As settlements and civilization moved West to follow the lure of mineral wealth and the trade of the Santa Fe Trail, prostitution grew and flourished within the mining camps, small towns, and cities of the nineteenth-century Southwest. Whether escaping a bad home life, lured by false advertising, or seeking to subsidize their income, thousands of women chose or were forced to enter an industry where they faced segregation and persecution, fines and jailing, and battled the other hazards of their profession. Some dreamed of escape through marriage or retirement, and some became infamous and even successful, but more often found relief only in death. An integral part of western history, the stories of these women continue to fascinate readers and captivate the minds of historians today.
Arizona and New Mexico each had their share of working girls and madams like Sara Bowman and Dona Tules who remain notorious celebrities in the annals of history, but Collins also includes the stories of lesser-known women whose roles in this illicit trade help shape our understanding of the American West.
Jan MacKell Collins has been a published author, speaker and presenter since 2003. Her focus has always been on western history, with an emphasis on historical prostitution. Collins has published numerous articles on her subjects in such magazines as True West, Montana Magazine, All About History and numerous regional magazines. Ms. Collins currently resides in Oregon, where she continues researching the history of prostitution.