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Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery: Prostitutes in the American West,…

by Anne M. Butler

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EXTREMELY dry. It followed the classic essay formula in each chapter: Introduction where you begin with a broad statement and narrow down to your thesis sentence, 2 supporting topics, restate your thesis. The supporting paragraphs were statistic tallies of her extensive research. It did convey how miserable these women's lives were, how few chances, how little opportunity, how awful. ( )
  EhEh | Apr 3, 2013 |
I am giving this book four stars but with caveats. The 4-Stars are for being perhaps the most accessible study of prostitutes in this era. Certainly I have run across no other book that actually presents 'facts' and statistics, and Ms. Butler has certainly done her research and examined a variety of sources in order to produce a picture of this little studied area.

The Problems:

The author has an annoying habit of repeating herself. She will make a statement and then in the next sentence make the same statement again using slightly different words.

The author uses language that is 'emotionally' loaded and fails to keep a proper academic distance from the topic. We don't need to be hit over the head to realize that most of these women lived dreadful lives. The facts speak for themselves.

The author also appears to leap to conclusions that are not necessarily apparent -- at least not to me. Perhaps she has come to this conclusion as a result of extensive studies she has made, but if that is so the evidence is not presented (in my opinion) in such a way as to reach the level of 'proof'.


By this time you are probably wondering why I gave an overall rating of 4-Stars given the problems I've listed. The fact is that there is no other source that comes close to being as authoritative. And if you can overlook the faults this is a tremendous study well worth reading.

Pam T
PageinHistory.com ( )
  ThePam | Dec 1, 2007 |
This book is interesting, if a little dry. I haven't encountered a lot of serious writing on prostitution during this period, and I think this book could at least point you in the right direction if you're looking to do further research. ( )
  omniavanitas | Mar 5, 2007 |
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They were called "frail sisters," "fallen angels," "soiled doves," and "whores." They worked the brothels, saloons, streets, and "hog ranches" of the American frontier. They were the prostitutes of the post-Civil War West. This book details the destitute lives of these nearly anonymous women. Anne Butler reveals who they were, how they lived and worked, and why they became an essential element in the development of the West's emerging institutions. Her story hears little resemblance to the popular depictions of prostitutes in film and fiction. Far removed from the glittering lives of dancehall girls, these women lived at the borders of society and the brink of despair. Poor and uneducated, they faced a world where scarce jobs, paltry wages, and inflated prices made prostitution a likely if bitter choice of employment. At best, their daily lives were characterized by fierce competition and at worst, by fatal violence at the hands of customers, coworkers, or themselves. They were scorned and attacked by the legal, military, church, and press establishments; nevertheless, as Butler shows, these same institutions also used prostitutes as a means for maintaining their authority and as a lure for economic development. Based on research in more than twenty repositories in Wyoming, Arizona. Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas, using census lists, police dockets, jail registers, military correspondence, trial testimony, inquests, courts martial, newspapers, post returns, and cemetery records, this book illuminates the dark corners of a dark profession and adds much to our knowledge of both Western and women's history.--From publisher description.… (more)

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