Friday, February 12, 2010

The sporting houses ...

One of my favorite Montana books is a big paperback volume called Not in Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana. Long out of print, the book is a collection of primary source materials about the state's past, transcribed and collected by the staff of the Montana Historical Society. There aren't too many monumental things in there ... but there's lots of fascinating reading, mostly on an insightful, personal scale.

Many of the book's entries are old letters, and here's part of one of them. This was written in April 1917 by a young woman who'd worked in the enormous Red Light District of Butte. But then Montana's Attorney General shut the Butte brothels down, and the girls scattered ... including this woman, who was exiled to Deer Lodge where business just wasn't as good. So she wrote to the attorney general to complain:
Dear Sir:

I want to drop you a line to informd you that the [Deer Lodge] sporting house is running Wide open, Music, & selling drinks.

May Carroll charge us girls $15.00 per week, & want us to stay with greeks for $2.00 & A White man for $3.00. She treats us girls like dogs. She is in Butte today gathering more girls . . .

Its a shame to closed the rest of the sporting Houses & leave Deer Lodge run. Its put me out $1000, for I was working [in Butte.] Deer Lodge house [has] 4 to 7 girls working all the time.

All we girls want is justice . . . I am writing to you hoping you will closed Deer Lodge or open the rest of the good towns.


  1. Oh, my! Deer Lodge WOULD be rough, in any business, really. You find the most amazing things, Mark!

  2. Seconding that...and I don't even know that much about Deer Lodge,or the trade. RIP to the dove with enough guts/simplicity to protest in print.

  3. Well, Mark...I am from Deer Lodge..and I can tell you that Kate Sullivan (at 401 -?_ Second St.) ran a (ahem...) "house of ill repute" well into the very early 1960's. I used to deliver packages from the local drug store (Bud's)when I was in Jr. Hi.

    Tips were great!! I remember always trying to discern something...something about the girls' lives. At the time, I would estimate that there were 2-3 girls at any given time.

    Kate was "retired" by Chief of Police Johnny Wilson sometime between 1959 and 1962. I visited Kate (who was a friend of my Mother) in 1962 (?), and she related:

    "...Johnny came by and told me that the old times were over...and I should close down..!" (paraphrase.)

    One interesting thing. When the girls took their little mini-vacations...Kate would not allow them to stay in Deer Lodge. She personally accompanied them to the bus depot (about two blocks away) and put them on buses; usually to Butte.

    Now, Miles City...that's another story!!!

    Pat Lueck

  4. I found the book online, then ordered an ILL copy...all that pdf clicking made me crazy.