Currently Reading: Upstairs Girls by Michael Rutter
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—why they turned to prostitution, who they worked for, and what their lives were like. Author and historian Michael Rutter offers a thorough history of prostitution in the West, with chapters on notorious madams, the hierarchy of prostitution, from parlor girls to streetwalkers, and occupational hazards such as disease and addiction. Rutter also unveils the brutal Chinese sex trade, which was little more than slavery, with women being shipped across the Pacific and bought and sold like material goods. The engaging and carefully researched background history leads up to the often heart-breaking and sometimes humorous profiles of the individual madams and prostitutes, from the famous Calamity Jane to the less-known Rosa May, from ruthless madam Ah Toy to mother of civil rights Mary Ellen Pleasant.