Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Upstairs Girls: Prostitution in the American West” as Want to Read:
Upstairs Girls: Prostitution in the American West
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Upstairs Girls: Prostitution in the American West

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  150 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Prostitutes make up one of the most engaging chapters in the story of the American West. Upstairs Girls opens a window on the lives of these women for hire--why they turned to prostitution, who they worked for, and what their lives were like. Author and historian Michael Rutter offers a thorough history of prostitution in the West, with chapters on notorious madams, the hi ...more
Paperback, 219 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Farcountry Press
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Upstairs Girls, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Upstairs Girls

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-29 of 367)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Follow all my reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I got excited when I discovered Michael Rutter’s Upstairs Girls at my local library, but while I found it factually interesting, I can’t help feeling it failed to meet my expectations.

In terms of tone, Rutter failed these women like all the historians and newspaper men before him. He defines the daughters of joy by their role in the flesh trade, exploring their business dealings, their notable lovers and the memoirs of their clie
Jenny Lovering
The information was interesting...but the writing was repetitive and choppy to the point of annoying.
This book told a fascinating history of women in the frontier west and why so many either chose or simply ended up in prostitution. Even the town I live in was mentioned and I asked my Mom if they got it right. Everyone knew where the brothel was back in the 40s and 50s and earlier. When the Pill came along many of the shops were closed down because wives and girlfriends could now put out without fear of pregnancy. Kind of weird to think that one little thing like that would change so much.
I read this book as part of my research for a writing project I'm working on, and found it a really interesting read. I love history and enjoyed reading about the old west. The book goes over the life of woman prostitutes in the west - how they got there, why they got into that work (mostly poverty and a lack of other options as life was very limited for women)and all the dangers they encountered. The part I found most interesting was the personal accounts of ten well-known madams and "soiled do ...more
Ah, the role of women in Old West. The very few respectable women were treated like minor goddesses... the rest of the women who earned their bread through less legal and savory means were often mistreated and abused quite harshly. The law never came to their aid and once their looks were gone, few choices were to be had. The suicide rate was very high.

This book was reasonably well written and I like the way it was broken into small chapters so one could "digest" the contents slowly if one wishe
There's a whole lot that's good about this book. Who writes a mass market book about such a relatively obscure (read: fascinating!) subject? Long passages lend context at the start of each section. Details about railroad camps and a larger sense of Chinese immigration pre-Chinese Exclusion Act were impressive. The chapter on occupational hazards, most notably venereal disease, both fascinated me and had me squirming in my chair (with enchantingly grotesque photos!). There's definitely a lot to l ...more
Diane Lybbert
This was an interesting study of prostitution in the old west. Brothels followed the men moving west to find gold, men moving cattle, railroad workers, soldiers, and bandits/gamblers. There were several 'classes' of prostitutes, from the top girls working in high-dollar houses featuring food and drink as well as 'entertainment' to the bottom tier with girls walking the streets. There were also several short biographies of some of the 'soiled doves' such as Big Nose Kate, Pearl Starr (daughter of ...more
I agree with other reviewers here. The writing is repetitive and choppy. And there are some notable exceptions from the research regarding children of prostitutes.

Still, the asides to outlaws, noted historical figures, photos, and added features give the book sufficient interest for a novice reader.

I assume that others have made more extensive research regarding the history and practice of prostitution and, if interested, this may not be your best resource. It's a good place to start, though. W
This is not the best writing I have ever seen but the content is good. It explains how the brothels followed the men who moved out to the West and how some women became prostitutes either by choice or not. It also talks about Chinese ladies being shipped over to be slave-brides and how badly they were treated.
Hayley Stone
Not great. Highly anecdotal, and would have benefited significantly from footnotes. The lack of citing made me skeptical about many of the claims the author makes.
Great information but such poor writing! This is a history book yet the author uses such statements as "It is obvious to people that..." or "As any student of history should know..." He is often repetitive and displays a lack of experience writing non-fiction. A pet peeve was the misspelling of actress Lillie Langtry's name as "Lily." Overall though, I would recommend it because I learned a lot and it was an interesting read. He clearly loves the subject matter and Old West folklore - it comes a ...more
Michael Rutter gives an excellent history lesson of the wild west. History about some of the most notorious madams and their girls. Famous outlaws and gunslingers and the women they loved. It gives you an understanding of why and how women entered the "world's oldest profession". I felt much heartache and sadness as I read some of the stories, but there are other parts that will make you laugh. Interesting facts and fascinating stories if you like history and the wild west.
I enjoy the history of the west and liked reading this book. I just wish there were more information on the ends of these ladies lives.
Feb 05, 2013 Zazzu rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This book never really got into very good detail. It gives several biographies of notable shady ladies, but they all feel rather rushed and incomplete.

This book has a fascinating subject, but it never really gives enough information on what made these women go into such a hellish profession, what their lives were really like and what happened to the ones who didn't die of drugs, murder or suicide....did any find "honest" jobs after?

Great nonfiction read. Little information though on letters from women, but then I can see how this would have been hard to find. This is one of the better books on the subject and leaves out all that folksy crap, moves away from the cliches and delves into some fascinating madams who were politically and progressively way more ahead of their times then most men.
A good introduction into the world of prostitution during the gold rush, with explanations of high end brothels to the lower "crib houses." My favourite part was the series of profiles of individual madams or famous prostitutes. I love Gold Rush stories and history and I'm happy to keep this book as a reference.
Mrs. Cyberhobo Kuhn
This book is so badly written I can't read it. It's very possible that this is a freshman's term paper. Too bad--such an interesting socio-economic cultural phenomenon. Should I have known from the title that it would be insulting? The author uses the word "girls" throughout the book.
A really good read on how a lot of the women became prostitutes after being widowed or just life circumstances. It was not an easy life for them and they were shunned for doing what they had to do to survive. A lot of the died from sickness and suicide.
Good behind-the-scenes stories of the wild west, all revolving around the prostitutes of the times. Most of them are only known to history because of their association with famous outlaws, so there's some good dirt on famous wild west men here too.
I liked the information in this book, but it read like an undergrad history paper, in a bad way. It still needed some editing for punctuation and flow. And definitely a star knocked off for using "insure" instead of "ensure."
LOVING THIS BOOK. After staying for two weeks at 'the brothel' in Helper, Utah, it is interesting to learn some of the real history of prostitution in the early American West.
May 16, 2012 Monique is currently reading it
Loving this book. Found it on the way home from Montana during a business trip and have been slowly reading it in between my legalese.
some interesting information in here but as others have mentioned, this was not a well written book.
Agree with other reviews. Interesting subject-matter, poorly written.
David Grasse
Not the most scholarly book I have read on the subject, but entertaining.
Really interesting look at prostitution out west. I couldn't put it down.
Apr 24, 2009 J.M. marked it as wishlist
Recommended for me by Amazon based on my previous purchases.
Lisa Yvonne
May 21, 2012 Lisa Yvonne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lisa by:
Lots of interesting stories from the Old West.
Meh. For a stimulating *ahem* topic... meh.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 12 13 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West
  • The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America, 1900-1918
  • Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic, Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red Light District
  • Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier
  • City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920
  • Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush: A Secret History of the Far North
  • Love For Sale: A World History of Prostitution
  • Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State
  • Harvard's Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals
  • Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War
  • Sexy Origins and Intimate Things: The Rites and Rituals of Straights, Gays, Bis, Drags, Trans, Virgins, and Others
  • Everyday Life in the 1800s: A Guide for Writers, Students & Historians
  • Bad Girls
  • The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West
  • Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
  • The Book of the Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues
  • Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America
  • Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
More about Michael Rutter...

Share This Book