Ladies of the Lamplight front cover

Ladies of the Lamplight front cover

By Kay Reynolds Blair
Published in 1971 by Timberline Books

I’m not sure if this is the least dirty book in the Library’s holdings, but I am sure though that it is the only one my mother would approve of. I know this not because mom was fond of ladies of questionable virtue. Instead, I know this because mom bought this book while we were on vacation when I was still in elementary school. While a wiseacre might suggest that I was doomed from the start, I will think of it as a belated (and unmentioned) present. But I digress.

Containing short biographies of the women who lived in and around the mining boom towns of Colorado after the Civil War, Ladies of the Lamplight is an entertaining remembrance of those women whose stories are often forgotten by more “respectable” histories and historians. My only complaint was that this little booklet was far too short – I would have really enjoyed more and/or longer stories of the ladies discussed.

Poker Alice

Poker Alice

Though Ladies of the Lamplight isn’t dedicated solely to telling the stories of prostitutes in the old west, most of the women described were involved in prostitution in some form or fashion for at least part of their lives. Feminists reading this work might blather incessantly, as is their wont, about how that was indicative of women’s lower social status in the patriarchy and further decry that the world is works in much the same way today.  But that misses the point entirely.  What makes the women described in Ladies of the Lamplight noteworthy decades after their passing wasn’t their flaunting of gender conventions, it was their flaunting of social conventions altogether.

Even though Poker Alice wasn’t associated with prostitution or bawdy houses (at least so far as this book is concerned) I couldn’t help but reproduce her photo.  If Alice makes you horny, you are a sicker person than I – Godspeed in finding true love, you sicko.