Monday, June 21, 2010
Sin in the Second City
Sin the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America's Soul
by Karen Abbot [306.74 Abb]
This book is about a fabulous (and notorious) bordello on South Dearborn Street in Chicago called the Everleigh Club. The Club was owned and run by two sisters, Minna and Ada. Their last name is not certain--the sisters made up many stories about their lives. Sometimes they refer to their surname as Lester, sometimes as Everleigh; other last names crop up as well. The cortesans (known as butterflies--from Minna's stunning and valuable collection of diamonds in a butterfly shape) were educated in Balzac and other literature and they were ordered to stay away from drugs and sternly forbidden not to roll their tricks--they made more money than their sisters in other houses, so the butterflies complied. In fact, Minna and Ada had a long waiting list of girls wanting to enter the Club. The house was elegant with (from page 69 of the book) a "towering water fountain, parquet floor arranged in intricate mosaic patters, and ceiling that dripped crystal chandeliers. They came to see little oddities...gilded fishbowls, eighteen-karat-gold spittoons that cost $650 each, the the Everleigh's signature trinket--a fountain that at regular intervals, fired a jet of perfume into the thickly incensed air." (A brief note to put the cost of the spitoons in perspective: the Club's heigh day was from about 1899-1908.) The Club also featured a solid gold piano (Ada's obsession) and their clients dined on pheasant, squab, roasted turkey, duck or goose with sides of au gratin cauliflower or spinach cups with creamed peas, not to mention champagne. The sisters have a Nebraska connection: before opening up shop in Chicago, they ran a bordello in Omaha. A running thread throughout the book is the reform movement that arose in Chicago in response to white slavery charges and the immorality of prostitution in general. Some of the organizations went on to become national in nature, since the traffic in women was not, of course, limited to Chicago. -- recommended by Rianne S. - Bennett Martin Public Library
[Also available in downloadable audio format.]
[ official Sin in the Second City and Karen Abbot web site ]
Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?
New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month.