Madam Millie and Me

8 Jul

This post is inspired by a recent post at Serendipity. Stop by there for a visit and stay awhile. You will be entertained and educated.

Before I started graduate school, I knew that I wanted my studies to focus on the American West. As I got further involved, the realization hit that the American West is a broad subject that needed to be whittled down. With a background in business, I became interested in the economic aspects of the West. I had grown up watching movies where cowboys rode alone across the Plains. It turns out that they were really working for huge corporations, and I found that totally fascinating.

With that in mind, I walked into my professors office and said that I wanted to research the cattle industry.

Nope. That had been done by many historians. I needed to pick something else.

The next choice was the mining industry.

Nope. That one has been covered.

What about the lumber industry?

That one was not going to work, either.

After several more rejections, I asked if he had something in mind. He did.

He suggested that I research the prostitution industry in the West.

It sounded good to me, and I agreed. After all, I had run out of ideas.

I researched, wrote and did all of the other things that aspiring historians are told to do. Fast forward a few years, and our story begins.

I got a call from George Harding, a local man who was quite the character. He loved being involved in politics and was most comfortable in the proverbial smoke-filled room. Most people do not realize the effect George had on our community because he mostly operated out of the public eye. He is the kind of man who would say anything and not care who heard him. A lot of people liked George, but a lot of other people did not.

I always liked him because he was full of good stories about people around town. One day, I got a call from him saying that he wanted to see me.

George had family in New Mexico, and they sent a book for him to read. That is one other reason I liked George. He loved to read about history. This book was called Madam Millie: Bordellos from Silver City to Ketchikan.Madam Millie

When he brought out the book and talked about reading it, I thought he was going to ask me what I knew about Millie. That is one of the problems with teaching history. People tend to think that if you are a historian, then you know everything. A wise man once told me that going far in graduate school means that you know more and more about less and less. I think that is an excellent description.

However, George was not there to ask questions. He said that he was reading through the book when he recognized a name. Opening to the page, he pointed to the spot where I was used as a source. Holy crap, I was deemed by someone to be such an expert in prostitution that they used me as a source in their book.

That was the first time I had ever seen my name in print and was pretty fired up about it. Immediately, I ordered the book, and, when it arrived, I took it to my parents.

I guess they were excited, but you could not tell it by the response.

“You have spent all of these years in school, and you are in a book with a picture of a naked woman on the cover.”

Yep, I had made it. I was an official historian of prostitution in the American West.

13 Responses to “Madam Millie and Me”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong July 8, 2014 at 17:30 #

    Success. It can come in many forms. In a book with a cover featuring a naked lady. Yes, probably not what your parents had in mind, but hey, You’re a source! That’s HUGE.

    “Going far in graduate school means that you know more and more about less and less.” That is a great quote and I may have cite you as the source. Even though you got it from somewhere else πŸ™‚

    • Rick July 8, 2014 at 17:43 #

      If you use me as a source, then I will outsource that quote to the original source.

  2. Marilyn Armstrong July 8, 2014 at 17:34 #

  3. DyingNote July 9, 2014 at 05:01 #

    Ah! Famous man. Your parents were quite gentle with their reaction.

    On a more serious note, do you intend to write a book? I know John over at Thoughtsfromwest5 is working on one on music. Both of you write so well, it’ll be a delight to read books authored by you guys.

    • Rick July 9, 2014 at 13:56 #

      I need to write one for work. Historians are expected to do such things. However, it would not be as fun to read as our blogs. Thanks for the compliment.

      • DyingNote July 9, 2014 at 14:17 #

        History is sure not everyone’s idea of fun but to me it is enjoyable and educational. I will look forward to that book then πŸ™‚

  4. jcalberta July 9, 2014 at 14:23 #

    Life usually has a different idea than I do – and a better one.
    Like building a ball park in your corn field.

    • Rick July 9, 2014 at 21:14 #

      Write it, and they will read.

      • Marilyn Armstrong July 9, 2014 at 21:21 #

        Great exchange. Like we write in code almost πŸ™‚

      • Rick July 9, 2014 at 23:21 #


  5. Lunar Euphoria July 11, 2014 at 22:57 #

    Several years ago I read Isabel Allen’s Daughter of Fortune, which peaked my interest in the topic of prostitution in the West in 1849. Shortly after that on a road trip through Arizona I purchase “Soiled Doves,” which was a collection of brief essays that discussed the history of some of the women who worked in the profession during the same era. Interesting research topic!

    • Rick July 11, 2014 at 23:04 #

      Very interesting, indeed. I did a lot of research at the Dumas Brothel in Butte, Montana and the Oasis Rooms in Wallace, Idaho. I haven’t read the books you mentioned buy am going to look them up now.

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