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Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  910 ratings  ·  170 reviews

Soiled Doves tells of the grey world of prostitution and the women who participated in the oldest profession. Colorful, if not socially acceptable, these ladies of easy virtue were a definite part of the early West – Wearing ruffled petticoats with fancy bows, they were glamorous and plain, good and bad and many were as wild as the land they came to tame.
Women like "Molly

Paperback, 1st edition Women of the West, 173 pages
Published February 1st 1994 by Wesanne Publications
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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  910 ratings  ·  170 reviews

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May 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Picked this up to learn more about prostitution in the Old West. Despite the plethora of commas, I found the text engaging and easy to read. The pictures throughout the book really brought the stories of these women to life.

One thing I thought quite telling was the author's obvious admiration for these women and their spunk. Often I felt they were defended a bit too much, their profession downplayed to make the "sinfulness" of it less an issue than the women themselves. I liked this non-judgment
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book some years ago and have an autographed copy on my shelf. I picked it up when I lived in Montana, along with several other, similar, books about women in the west, including "High-Spirited Women of the West," also by Anne Seagraves. Both books were published by Wesanne Publications. I found this book to be interesting, loved the old photographs. It's been a keeper on my research shelf.

Rather than dry, scholarly recitation, I thought each of the stories surrounding specific women
May 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: History buffs and women's studies
To be frank, Soiled Doves is not the best written book I've ever read...But it's fascinating!

To read Soiled Doves is to step back in time to the Old West...Some prostitutes were content in their profession, some hated it, some were forced into prostitution and others happily chose thier lifestyle. Others chose the life of a madam and made plenty of money off their "sisters".

The subject matter is jarring but at times humorous...some of these ladies REALLY loved their work. If Seagraves were a be
Jul 08, 2008 rated it did not like it
This book was very disappointing. The premise could have been a very good story, but the author is a very poor writer. Sadly, this is not her first book. The sentence structure was bad. The subjects were jumpy and the transitions poor. In several cases the author used a quote to support one idea, and then later used the same or a very similar quote to support the very opposite idea. I could not even determine the thesis of this book.
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2015
This is really more of a 3.5 star read, but the author isn't the greatest writer - very basic prose - so leaving it at 3 rather than 4. I did actually enjoy the book and I liked the fact that the author didn't look down her nose at the women she wrote about. I've never seen a reason to treat prostitutes the way some people do. If you've no education and no skills, you work with what you have of value to make a living. End of story as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, off my soapbox. Some of the stor ...more
Oct 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: go-west
Think of as many different words and ways you can express the term "prostitute" and I bet you ain't seen nothin' like the scope of synonyms and approximations Anne Seagraves peppers throughout this book. The writing is just okay and full of guesswork, but the subject matter to pretty much speaks for itself, obscure as it is, via photographs and various ephemera. I picked up my copy in Little America, Wyoming on a cross-country drive, and it provided easy, good company from there to East St. Loui ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
This was another of the random books on the shelf at the Mountain View, Arkansas cabin we escaped to for Thanksgiving this year. I’d already set aside my current book, “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back)” to read Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short,” and was intrigued enough by the title of this small volume to again put Jeff Tweedy’s new autobiography on the back burner.

I don’t know anything about Anne Seagraves, and the book’s jacket offers only that she lives in northern Idaho, that she’s working on h
Rosamund Merrill
Apr 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this, then scanned the reviews by other readers. I am in agreement with several; the writing is somewhat amateur, but the content does include well-researched facts and historical information. There is humor, as well as an effort to be non-judgemental. There is also a chapter on the abuse of Oriental women, and a focus on those who worked to free them from a literal slave-like exsitence.
If you have any interest in this time period and issues around this topic, this book is a quick read a
Apr 18, 2011 rated it liked it
This was pretty good. It had a lot of photos of the prostitutes and other photos of the time. I was drawn to this book because I find it interesting how overlooked prostitution is when considering the development of the West, or in civilizations in general. The book tells different life stories of various soiled doves, but keeps them short and to the point where you don't lose interest. I did learn about why hippies are called hippies and why virtuous women of the time didn't own poodles! ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Thought it would be better than it was. Very interesting and sad how so many of the women were forced into that lifestyle back in those days with no fault of their own and the way they were treated. I learned a lot.
emma pawz clawz
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
No idea why I read this, but now I’m an expert in western frontier prostitution. The chapter on Chinese child sex slavery was the most upsetting horrible thing I’ve read in a while.
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
I am a big fan of westerns. I love the old ones--anything with Clint Eastwood on a horse will probably make me happy--and I like the newer ones, like Tombstone and the Coen brothers' excellent remake of True Grit. I am especially fond of HBO's (entirely too short-lived) TV show Deadwood. If you haven't seen it, I'd suggest you run out and get seasons one and two immediately (season three is...not as good.) The show is graphic (it's HBO, there are going to be boobs), the language is EXTREMELY sal ...more
John Yelverton
May 04, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked up this book, because I wanted to read about prostitution in the old west, but the author seems much more interested in pushing an agenda about how prostitutes all had a heart of gold and if the church going folk with their puritanical beliefs had just left them alone, everything would have been fine. There was very little information about their lives, bad things are mentioned and glossed over, and I know almost as much about prostitution in the old west as I did before I read the book ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This was pretty fun and had the tone of your grandma telling you stories, which is awesome but maybe not if you're, like, writing a grad paper on prostitution during the gold rush.

There's definitely a bit too much romanticizing going on. I can't imagine how utterly gross and degrading and disgusting it would be to live in a tent next to a remote mine in the middle of fucking nowhere and having some gross, dirty dude covered in soot pay you for sex. Ugh. Nightmare. Unfortunately (or, I guess, for
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The author's list of acknowledgements fills a page at the opening of this historical account of prostitution in the early West. She has clearly done her research. And her book is a window into a subject often alluded to in the literature of the frontier but seldom if ever revealed in any depth.

The West was a man's world where, according to Seagrave, men often outnumbered women 50 to 1. Employment opportunities being few for uneducated young women, a great many found their way to the brothels in
A quaint, self-published look at one of the most lucrative industries of the wild wild west. Seagraves recounts the documented life experiences and personal observations of different classes of prostitutes in diverse locations, including Denver, San Francisco, various mining and logging camps, and Tombstone AZ. Some of her anecdotes are informative, and the quotes from the women are evocative and humanizing. But she writes less as a scholar than as an amateur of local history and personalities, ...more
Apr 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
Anne Seagraves novel, SOILED DOVES explores the fundamental concept of economics known as supply and demand. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries opportunities for women were extremely limited so many enterprising ladies opted for "the oldest profession" and took their "wares" out west where they supply was limited but the demand great. Some made fortunes while others were trapped in hopeless situations that led to their murder or suicide.

Seagraves explores the lives of various "profes
Brad Butturff
I actually read this books quite a few years ago but due to recent events this book has taken on a new relevance for me. My wife and I retired in 2015 and moved to Deadwood, South Dakota. One of the big reasons we made Deadwood our home was our shared passion for the history of this area. Now recently we found out about a company wanting to create a $40 million dollar 'Wild West' theme park just outside town. As I understand it this theme park is going to provide a "family friendly" interpretati ...more
Alison C
Jan 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
"Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West," by Anne Seagraves, purports to tell the stories of individual prostitutes in the Western USA from about the 1850s or so, complete with early photographs of some of the women and contemporary accounts in local newspapers, etc. But, well, I couldn’t begin to get through it, simply because of totally incorrect statements, starting with the Forward: “Queen Victoria’s strict morality temporarily put a halt to prostitution in England in the 1800s.” Um, n ...more
Jimmy Lee
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Anne Seagraves has written some seven books about the lives of women during the western expansion. Her books are generally not in depth, and I didn't find this one particularly deep either. But each offers an interesting introduction to the subject matter, and she always provides sources should you decide the topic is worth plunging into a deeper trough of detail.

Soiled Doves provides an overview of prostitution in the old west. For those raised on television westerns and Gone With the Wind, thi
Alexa Oliphant
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
It's hard to imagine that there was a time before the internet, a time when if you wanted to know more about the sex industry on the American frontier but were not a scholar with access to dozens and dozens of sources, you were basically screwed.

I imagine this book might have been a delight in that time. The narratives of these women as told by the author are like mini wikipedia articles. No correlating details, no thesis, no grand story. Just short splits of stories. It's digestible in its best
Melanie Denman
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is an interesting read, but not especially well written and the sources are not well noted. The author does not say anywhere what her qualifications or background are, only that she is a resident of northern Idaho and has written several books. I can't find a web page or any interviews either, so I assume she is a history buff but not a historian. On that basis - the book contains some good information that she seems to have gleaned from a fairly extensive list of sources. Unfortunately, Se ...more
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The stories of the prostitutes and madams were compelling and painted a good picture of the business and lifestyle of prostitution in the 19th Century American West. What was annoying to the point of distraction was that the author chose to write what could have been a really good sociological and historical study with personal commentary from a 'Spirit of the great sisterhood of Woman' position, using far(!) too many exclamation marks to make her heavy-handed points(!)

I get that a book on pros
Jan 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
wow. what can i say? i was so excited to read a book on the subject of prostitution in the west. after the second paragraph, i couldn't escape the fact that i felt like i was reading a book written by a 3rd grader on the subject. beyond the many many items that perturbed me about this book was the fact that the title was never contextualized. 'soiled doves'... i get it...but was that a common term? does the author really need to refer to her subjects as "soiled doves" in one breath and then wome ...more
Kelley Allen
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was curious when I picked up this book, not knowing the magnitude of the content. You cannot judge this book by the cover or title. I found this particular book interesting and educational. Prostitution in the early days had become a way of survival for many of these women. During the horse and buggy day, an unwed mother had a difficult finding a job so she could support her children. Even a single young woman left to fend for herself had a hard time. Seeing how they turned to the only thing a ...more
Jun 25, 2009 rated it liked it
When I read the personal history of my great grandfather, I felt cheated. There were no personal histories of my three great grandmothers who were his wives. His experiences and thoughts were interesting but included little of his feelings or anything much about his wives or children. For instance, after writing about a page on his views one day, he added two brief sentences revealing that one of his children by his first wife, Ann, died that day and that it was Ann's birthday. Huh?
This book has
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture, history
This was an enjoyable read. While it is by no means a scholarly or very deep look into prostitution in the early West, it does offer brief insights into how and why women became prostitutes. It also briefly delves into how hard the life could be for the majority of 'soiled doves.' Most of the book is composed of equally brief bios of various women; some successful in their profession, some not so successful and some simply notorious.

Some of the best phrases are to be found scattered throughout
Jul 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
When I first started reading this I thought it was going to be another one of those boring, hard-to-get-through history like books, but I was very wrong. Anne Seagraves managed to take these women's stories and put you in their shoes. I have to say that before I read this book I thought prostitution in the early west was the woman's choice to sell her body. Now however, I realize most of the women in these horrendous houses were forced into prostitution, either by parents, lack of money, or beca ...more
Such an interesting read. However, there were moments in the book where prostitution seemed glorified, other times degraded and other times justified. This was an era where women had no voice and few options, so really our opinion isn't fair.

Not being American, one big hurdle for me was not knowing American events that were lightly touched on, I could have used more descriptions or historical context of what the author was referring to.

However, an interesting book with great photos and stories
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up at the Tucson desert museum, along with various books about Wild West women. This book will make modern women appreciate living now and not being trapped in the 1800's with limited options. When history teaches kids about people heading west in search of gold and opportunity, that is the male narrative. This book gave a glimpse into what life was like for women. Heartbreaking.

There are historical images and snap shots into the lives of famous prostitutes. It's a well resea
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