Brothels, Madams and Prostitution, “An Open Secret” reveals the drama of the West

In a detailed account of how women worked in the one of the oldest professions
Published: Jun. 16, 2023 at 10:03 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Chris Enss’s “An Open Secret” has been catching fire because of the exposure to a familiar way of life for some women back in the wild wild west as prostitution is uncovered in a new book. Enss is a New York Times best-selling author who has been writing about women of the Old West for more than thirty years. She has penned more than fifty published books on the subject. Her work has been honored with nine Will Rogers Medallion Awards, two Elmer Kelton Book Awards, an Oklahoma Center for the Book Award, three Foreword Review Magazine Book Awards, the Laura Downing Journalism Award, and three Western Writers of America Spur Finalist Awards. Enss’s most recent works are The Widowed Ones: Beyond the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Along Came a Cowgirl: Daring and Iconic Cowgirls of Rodeos and Wild West Shows, and Straight Lady: The Life and Times of Margaret Dumont “The Fifth Marx Brother.”

In 1876, more than 25,000 miners swarmed the hills surrounding the town known as Deadwood. Having a reputation as a lawless outpost of frontier violence, prostitution stormed the mining camp. Madams and women of easy virtue started their businesses there. Some became wealthy and infamous while others languished unknown in a trade fraught with abuse and sometimes death. An Open Secret: The Story of Deadwood’s Most Notorious Bordellos focuses on the brothels and the women who worked in the oldest profession in the ferocious town.

Among the most notable Deadwood soiled doves and brothel owners were Dora DuFran and Al Swearingen. The names of some of the most popular brothels in Deadwood Gulch were the Shy-Ann Room, the Beige Door, and the Shasta Room. After more than a hundred years of continual operation, the brothels in Deadwood were forced to close in 1980.

To kick off the book launch, Deadwood History, Inc. and the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission will host Chris Enss at the Cultural Center by the Adams Cultural Center at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, June 16, 2023, if it rains the event will be moved indoors. Following the presentation, Enss will sign copies of her book.

On Saturday, June 17, Enss will be signing copies of her book, An Open Secret, at The Brothel Deadwood from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. This event is open and free to the public. Donations are appreciated. Stop by and meet Enss and tour The Brothel. Snacks and beverages will be served throughout the day. The Brothel is located at 610 Main Street.