?

I found the text itself repetitive and disjointed, but also biased. Rutter places significantly more emphasis on the high-end girls than those who worked the streets on their own, but even then, he tends to highlight their clients above the women who serviced their interests and I personally found the imbalance deeply disappointing.

Not horrid, but not at all what I expected. Interesting, but I don't think Upstairs Girls comes close to telling the entire story.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is sad to say, but I read this book and found pieces of it lifted almost word for word from other author's works. There is no primary research, just secondary re-hashing. If someone is looking for a summary work, this may suit their purpose and the chapters are entertaining to read. However, I would advise against investing time and/or money with this book on western prostitution with so many better examples to chose from, and by authors who at least took the effort to use their own words.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I ordered this book accidentally, but went ahead and read it. I am very glad that I did. I always felt that prostitution was a "victimless" crime, but in retrospect, I have never heard a little girl say that when she grew up she wanted to be a prostitute. It is sad how these women are treated.
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In doing research for my own book, I purchased several 'historical' books on prostitution, and it is disheartening to find that so far, all these historians who write about prostitutes in by-gone eras seem to think that prostitution as a profession was at best something that women only pursued out of desperation, and at worst, was a horrific way of life -worse than the lives of married women in the old west who endured as much or more violence as any prostitute did.

I understand that the current politically correct way of thinking is to show how horrible the lives of prostitutes was back then (and now)- but the reality is that many prostitutes actually chose this profession because they did not want to live out their lives in dreary circumstances as teachers or seamstresses or whatever else women could do back then.

Life was hard for everyone- including the men who came out west to seek their fortune and ended up lonely and physically beaten down by years of working in the mines for someone else- without family or friends. Prostitutes were their only source of companionship- outside of their comrades in the mines. Men could be killed in a bar fight or in a mine collapse- and yet they still came out west- year after year. We do not view those men as being 'poor victims of exploitation' but rather as courageous men who fought the elements and braved the hazards of mining to eke out a living.

Prostitutes were no less courageous in coming out west to seek their fortune... and while some were forced into prostitution, others were forced into loveless marriages in which they had no rights, no property and no future. Life was not easy for any woman- regardless of what she did back then, particularly if she ventured beyond the civilized cities of the east.
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