vintage, nostalgia and memories


August 30, 2017

11 Amazing Portraits of the Most Notorious Prostitutes and Madams of the 19th Century Wild West

Prostitutes – or ‘soiled doves’ and ‘sportin’ women’ as they were commonly known -were a fixture in western American towns and cities in the 19th century.

Almost without exception, pioneer mining camps, boomtowns and whistles-stops became home to at least one or two hookers – if not a roaring red light district.

These fascinating images show some of the most famous scarlet women of the time, who would go on to become millionaires, national heroes and outlaws.


Prostitution contributed heavily to town economies in the way of business licenses, fees and fines. A number of red light districts evolved into the social centres of their communities. Although prostitution was largely illegal, brothels were no secret in the old west. Visitors could easily find disorderly houses by opening up the local or state-wide directories, such as the 1895 Travellers’ Guide of Colorado.

Mary Katharine Haroney, left, was better known as Big Nose Kate, aged 15, pictured with younger sister Wilhelmina, right, in 1865.

Mattie Silks, who became one the best known madams in the west, having brothels in Kansas and Colorado where demand for women was high due to the gold rushes.

Martha Jane Burke, better known as Calamity Jane, a famous American frontierswoman, pictured here in men's clothing in 1895.

Julia Bulette moved to mining boomtown Virginia city, Nevada, in 1859 when she was 27-years old.

Maggie Hall a prostitute originally from Dublin, Ireland. Maggie arrived in New York City in 1873.

Mary Katharine Haroney, who was better known as Big Nose Kate, circa 1870s.

Laura Bullion's mugshot, a famed criminal and prostitute that got involved with Butch Cassidy in 1893.

Mary Katharine Haroney aged around 50-years-old, circa 1900.

Mattie Blaylock, a prostitute who became the romantic companion and common-law wife of Old West lawman and gambler Wyatt Earp for about eight years.

Belle Brezing was a nationally-known madam based in Lexington, Kentucky.

Martha Jane Burke, better known as Calamity Jane, a famous American frontierswoman, pictured here visting 'Wild Bill' Hickok's grave in Deadwood in 1890.

(via The Sun)

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