California Madams

Buy the Book: AmazonBarnes & Noble
Published by: Farcountry Press
Release Date: July 2019
Pages: 168
ISBN13: 978-1560376590


With the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848, fortune-seekers from around the globe descended on California, among them a sprinkling of enterprising women.

Sherry explains, "Living in the wild American West provided women with equal opportunity - for both success and failure. Conventional wisdom suggests that women became prostitutes only because they were desperate. . . In fact, many of the women were smart entrepreneurs and saw a way to acquire fast and, in several cases, vast wealth."

Rich in details combed from historical archives, California Madams uncovers the enigmatic and salacious lives of twenty-four women who ran houses of ill repute in the Golden State from the 1840s to the 1940s. Here are the hedonistic and sometimes heroic exploits of Margaret Appel, Diamond Jessie, Hattie Wells, Ah Toy, and Lee Francis, but also the unsung sagas of Emily Edwards, Cora Lee, Sylvia Daniels, May Ellis, Alma Jewett, and many more.


It was a cold November night in 1867 when a pair of twenty-year-old sailors arrived at Catherine’s Sacramento Street brothel. Once in inside, she offered them wine and they settled in the parlor before they selected their female of choice. The evening was just like any other until the sailors prepared to leave her establishment. Upon their departure, she told them to hand over five dollars for the wine she offered them. They took offense. They had assumed the wine was free so they refused to pay. When they tried to leave, Catherine and one of her girls, Nellie, blocked them from leaving. Catherine’s husband Henry was also nearby. Unfortunately for the women, Frank Lines, second mate of the steamship the Granite State, was carrying a small caliber Smith and Wesson. He fired two shots...