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HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT, MINING, AND PROSTITUTION*

  • JULIA ANN LAITE (a1)
Abstract

Prostitution has been linked by many historians and social commentators to the industrial development and capitalism of the modern age, and there is no better example of this than the prostitution that developed in mining regions from the mid-nineteenth century. Using research on mining-related prostitution, and other social histories of mining communities where prostitution inevitably forms a part, large or small, of the historian's analysis of the mining region, this article will review, contrast, and compare prostitution in various mining contexts, in different national and colonial settings. From the American and Canadian gold rushes in the mid- and late nineteenth century, to the more established mining frontiers of the later North American West, to the corporate mining towns of Chile in the interwar years, to the copper and gold mines of southern Africa and Kenya in the first half of the twentieth century, commercial sex was present and prominent as the mining industry and mining communities developed.1 Challenging the simplistic images and stereotypes of prostitution that are popularly associated with the American mining frontier, historians have shown that prostitution's place in mining communities, and its connection to industrial development, was as complex as it was pervasive and enduring.

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Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, Newfoundland, A1C 1S7julia.laite@gmail.com
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The author would like to thank Drs John Sandlos and Arn Keeling of the Mining and Northern Development Research Group at Memorial University for their valuable comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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1 Chauncey, George Jr, ‘The locus of reproduction: women's labour in the Zambian Copperbelt, 1927–1953’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 7 (1981), pp. 135–64; Janet L. Finn, Tracing the veins: of copper, culture, and community from Butte to Chuquicamata (Berkeley, CA, 1998); Harries, Patrick, ‘Symbols and sexuality: culture and identity on early Witwatersrand gold mines’, Gender and History, 2 (1990), pp. 318–36; Patrick Harries, Work, culture, and identity: migrant labourers in Mozambique and South Africa, c. 1860–1910 (Johannesburg, 1994); Klubock, Thomas Miller, ‘Working-class masculinity, middle-class morality, and labour politics in the Chilean copper mines’, Journal of Social History, 30 (1996), pp. 435–63; Thomas Miller Klubock, Contested communities: class, gender, and politics in Chile's El Teniente copper mine, 1904–1951 (Durham, NC, and London, 1998); Kynoch, Gary, ‘Marashea on the mines: economic, social and criminal networks on the South African gold mines, 1947–1999’, Journal of South African Studies, 26 (2000), pp. 79103; Moodie, T. Dunbar, Ndatshe, Vivienne, and Sibuyi, British, ‘Migrancy and male sexuality on the South African gold mines’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 14 (1988), pp. 228–56; Parpart, Jane L., ‘The household and the mine shaft: gender and class struggles on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1926–1964’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 13 (1986), pp. 3656; Parpart, Jane L., ‘“Where is your mother?”: gender, urban marriage, and colonial discourse on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1924–1945’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 27 (1994), pp. 241–71; Raychaudhury, Rakhi, ‘Living conditions of the female workers in the eastern collieries (Bihar and Bengal) from 1901–1921’, Quarterly Review of Historical Studies, 24 (1985), pp. 1319; Priscilla M. Shilaro, A failed Eldorado: colonial capitalism, rural industrialization, African land rights in Kenya, and the Kakamega gold rush, 1930–1952 (Boulder, CO, 2008).

2 Anne M. Butler, Daughters of joy, sisters of misery: prostitutes in the American West, 1865–1890 (Urbana, IL, 1985), p. ix.

3 Some examples of the vast and colourful popular literature published since the 1950s on frontier prostitution are Caroline Bancroft, Six racy madams of Colorado (Boulder, CO, 1965); Ronald Dean Miller, Shady ladies of the West (Los Angeles, CA, 1964); Harry S. Drago, Notorious ladies of the frontier, i: The beautiful but shady ladies who kept pace with the advancing frontier, 1850–1929 (New York, NY, 1972); Richard F. Selcer, Hell's half acre: the life and legend of a red light district (Fort Worth, TX, 1991). Jay Moynahan has made an impressive contribution to the descriptive literature on frontier prostitution, compiling over two dozen books on everything from guides to brothels, bawdy photographs, and red light cookbooks. Some of his more recent publications include Jay Moynahan, Forty fallen women: naughty French mademoiselles 1890 to 1920 (Spokane, WA, 2008); and Jay Moynahan, The Klondike travels of Mattie Silks and her sportin' women (Spokane, WA, 2008).

4 Butler, Daughters of joy, sisters of misery; see also Marion S. Goldman, Gold diggers and silver miners: prostitution and social life on the Comstock Lode (Ann Arbour, MI, 1981). Around the anniversary of the Klondike, several other works appeared that looked in whole or in part at mining frontier prostitution. See Lael Morgan, Good time girls of the Alaska-Yukon gold rush (Fairbanks, AL, and Seattle, WA, 1998); Charlene Porsild, Gamblers and dreamers: women, men, and community in the Klondike (Vancouver, BC, 1998); Bay Ryley, Gold diggers of the Klondike: prostitution in Dawson City, Yukon, 1898-1908 (Winnipeg, MB, 1997). Jan MacKell, Brothels, bordellos, and bad girls: prostitution in Colorado, 1860–1930 (Albuquerque, NM, 2004), represents one of the most recent academic examinations of mining and prostitution on the American frontier. There has also been some very interesting work done on prostitution and mining community development by historical archaeologists Alexy Simmons, Red light ladies: settlement patterns and material culture on the mining frontier (Corvallis, OR, 1989); Alexy Simmons, ‘Bedroom politics: ladies of the night and men of the day’, in A. Bernard Knapp, Vincent C. Pigott, and Eugenia W. Herbert, eds., Social approaches to an industrial past: the archaeology and anthropology of mining (London and New York, NY, 1998); Spude, Catherine Holder, ‘Brothels and saloons: an archaeology of gender in the American West’, Historical Archaeology, 39 (2005), p. 89; Given, Michael, ‘Mining landscapes and colonial rule in early-twentieth-century Cyprus’, Historical Archaeology, 39 (2005), pp. 4960; Donald L. Hardesty, ‘Power and the industrial mining community in the American West’, in Social approaches to the industrial past: the archaeology and anthropology of mining (London, 1998), pp. 81–96.

5 For social histories of western mining that heavily incorporate prostitution see Mary Murphy, Mining cultures: men, women, and leisure in Butte, 1914–1941 (Urbana, IL, and Chicago, IL, 1997); Finn, Tracing the veins; Elizabeth Jameson, All that glitters: class, conflict, and community in Cripple Creek (Urbana, IL, and Chicago, IL, 1998); Klubock, Contested communities; Porsild, Gamblers and dreamers; Malcolm J. Rohrbough, Days of gold: the California gold rush and the American nation (Berkeley, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and London, 1997). Lynn M. Hudson, ‘“Strong animal passions” in the gilded age: race, sex, and a senator on trial’, in Mary Ann Irwin and James F. Brooks, eds., Women and gender in the American West (Albuquerque, NM, 2004), pp. 259–80; Albert L. Hurtado, ‘When strangers met: sex and gender on three frontiers’, in Elizabeth Jameson and Susan Armitage, eds., Writing the Range: race, class, and culture in the women's West (Norma, OK, and London, 1997), pp. 123–42; Elizabeth Jameson, ‘Connecting the women's Wests’, in Elizabeth Jameson and Sheila McManus, eds., One step over the line: toward a history of women in the North American Wests (Edmonton, AB, and Athabaska, AB, 2008), pp. 5–28; Joan M. Jensen and Darlis A. Miller, ‘The gentle tamers revisited: new approaches to the history of women in the American West’, in Irwin and Brooks, eds., Women and gender in the American West, pp. 9–36; Susan L. Johnson, ‘The last fandango: women, work, and the end of the California gold rush’, in Kenneth N. Owens, ed., Riches for all: the California gold rush and the world (Lincoln, NB, and London, 2002), pp. 230–63; Sheila McManus, ‘Unsettled pasts, unsettled borders: women, wests, nations’, in Jameson and McManus, eds., One step over the line, pp. 29–47; Brian Roberts, ‘“The greatest and most perverted paradise”: the forty-niners in Latin America’, in Owens, ed., Riches for all, pp. 71–89.

6 For some of the newest debates on the subject of women in the West see Jameson, ‘Connecting the women's wests’; and McManus, ‘Unsettled pasts, unsetlled borders’, and the other essays in this collected volume. See also Susan Lee Johnson's excellent reimagining of the social history of the California gold rush, Susan Lee Johnson, Roaring camp: the social world of the California gold rush (New York, NY, 2001). The social history of mining is being challenged in a similar fashion in the Australian historiography, see for instance Iain McCalman, Alexander Cook and Andrew Reeves, Gold: forgotten histories and lost objects of Australia (Cambridge, 2001).

7 Mercier, Laurie and Gier, Jaclyn, ‘Reconsidering women and gender in mining’, History Compass, 5 (2007), pp. 9971001.

8 This point is amply illustrated in Timothy Gilfoyle's historiographical review of prostitutes as ‘metaphors of modernity’, where he shows how what we call prostitution today developed in the context of industrialization and mobilization in the modern period and how historians use prostitution to explore the idea of modernity, Gilfoyle, Timothy J., ‘Prostitutes in history: from parables of pornography to metaphors of modernity’, American Historical Journal, 104 (1999), pp. 117–41. Almost a century earlier, Havelock Ellis, writing in the 1910s, linked the causes of prostitution to capitalist civilization, Havelock Ellis, Studies in the psychology of sex, vi: Sex in relation to society (Philadelphia, PA, 1920), pp. 288, 299, 302. While some sources trace modern prostitution back to the ancient world, most seem to agree that there was a sharp increase in prostitution after industrial development: Vern Bullough and Bonnie Bullough, Women and prostitution: a social history (Buffalo, NY, 1987); Nils Johan Ringdal, Love for sale: a global history of prostitution (London, 2004); William Sanger, A history of prostitution: its extent, causes, and effects throughout the world (New York, NY, 1869).

9 Chauncey, ‘The locus of reproduction’; Finn, Tracing the veins; Harries, ‘Symbols and sexuality’; Harries, Work, culture, and identity; Klubock, ‘Working-class masculinity’; Klubock, Contested communities; Kynoch, ‘Marashea on the mines’; Moodie, Ndatshe, and Sibuyi, ‘Migrancy and male sexuality’; Parpart, ‘The household and the mine shaft’; Parpart, ‘“Where is your mother?”’; Raychaudhury, ‘Living conditions of the female workers in the eastern collieries’; Shilaro, A failed Eldorado.

10 Johnson, Roaring camp, pp. 275–313; Johnson, ‘The last fandango’.

11 Murphy, Mining cultures, p. xv.

12 Simmons, Red light ladies, p. 8.

13 For some of the most important and seminal work in the historiography of prostitution, see Alain Corbin, Women for hire: prostitution and sexuality in France after 1850 (Cambridge, MA, and London, 1990); Timothy J. Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York City, prostitution, and the commercialization of sex, 1790–1920 (New York, NY, and London, 1992); Gail Hershatter, Dangerous pleasures: prostitution and modernity in twentieth-century Shanghai (Berkeley, 1997); Philippa Levine, Prostitution, race and politics: policing venereal disease in the British Empire (London, 2003); Maria Luddy, Prostitution and Irish society, 1800–1940 (Cambridge, 2007); David J. Pivar, Purity and hygiene: women, prostitution, and the ‘American Plan,’ 1900–1930 (Westport, CT, and London, 2002); Ruth Rosen, The lost sisterhood: prostitution in America, 1900–1919 (Baltimore, MD, and London, 1982); Judith R. Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian society: women, class and the state (Cambridge, 1980).

14 Murphy, Mining cultures, p. xiv.

15 Mercier and Gier, ‘Reconsidering women and gender’, pp. 996–7; Butler, Daughters of joy, sisters of misery, pp. 1–5.

16 See for instance, Jennifer Duncan, Frontier spirit: the brave women of the Klondike (Ottowa, ON, 2003); Melanie J. Mayer, Klondike women: true tales of the 1897–1898 gold rush (Athens, OH, 1990); Melanie J. Mayer and Robert N. DeArmond, Staking her claim: the life of Belinda Mulrooney, Klondike and Alaska entrepreneur (Athens, OH, 2000).

17 See for instance Laurie Mercier and Jaclyn J. Gier, Mining women: gender in the development of a global industry, 1670–2005 (New York, NY, 2006).

18 Harries, ‘Symbols and sexuality’, pp. 322–3.

19 For other work that women could perform, see Johnson, Roaring camp, pp. 75–6.

20 Butler, Daughters of joy, sisters of misery, pp. 3–6; Johnson, Roaring camp, pp. 77–8.

21 Klubock, Contested communities, p. 41.

22 Parpart, ‘“Where is your mother?”’, passim.

23 Susan L. Johnson sees this displacement as the leading reason why so many French women came to work as prostitutes in the California gold rush. Her theory is that the economic collapse after the 1848 revolutions coupled with harsher restrictions on prostitution motivated many women who had worked as prostitutes in Paris and other French cities to migrate to California. Johnson, Roaring camp, pp. 77–8.

24 See for instance Paula Bartley, Prostitution: prevention and reform in England, 1860–1914 (London, 2000); Corbin, Women for hire; Gilfoyle, City of Eros; Jill Harsin, Policing prostitution in nineteenth-century Paris (Princeton, NJ, 1985); van Heyningen, Elizabeth B., ‘The social evil in the Cape Colony 1868–1902: prostitution and the contagious diseases acts’, Journal of South African Studies, 10 (1984), pp. 170–97; Levine, Prostitution, race and politics; Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian society; Julia Ann Laite, Prostitution in London, 1885–1930 (unpublished PhD dissertation, Cambridge, 2008).

25 Harries, ‘Symbols and sexuality’, p. 323.

26 Morgan, Good time girls, pp. 35–46, 56.

27 See n. 1.

28 Parpart, ‘“Where is your mother?”’, p. 260.

29 Bailey, Peter, ‘Parasexuality and glamour: the Victorian barmaid as cultural prototype’, Gender and History, 2 (1990), pp. 148–73.

30 Johnson, Roaring camp, pp. 51, 121.

31 Klubock, Contested communities, p. 48.

32 See for instance Joel Best, Controlling vice: regulating brothel prostitution in St. Paul, 1865–1883 (Columbus, OH, 1998); Gilfoyle, City of Eros; Barbara Meil Hobson, Uneasy virtue: the politics of prostitution and the American reform tradition: with a new preface (Chicago, IL, 1990).

33 Martin Ridge, ‘Disorder, crime and punishment in the Californian gold rush’, in Owens, ed., Riches for all, pp. 176–201, 178–82.

34 Morgan, Good time girls, p. 195.

35 For the fandango as a site of resistance, see Johnson, Roaring camp, pp. 278–80.

36 Hardesty, ‘Power and the industrial mining community’, p. 89.

37 Ibid., p. 90.

38 Porsild, Gamblers and dreamers; Ryley, Gold diggers of the Klondike.

39 MacKell, Brothels, bordellos, and bad girls, pp. 223–8.

40 Shilaro, A failed Eldorado, p. 214.

41 Murphy, Mining cultures, pp. xvi, 123, citing prize fighter and club owner Sonny O'Dea.

42 Shilaro, A failed Eldorado, pp. 211–14.

43 Klubock, contested communities.

44 Finn, Tracing the veins, p. 97.

45 Ibid., p. 93.

46 Ibid., p. 98.

47 Parpart, ‘The household and the mine shaft’, p. 38.

48 Parpart, ‘“Where is your mother?”’, p. 252.

49 Chauncey, ‘The locus of reproduction’, p. 159.

50 Shilaro, A failed Eldorado, p. 213.

51 Finn, Tracing the veins, p. 97.

52 Raelene Davidson, ‘Dealing with the social evil: prostitution and the police in Perth and on the eastern goldfields, 1895–1924’, in Kay Daniels, ed., So much hard work: women and prostitution in Australian history (Sydney, 1984), pp. 162–91, 162–3.

53 Morgan, Good time girls, 15. One of Mary Murphy's Butte interviewees, Hellen Raymond, ‘expressed the common opinion that Butte streets were safe for women despite the presence of so many rough men. With the red light district flourishing, men “knew where to get their pleasures”.’ Murphy, Mining cultures, p. 78.

54 Chauncey, ‘The locus of reproduction’, p. 159.

55 Jean Barman, ‘Taming aboriginal sexuality: gender, power, and race in British Columbia, 1850–1900’, in Irwin and Brooks, eds., Women and gender in the American West, pp. 210–35; McManus, ‘Unsettled pasts, unsettled borders’, p. 37; Adele Perry, On the edge of empire: gender, race, and the making of British Columbia, 1849–1871 (Toronto, ON, 2001).

56 For histories that explore the roles played by Latin American and African American prostitutes in different mining regions see Butler, Daughters of joy, sisters of misery, pp. 4–5; Hurtado, ‘When strangers met’; Jameson, All that glitters, p. 127; Jameson, ‘Connecting the women's wests’; Jensen and Miller, ‘The gentle tamers revisited’; Johnson, ‘The last fandango’; McManus, ‘Unsettled pasts, unsettled borders’.

57 Dee Brown, The gentle tamers: women of the Old Wild West (Lincoln, NB, and London, 1981), p. 93.

58 Glenda Riley, The female frontier: a comparative view of women on the prairie and the plains (Lawrence, KA, 1988), p. 116.

59 Simmons, Red light ladies, p. 8. Anne Butler, however, is more circumspect, arguing that the image of the prostitute with the ‘heart of gold’ is merely based upon a sentimental constructed memory, part and parcel of the Western myth. Butler, Daughters of joy, sisters of misery, pp. 74–5.

60 Parpart, ‘The household and the mine shaft’, p. 41; Parpart, ‘“Where is your mother?”’, passim; Chauncey, ‘The locus of reproduction’, p. 148.

61 Klubock, Contested communities, p. 41.

62 Johnson, Roaring camp, pp. 275–313; Ryley, Gold diggers of the Klondike, pp. 19–33; MacKell, Brothels, bordellos, and bad girls, pp. 13–40.

63 Chauncey, ‘The locus of reproduction’, p. 250; Parpart, ‘The household and the mine shaft’, p. 39; Klubock, Contested communities, 41.

64 Simmons, Red light ladies, p. 38.

65 Morgan, Good time girls, p. 292.

66 Jameson, All that glitters, pp. 129–39.

67 Ibid., p. 139.

68 Butler, Daughters of joy, sisters of misery, pp. 75–7, 97–103.

69 Ibid., p. 103.

70 Morgan, Good time girls, p. 104.

71 Simmons, ‘Bedroom politics’, p. 53.

72 Ryley, Gold diggers of the Klondike, p. 60.

73 Butler, Daughters of joy, sisters of misery, p. 106.

74 Ibid., pp. 3–24.

75 Raychaudhury, ‘Living conditions of the female workers in the eastern collieries’.

76 Davidson, ‘Dealing with the social evil’, p. 170; Finn, Tracing the veins, p. 79; Johnson, Roaring camp, pp. 277–8; Simmons, Red light ladies, p. 8; Murphy, Mining cultures, pp. 71–105.

77 For the growth of the social purity movement, see for instance Bartley, Prostitution; Lucy Bland, Banishing the beast: English feminism and sexual morality, 1885–1914 (London, 1995); Mark Thomas Connelly, The response to prostitution in the progressive era (Chapel Hill, NC, 1980); Brian Donovan, White slave crusades: race, gender, and anti-vice activism, 1887–1917 (Urbana, IL, and Chicago, IL, 2006); Pivar, Purity and hygiene; Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian society.

78 MacKell, Brothels, bordellos, and bad girls, pp. 196–230.

79 Ryley, Gold diggers of the Klondike, p. 63.

80 Klubock, Contested communities, p. 44.

81 Parpart, ‘“Where is your mother?”’, p. 251.

82 Ibid., pp. 254–5.

83 Ibid., p. 267.

84 Breckenridge, Keith, ‘The allure of violence: men, race and masculinity on the South African goldmines, 1900–1950’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 24 (1998), pp. 669–93, 676.

85 Parpart, ‘“Where is your mother?”’, pp. 246–7.

86 Chauncey, ‘The locus of reproduction’, p. 158. See also Parpart, ‘“Where is your mother?”’, p. 254.

87 Shilaro, A failed Eldorado, p. 211.

88 Ibid., p. 213.

89 Murphy, Mining cultures, p. xvii.

90 Joseph Spillane, Cocaine: from medical marvel to modern menace in the United States, 1884–1920 (Baltimore, MD, 2000), pp. 90–104.

91 See for instance the comments on prostitution as a social disease caused either by mining development, or the withdrawal of a mining company in Alcaino Bianca, ‘Chile (personal testimonial)’, International Women and Mining Conference (Visakhapatnam, India, 2004), pp. 79–80; Yukon Status of Women Council, ‘Draft gaining ground statement’, Gaining ground: mining, women, and the environment (Lake Laberge, Yukon Territory, 2000); Matilda Koma, ‘Issues concerning indigenous communities in mining’, in Bhanumathi, Kalpa, Ravi Shankar, Vanka and Gunavathi, eds., International women and mining conference (Visakhapatnam, India, 2004), pp. 21–3; Faith Lethala and Josephine Gumbi, South Africa (Visakhapatnam, India, 2004).

92 Lethala and Gumbi, South Africa, p. 82.

93 Finn, Tracing the veins, p. 98.

94 Murphy, Mining cultures, p. 33.

95 Klubock, Contested communities, pp. 2, 445.

96 Ibid., pp. 49–80.

97 Ibid., pp. 59–60.

98 Ibid., p. 63.

99 Harries, Work, culture, and identity, p. 168.

100 Harries, ‘Symbols and sexuality’, passim.

101 Parpart, ‘The household and the mine shaft’, pp. 41–2.

102 Klubock, Contested communities, p. 122.

103 Ibid., p. 283.

104 Finn, Tracing the veins, p. 98.

105 Hardesty, ‘Power and the industrial mining community’, p. 88.

* The author would like to thank Drs John Sandlos and Arn Keeling of the Mining and Northern Development Research Group at Memorial University for their valuable comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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