Tag Archives: ethics

coercion & criminality (morality and sex work part four)

Writers and writing teachers have this saying: you can only get to the universal through the specific. That’s what this post is about: stories of two women in Wallace. The first is about a madam who was convicted for trafficking in 1912, and the second is about a woman who worked in the Arment Rooms for a brief time during the post WWII heyday in the mid-1950s.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sex work and criminality during these past few posts and the discussions they’ve prompted with others in my life. On the one hand: some of the anti-legalization side of the discussion sounds paternalistic, like “you might have thought that you freely chose sex work, but you actually didn’t know what was good for you, girl.” This perspective basically asserts that women unknowingly fall into the trap of prostitution. They are “rescued” and informed that they had been manipulated into thinking that they chose sex work, but in reality they had been trafficked. This language conflates sex work and trafficking. As I have mentioned before, proponents of this point of view often refuse the possibility that any woman could freely choose sex work by referring to all women who sell sex as “prostituted women.”

It reminds me of the moral panic rhetoric leading up to the passage of the Mann Act in 1910. This law made it a federal offense to transport a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes.” It was also called the “white slave traffic act,” a phrase that arose during progressive era social hygiene reform. Many vulnerable women who ran into financial insecurity, often immigrants, were coerced into prostitution and felt unable to leave even when not physically constrained because they would bear the stigma of immorality. From the mostly sensational stories you read about this time, it’s unclear whether many of the women were trafficked or just needed a way out. The Mann Act targeted “procurers” (we would now call them pimps) and declared these “inmates of bawdy houses” victims. The law effectively absolved the women of moral responsibility and framed them as “saved.”

In Wallace, there was a madam named Effie Rogan who ran a house called the Reliance from 1895-1911. Here’s what she looked like in 1906:

photo courtesy university of idaho library special collections

photo courtesy university of idaho library special collections

Effie’s brothel was located at 510 Pine Street from 1891-1904, at which point she moved to the triangle-shaped patch of land by the river near where the Depot is today. Like many who were selling sex back in these days, her housemates’ occupations were listed as dressmakers and hairdressers during the 1910 census. She was convicted of trafficking under the Mann Act in 1912.

It usually worked like this: procurers and madams lured women into town with promises of marriage or jobs like dressmaking and hairdressing, met them at the train station, then took away their clothes and raped them into feeling demoralized or “ruined.” It was also the case that many women were told they would have to work off their train tickets and then they entered into what amounted to indentured servitude, seldom able to pay off the original debt added to the constantly accruing room and board debt.

As is the case today, many anti-legalization advocates from back in those days had self-serving agendas. They passed around exaggerated stories meant to invoke pity, generate political influence, and of course they were also rewarded with attention and a sense of self-satisfied pleasure. But there were also those who felt called by God or their conscience to be a voice for others. They believed sex workers (or prostituted women) could not speak (or choose) for themselves. This perspective seems somewhat patronizing to me because as it frees the women from moral responsibility to spare them stigma, it also dismisses or invalidates what some women have to say about their experiences. When we conflate trafficking with sex work, I think it does a disservice to the women who believe and assert that they freely chose and continue to choose sex work.

On the other hand: it’s pretty horrible to imagine madams like Effie and her procurer colleagues profiting off of the misery of desperate women whose lives were so wrecked that many of them drank a small bottle of carbolic acid to die. And this situation continues in different ways for many women selling sex today. To legally qualify as a victim of sex trafficking, you have to be recruited, harbored, transported, delivered, or obtained for the purpose of commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Or you have not yet turned 18 years old.

The 530 police records and rap sheets recording the appearance and background of the women working in the Silver Valley’s brothels from 1952-1973 offer evidence that some of them would have likely fallen into the category of trafficking through coercion. Two summers of doing this research has shown me that the conditions for women in Wallace seem to have been generally positive, but in the rest of this post I want to address the kind of conditions that led to the women finding themselves in Wallace in the first place.

The sheriff’s office files confirm that girls were turned away if their record came back from the FBI to reveal they were younger than 21 years old. Some slipped through the cracks, obviously, but there appears to have been an effort that exceeds due diligence. If the rap sheet showed indications of involvement with organized crime, they were also turned away. Some of them were material witnesses for Mann Act cases in other cities. So in terms of the law, some of the women were trafficked, since they had been caught up in Mann Act cases.

Many women had pimps in other towns. This was often noted in their records explicitly, as was the case for a woman who called herself “Kitty Black,” who was born in Chewelah, Washington in 1919 and found herself in Wallace for four months during the summer of 1956:

shoshone county sheriff's office files #705

shoshone county sheriff’s office files #705

The rap sheet notes that she was first picked up by the police in Spokane, Washington in 1940 and fined $25 for “city vag.” (used by many cities as code for prostitution, but it might also indicate homelessness or drug addiction). Eight months later, we find her in Grand Coulee, Washington, where she is again charged with vagrancy and told to leave town. Most likely, there was huge demand for sex work there during this time, when it was essentially a boom town because of the dam, according to the visitor’s guide website:

In the Grand Coulee, life changed dramatically and quickly once work on the dam began in 1933. Not only did the undertaking of this massive project change forever the shape of the river, but overnight it created towns where nothing but sagebrush, sand and rocks had previously existed. Thousands came to the Grand Coulee looking for work in the midst of the Depression. They worked around the clock to finish the dam by 1942.

During World War II, Kitty finds gainful employment with the War Department:

scso file #705

scso file #705

That’s right, she was a Rosie the Riveter. So were MANY of these women. We should really revise our collective understanding of Rosie the Riveter and think more about what happened to the actual women those images stand in for: many were in the sex industry both before and after the war. After all the patriotism and serving our country rhetoric, we were basically like, “thanks and good luck finding another job that pays a comparable wage.”

In 1945, Kitty is picked up for driving while drunk and grand theft in San Bernardino, California. She makes her way to San Diego shortly thereafter, is charged with being drunk, and serves a fifteen-day term in the city jail. Two years later, she’s back in Spokane where she is arrested for “Inv.,” which is short for investigation and means that she wasn’t charged with anything. (Wallace used this code for regulating prostitution. The rap sheets read “Inv” and then the charge was disposed of with the phrase “fingerprinted, mugged, and released,” or sometimes just “fmr.”) There is a noticeable gap between her 1947 Spokane arrest and 1956, when she comes to Wallace at the age of 37 to work in the Arment Rooms, but her record notes that she admits to having been a prostitute in Troy, Montana during 1955.

It’s unclear whether Kitty’s pimp coerced her into the business or whether he found her sometime along the way. Her file notes her pimp lived in Spokane, which is where she was first arrested, so both are possible. When women have pimps, it often indicates coercion—these are men who are incredibly skilled at targeting women, sometimes by trolling the jails and paying for them to be released. Others target young girls with an unstable family life, financial insecurity, runaways, “rebellious” girls, girls who have gained a reputation for sleeping around, or simply women who were raised in a way that was sheltered. These men know how to find and exploit vulnerability. Then they con their marks into thinking that they are loved so it may feel like a boyfriend kind of situation, or, as I mentioned above, they manipulate the women to feel like they can’t do any better, or they threaten to hurt their kids, or the women for whatever reason just feel like they owe these men something (and here I think the historic power of male supremacy in our culture comes into play as well). And then there is also often outright abuse. Lots of women who came through Wallace’s houses had men’s names tattooed on their bodies. These names were not their fathers or brothers or sons. These names were their pimps branding them.

Okay that’s probably enough for this post. Besides evidence that many of the women had pimps, are there other indications of coercion found in the 1952-1973 SCSO body of evidence?

— Many women who found themselves in the Wallace brothels might not have been actively “trafficked,” but likely felt coerced by their financial situation, like they didn’t have better options. The following other crimes show up on their rap sheets: narcotics, burglary, “obtaining money by false pretenses,” shoplifting, forgery, larceny, drunk and disorderly, “justifiable homicide,” drunk in public, embezzling, robbery, stolen credit cards, writing bad checks or “bogus checks.” (Now here I am doing that thing where I’m conflating a bit between trafficking and sex work, but I also believe economic coercion is a very tangible thing.) It’s really easy for just one disruptive life event to lead even a well-functioning, together person into a downward spiral of addiction or simply to knock them into financial insecurity. In Kitty’s case, it looks like she was an alcoholic after the war ended, and needed a means to support herself starting at least by the time she turned twenty-one.

— I need to look more into this, but there are several women who appear to have entered the sex industry from a place in California called the Ventura School for Girls, where they were labeled “wayward girl.” There is one other reference to a girl from an “orphan home,” but it seems unusual to me that this particular Ventura School for Girls shows up several times… Were they just more likely to end up in the sex industry already or was the school selling them off or providing some kind of pipeline? Was there a personal connection through one of the madams? Here’s what a quick search of the googleverses tells me:

The reformatory was a facility for wayward and sexually promiscuous young women; having a daughter incarcerated there was a great shame for any family. “Young women would go to very drastic measures in order to escape going to the Ventura School for Girls because of its bad reputation,” explains historian Elizabeth Escobedo. “There were women at the juvenile hall who… were swallowing safety pins the night before in order to get out of it.”

— And if you want to know more about Gayle Starr’s story, my former colleague and friend BP Morton dug a little more into that: it’s worth a read.

a trojan horse. (morality and sex work part three)

This is the third (and final?) post in my Morality and Sex Work mini-series.

The inspiration for the title comes from the famous story in Greek mythology about “cunning Odysseus” (his epithet in the ancient Greek is mētis, which is also translates to mean “crafty” or “skilled”) hatching a plan to offer a giant wooden horse as an offering to the enemies, who bring the gift into their city, only to be destroyed after those hidden inside the horse crawl out in the dead of night and open the gates for a surprise attack.

It is impossible to talk about sex work and especially morality without getting into some interconnected aspects that are tricky to address…

Trojan Horse in front of the Schilemann Museum in Ankershagen, Germany (photo by Christof Bobzin)

After my post last week, I received two questions/comments via Facebook that I’d like to share here. The first was from my friend, Kristen, who suggested that it is important to consider whether or not working in the sex industry has negative psychological consequences, or is psychologically damaging, even in the most ideal circumstances:

Also, what are the consequences, professional AND relational, for women when they leave the profession, as I’m assuming the vast majority inevitably do. These are the questions I have about porn workers as well.

I bet Kristen is thinking at least in part about Linda Lovelace, whose story—what I know of it from watching Inside Deep Throat and the biopic that came out more recently—was pretty tragic, before, during, and after her experience making that infamous film. She hardly got paid for it and was in an abusive situation. Before dying young, she apparently came to feel like making that movie ruined her life. There are also positive stories like Nina Hartley, for example, who’s spent the last thirty years in porn and is using her celebrity + experience in adult film as a platform for sex education (which is also something that gets said about porn and often is not true, but in this case it is)…

Someone else (who wrote me in a personal message and so I won’t name her here unless she lets me know it’s okay to credit her) also offered some thoughts and questions:

How likely is it that these ladies had experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, and/or neglect as children before ending up in these Wallace “whorehouses” (most of the people I knew growing up in Wallace referred to them as such). I also wonder how many of them experienced being involved with a pimp prior to their employment in Wallace. And what about the part of drug/alcohol abuse and it’s impact on the women? Recently watched A Path Appears on Independent Lens and made me think of you and your blog. Sex trafficking articles abound which speak to the above abuses among prostitutes. I wonder about the damage done to them before they ever started prostitution. I wonder what emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual and then possibly financial state they were in when they made this decision or if they really had a choice. Or if their choice was taken away and if their worth was stripped before they “decided” to become a prostitute. Or perhaps they were runaways and met a pimp who helped them into the business.

I hadn’t seen A Path Appears, so I watched it this past weekend while I was snowed in (it’s available to on Amazon Instant, if you missed it on TV or would rather stream it). For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s the follow-up to Half the Sky, a morality-based and economic-based argument for the value of empowering women, by journalists Sheryl WuDunn and Nick Kristof. Their argument in Half the Sky was basically that if we aren’t enabling the talent, intelligence, and skills of half the people in the world (women and girls), we are missing out on huge opportunities and contributions. They have found evidence that education and economic opportunity are lasting solutions that recruit others and have a ripple effect on everyone in the community.

In A Path Appears, Kristof and WuDunn have zoomed in to try to better understand specific challenges and offer solutions by pointing us toward models that are working to make a difference (in a world where “talent is universal, but opportunity is not”). It’s a three part documentary, with the first part specifically addressing sex trafficking in the U.S., the second part addressing poverty in West Virginia, Haiti, and Colombia, and the third part going into solutions that respond effectively to intimate partner violence in Atlanta, Georgia and sexual violence in the home in Kenya.

I liked that the documentary series was both about what’s going on in other countries as well as what’s happening right here in the U.S., especially regarding sex trafficking: it highlights the vulnerability of the girls who are targeted, offers law enforcement strategies that don’t repeat the trauma or engage in victim-blaming, and showcases nonprofits helping survivors build new lives. The title is taken from a saying written in 1921 by Lu Xun about how hope is like a path through the countryside: at first you can’t see a way but then after enough people begin to walk the same way again and again, a path (or solution) appears.

Here are some quotes I found compelling and wrote down as I watched:

“I don’t think most Americans appreciate how much or how brutal the sex trafficking is right here at home.”

“The bootcamp for prostitution is child rape.”

“If that’s your choice, what are the options? The truth is it takes a lot of failed communities to get them out there [on the streets], and it takes communities to bring them back [to safety].”

We need to put the shame back onto the abusers where it belongs.

Vulnerability, childhood trauma, addiction, neglect, and abuse in the home create “this horrible maelstrom” of feeling “trapped and forced into prostitution.” Drugs, prostitution, trafficking, “it’s all so interwoven,” that a victimless crime business arrangement between consenting adults is not the reality.

“He knew better than i did that all i wanted was to have a family and to be loved…. I was arrested 167 times and he was arrested zero. And I would have done life in prison before testifying against that man [her pimp]…. There has to be a better way.”

There are 10 times as many johns as there are people selling sex, but 60% of arrests are the women. “If there were no johns there would be no prostitution…. There are an awful lot of men who buy sex and have a lot to lose.”

Regarding an economic empowerment solution: “The products we’re making are a by-product of what we’re trying to do.”

Over and over again, the stories we see feature women who were not really choosing to sell sex, but often were running away from instability in the home, introduced to prostitution by parents or other family members, and survivors of sexual abuse of some kind. The producers make the argument that investing in prevention and providing holistic long-term answers through rescue, safe houses, and skills training, creating jobs, is much cheaper than criminalizing the women and sending them to prison at the same time as it also intervenes into the cycle of abuse and/or poverty.

One thing really sticks with me at this point. Some of the girls said that they didn’t realize until later that they had been sexually abused, since their family members were the ones perpetrating the violence when they were young (I’m thinking back to the story of the woman I talked about in my Provisional Diagnosis: Prostitution post), and several mentioned not knowing they’d been trafficked, essentially because they hadn’t named it as such until it was diagnosed as such by others after they had been able to extract themselves. This is at least in part a testament to the psychological manipulation and skilled control of the men (they are mostly men) who target vulnerable girls and women they can live off of.

Which brings me back to the Trojan horse. Some things are not what they seem to be, and it appears likely that many sex work situations at this point in time, at least in the U.S., are not what we could call freely chosen, but rather the byproduct of a trafficking situation, which involves “force, fraud or coercion,” and also “manipulation, control,” according to Kate Mogulescu in the film. In the U.S. at this point in time, I don’t know if there is room in the solution for a more libertarian legalization answer until we better address difficult systemic problems like poverty, addiction, violence in the home, child abuse, and rape. I have not been to Germany, but it sounds like that country’s brothel-based model features some aspects that appear to be more positive, and I’ve heard that in London they have a decriminalized and mostly escort-based system that might also be more positive system, but I don’t know if that’s reality or not.

On the other hand, this is also a trojan horse because many people advancing the sex trafficking argument are actually conflating sex trafficking with sex work, focusing not on people who *do* freely choose sex work, but instead generalizing out to them using the experiences of the ones who have been trafficked. And others conflate labor trafficking with sex trafficking (LSE paper, I’m looking at you). More on all of this in a later post…

Another reason this post is a Trojan horse is that it wasn’t really about sex work in the Silver Valley. So in the next post I’ll return to the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office files and talk about this stuff specifically in the case of Wallace.

“just like any other business”? (morality and sex work part two)

From time to time, Wallace makes it onto another one of those “cool small towns in America” lists, here, #38. Although this latest list celebrates the “rich history and culture” you find in small towns, it fails to plug the Oasis Bordello Museum, which was mentioned in Travel + Leisure’s 2012 list and Budget Travel’s 2009 list (which also features my current town, strangely). If the article’s authors had actually spoken with the people living in Wallace, amid the “large pine-topped mountain peaks and breathtaking sunsets downtown” long enough to talk about the brothel-based sex work aspect of the town’s history they would have heard something like this:

“The houses prevented rapes.”

“They gave back a lot to the community.”

“It’s just like any other business.”

Whenever I talk about Wallace’s brothel-based sex work history and culture to a group of outsiders, I inevitably get asked these questions:

“How do you feel about it?”

“Do you think it’s immoral?”

“Should we legalize prostitution?”

Recently, at the Lexington Rotary Club talk I gave, I was asked these very questions, and they led to some of the more lively moments of the discussion. But they were also the moments when I felt least committed to what I was saying, because in some ways I don’t have a “position.” And I come from a place—am trying to translate the cultural values of this place—that continues to justify sex work as a positive thing. Or at least as a not-bad thing. Like, overwhelmingly so. So much so that I sometimes forget that a lot of people think that sex work cannot be anything other than inherently exploitive, immoral, and/or degrading for women.

I’m going to go ahead and do something I’m hesitant about and get a little personal…

Continue reading

masters of sex, serial, and telling real people’s stories (morality and sex work part one)

“You pretended to have an orgasm? Is that a common practice among prostitutes?”

“It’s a common practice amongst anyone with a twat.[…]”

“But why, why would a woman lie about something like that?”

“Gawd almighty, this is… Okay, I’m gonna be honest with you but only cause I like you and you seem real dedicated about your project with your penguin suit and all, with the charts and the timer, but seriously, if you really want to learn about sex then you’re gonna have to get yourself a female partner.”

Masters of Sex, Pilot, 2013

I was just re-reading provisional diagnosis: prostitution because I was thinking about how I didn’t get around to the main point I originally intended to discuss when I began that post. I wanted to say something more about the ethics of telling real people’s stories. Since then, I’ve checked out a couple relevant items of pop culture my friends told me about and revisited two books I read over the summer:

1. the Showtime series, Masters of Sex (based on a book about revolutionary human sexuality researchers Masters and Johnson),

2. the new podcast series, Serial, which re-investigates the murder of a teenage girl in 1999,

3. Karen Abbott’s book, Sin in the Second City, a historical account of the Everleigh Club, the famous early 20th century-era Chicago brothel, and

4. Alexa Albert’s Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its Women.

I’ve only seen four episodes of Masters of Sex, and so far I’ve been drawn in by the subject matter, of course, but I’ve also been impressed by the show’s attention to the research itself. The exchange I quoted above, which occurs between Dr. Bill Masters and a woman he found in one of St. Louis’s brothels, illustrates just one important role sex workers played in his initial research. Although the TV version changes things a bit, according to Maier’s book, it was the suggestion of one college-educated woman “‘amplifying her income for an impending marriage’ by dabbling in the sex trade” that “changed everything” for Masters (82), opening his eyes to the importance of finding a female research partner. [Sidenote: I thought Lizzy Caplan was awesome in Mean Girls and True Blood, but she’s really a great match for this role, as Gini Johnson.] I love how the first few episodes highlight the simultaneous importance and difficulty of studying or talking about sex in a culture that is mostly square and/or opposed to women having sex outside the confines of marriage.

After listening to the first two episodes of Serial, I have been inspired by the production quality–Sarah Koenig’s storytelling is compelling and experiments with the podcast genre in cool ways–and I’ve also been drawn into the meta-level-story-about-the-story, which involves real life people. A recent article by Michelle Dean in The Guardian features the following commentary about the consequences of documenting the lives of living people:

“But in the post-listening haze, as I poked around myself and discovered the social media undergrowth amassing under it, I began to have questions about what I was participating in. Serial is, after all, not a work of fiction. It is about real people.”

Continue reading

provisional diagnosis: prostitution

This patient absolutely vows that she does want to change her life. She says she has never been satisfied with it. She doesn’t feel its right to take the money from some of these poor men who have been her customers. She is ashamed of her life. She is ashamed, she says, when she faces other people. She said she would like to go to an LPN school. She likes to take care of the sick.

– Nevada State Hospital doctor, SSCO Files #913

As I mentioned in my last post, the SCSO Files contain one remarkable and unusual case detailing part of one woman’s life story as recorded by a male doctor when she was admitted to the Nevada State Hospital. He sent her record to the Wallace Chief of Police on January 14, 1966 (apparently before HIPAA in 1996, there was no comprehensive federal health privacy law), along with the following note:

This is a reply to your letter of January 12 regarding above-named person. She was committed to this hospital on a commitment for mental illness on February 24, 1965 and discharged March 22, 1965. At the hearing for commitment she stated that her husband was in the penitentiary in Montana and that her parents were in a mental institution in __________, Montana, however, it was later established that they worked in the hospital.

She was given an occupational assignment in our canteen and a job was obtained for her on the outside. However, she stayed there about two days and then left Reno stating that she was returning to Winnemucca, Nevada to resume her former occupation of prostitute.

A copy of her admission history is enclosed as a further source of information.

Within five months of her release, she would turn up in Wallace, working for Luoma Delmonte in the Jade Rooms, where she would remain for about five months before moving on. Her SCSO record indicates she had been “run out of town,” characterized as a “Hope Head” by the police (I think the intended phrase was “hophead,” aka addict):

officer notes on the file

officer notes on the file

It’s hard to tell whether or not this woman actually felt like it wasn’t right to take money from “these poor men who have been her customers,” or if that is doctor-added interpretation. I don’t know whether or not she was actually “ashamed” of her life or if she was just saying that to appease the doctor, who later goes on to write:

She has been told that her promises and her possible trying to impress the examiner mean nothing at all, that everything she does must be evidenced in her action—good ward behavior, willingness to work, some sort of a vow and sticking to it that she does really want to change her life and not just talk about it.

In the case of this woman, the doctor’s skeptical and parental tone barely covers what for me sounds like titillation as he takes down her life story.

But so many of the SCSO files also contain this sort of parental language and assessments of the women’s appearance and character. I imagine the women finishing their interviews with the madams and walking down the street to the sheriff’s office where they are “mugged and printed” in an impersonal, regulatory way as the police officers relish a personal preview of the incoming women who rotate in and out, ensuring variety for the customers (“fresh inventory,” as one person put it).

In more than a few cases, there is definitely a tinge of voyeurism in the commentary by the police officers doing the in-processing and out-processing. Maybe that’s just the inevitable outcome of treating a woman like a product that must be regulated.

Or maybe this is just what notes about real people sound like through the distancing lens of analysis.

In the case of this woman, I think it’s just the tone of the doctor’s voice that is upsetting to me, especially when he writes: “This young woman has had quite a career,” just before mentioning that “her father even carried on sex previously with her when she was a very young girl,” using the word “sex” instead of “rape,” as though she had been old enough as “a very young girl” to give her consent. (It’s possible that’s how she talked about it herself, but I still wish he’d been conscientious enough to make the distinction, regardless.) Later he writes, “One can go on and talk to this patient for half a day and continue to gather various material,” as though she is simply some fascinating object to study.

Or maybe it’s just that I am projecting my own fears: how am I any different? I ask myself, as I sift through my research. I guess that remains to be seen, but we have come a long way in terms of institutional research ethics and privacy, and I have been trying to ensure I respect my community’s willingness to participate in this work: I’ve taken courses on research ethics; I gained approval for my research from my university’s institutional review board; my research participants granted me informed consent or in some cases agreed to talk with me upon the conditions of anonymity.

Yet I still worry I might repeat the same violence of voyeurism. I remember finding out about “peeping toms” when I was growing up and feeling a paradoxical mixture of fear, confusion, indifference, and anger. But now, especially as I look back on my own research notes and try to write a narrative that brings my research to life, I sometimes wonder, where is the line between peeking into windows as opposed to sharing stories?

pages from my research notes

pages from my research notes

Maybe the difference is the tone and the motivation—tricky things to work with…


In the admission history, this woman is described as a “young blond,” who is “pleasant, perfectly oriented, she said she has been in the military organization as a Wave with an honorable discharge.” Military service is somewhat common for the women from this era. They joined the armed services in great numbers during WWII, sometimes prior to becoming sex workers, and in other cases the military provided a means of income/occupation sufficient to temporarily replace prostitution.

The doctor goes on to write that she “very frank, tells you all about her checkered career of prostitution, the various drugs she has been using. She is reasonably intelligent, pleasant, although when she had been sent back to the ward after the undersigned had interviewed her, she referred to him as an old something because he didn’t prescribe any medicine for her.”

Below, I include some additional chunks of this document with a bit of interpretation (all quotations sic):

The “Early Life” section reads:

She was brought up partly in her home and partly in the home of her grandparents. She had trouble with delinquency in the sense of running away when she was small but not shoplifting or stealing or other troubles.

Under “Schooling and General Knowledge” the doctor explains,

She went as far as the 10th grade. She has worked as an aide or an attendant at the ____________ Hospital, both when she was a high school student and later on for about a year afterward. She liked it. Names all the previous presidents, does well on President-King, Lie & Mistake, multiplies well except she misses 11 x 12, takes 7 from 100 for one subtraction and then fails. She is fairly familiar with world news. Her favorite funny paper are Peanuts and Beatle Bailey. She does well on both parts of the Cowboy Story.

[I have no idea what kind of tests President-King or Lie & Mistake are, and when I Google “the cowboy story mental health assessment” I pull up stories about football players…]

And then, as I mentioned earlier, there is the “Present Illness” section:

This young woman has had quite a career. She says that early in life she had sex; that her father even carried on sex previously with her when she was a very young girl and has tried since she has grown up but she will not let him do that any more. She has been engaged in prostitution for six years and has been taking drugs since she married her husband which was in 1961. She describes her husband as having been a criminal and drug addict for years. He had been married before, had no children. She had one child at the age of 14 and this child is with her mother at the present time and is now 8 years of age. It was OW [out of wedlock]. Patient started to work at prostitution in Montana; went from Montana to Vegas, Vegas to Winnemucca, Winnemucca back to Las Vegas, then up to Reno. She did no prostituting, however, in Vegas where she was only for a short time. While in Nevada she stayed in Winnemucca where she has done well, she says, in the hunting season.

On the first examination this patient says that she made as much as five and six and seven hundred dollars a day but when seen later she says the most she would make in a day for her own so-called ‘take home money’ would be about $150 or $165. The madam in the salons and houses takes 40% of the money. She got started on drugs from the husband, she claims, and from time to time she has used various drugs, Dilaudid, Morphine, Demerol, Cocaine, and Dolophine. In the beginning she says her husband was able to bring home plenty of drugs as he robbed drug stores. After that, however, she had to use her money from prostitution to go out and buy the drugs and while no attempt was made to get the name of the individual ckrokers [brokers?], most of her medication was obtained from doctors. … However, there was a doctor or two in Las Vegas who even knew she was nothing but an addict, continued to give her the drugs at $12 a visit, or give her the drugs to take. …

In the search for real psychotic material, there is none. The patient has never had any hallucinations, delusions, paranoid material or ideas of influence or reference. She says she knows she has been listed as a sociopath. She has done a little reading like most of the sociopaths have and is able to discuss her case, at least in a superficial fashion in a fair way. As to alcohol, she has done a good deal of drinking, too, in periods when she hasn’t been taking drugs. She even has taken drink before breakfast – Scotch for the most part. She has never had syphilis. She has had frequent blood tests. She has had Gonorrhea and been treated for it. She herself has never been in jail. She denies homosexuality. …

Provisional Diagnosis: Personality trait disturbance, emotionally unstable personality, with alcoholism and drug addiction and prostitution.”

In general, the doctor [perhaps unintentionally] minimizes the impact of systemic or male-caused problems where they appear to have affected her life. That’s most obvious in his language reducing paternal rape to incest, but is also apparent in the skeptical tone invoked as he comments on her interpretation of events: “she has done well, she says, in the hunting season,” or “She got started on drugs from the husband, she claims,” or where he reduces her to “nothing but an addict” while noting how it appears clear that doctors are knowingly enabling her habit.

I’m not sure what’s going on with the language questioning her sexual orientation, if that’s what it amounts to when he writes that “she denies homosexuality.” Seems like a strange way to put it…

Her file indicates that after leaving Wallace she returned to Montana. In a letter from the Miles City Police Chief to the Wallace Police Chief, we find out that she was “run out of town” there, too. The Miles City officer goes on to say, “I heard last week a couple of her girl-friends worked her over in Billings, Montana and put her in the hospital.”