Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bad Girls of the Old West

 Disclaimer: The following contains adult-related material, perhaps not suited for all ages.

Prostitution has been around since the beginning of time, but did you know there was a difference in the old west between the "painted ladies" and "saloon girls?"

Although proper women assigned many names to others in their gender who held these jobs, names such as "fallen angels, soiled doves, daughter's of sin, or scarlet ladies," the 'painted ladies' were normally those who offered sex for pay, while 'saloon girls' were paid by the establishment owners to entertain clients with singing and dancing.  No matter which position they held, women who worked in saloons and other similar places were looked down upon by 'proper' women simply for their association with drinking, gambling and whoring.  Back then, even watching an animal mate shocked the sensibility of an upstanding lady.

The women who worked in saloons were generally lured there out of desperation.  Flyers promising fancy clothing, fine pay, good working conditions, and protection played upon the female senses since job's were scarce and many husbands died unexpectedly by guns, horses, and disease.  Life expectancy in the old west wasn't very long, and women without partners didn't have the choices we enjoy today.

Of course, I imagine there were some women who became whores simply because they enjoyed sex, and in some instances, 'proper' women considered 'daughter's of sin' a necessary evil. Sex wasn't often discussed between mothers, daughters or even among friends, so entering a marriage bed without any knowledge made the experience unpleasant, and sometimes, something to be dreaded. If romance authors wrote about true experiences, at times our books wouldn't be all that romantic.  Thank goodness, we can stretch the truth a bit.  :)

In my latest historical western release, Odessa, my heroine takes a job as a "songbird" in a saloon, much to the dismay of the hero.  But, being a feisty gal, and finding all other options closed to her, Odessa soon finds she should have heeded Zach's warnings. 

Here's a scene:

  Odessa returned from her third break of the evening. John Harper, quite the polite young man, had provided a welcome respite to worrying about Zach. She’d learned more about John and his family and shared some of her own past. She steered clear of any conversation that might lead to questions about how she ended up in Charleston.

The crowd grew rowdier as the night progressed, and Alf had come to her defense several times when a few trail hands made inappropriate comments or tried to drag her onto the dance floor. Not wanting to draw any more attention to herself, she dropped her suggestive poses and stood with hands clasped at her waist. The jar atop the piano behind her was half-full, and now she’d find out if her singing or her sleazy stance had earned her the extra money.

She joined in on cue when he played Oh Susanna. She tapped her toe to the music and sang in her loudest voice, although she couldn’t help but wonder how someone came from Alabama with a banjo on their knee. The crowd clapped, and some even joined in the chorus. Odessa, caught up in the fun, did a do-si-do with a heavyset and obviously inebriated customer during a piano interlude. But when she sashayed back to her place, she realized he wasn’t ready to end the dance.

Odessa tried to brush off his clutching hands and continue with the song, but her actions only narrowed his eyes and flared his nostrils.

Alf leapt to his feet. “Hands off, mister.”

The drunk punched Alf and sent him sprawling, then blasted him with an icy glare. “Now get up and play, you bastard,” he slurred. “I plan to finish what I started with this here whore, or my name ain’t Augustus O’Reilly.”

People who had glanced over when the music stopped had gone back to their banter and drinks. Alf plunked out Red River Valley, but his gaze rested on Odessa. His face displayed the fear she felt. Time moved in slow motion. Visions of another encounter with an inebriated man flashed in her mind, only this time there was no Zach to come to her rescue.

Her racing heart echoed in her head and she felt helpless. Fingers bit into her skin. Odessa craned away from the burly man. “You’re making a mistake, Mr. O’Reilly. I’m only here to sing.”

“Right.” He guffawed, leering at her chest. “You ain’t showing off those pretty little titties jes to belt out a few tunes.”

This was the very thing Zach had warned her about. Or was it a nightmare?


If you want to find out how Odessa fares, you can find her story at Eternal Press and featured on Amazon (plus many other places you can Google).


Unknown said...

Ginger--I laughed a little with the title "Bad Girls of the West"--why? A young woman in our church started a Bible study group to encourage these young mothers to bring their children to the babysitter there, have some coffee and doughnuts, and discuss "Bad Girls of the Bible." So, these soiled doves have always been with us!
Bad girls of the West have provided such rich stories and characters in a lot of books--but remember Miss Kitty? Pure as the driven snow--for 60's tv.
I love a good story about a bad girl...with a good heart and a tragic story. No doubt many such women filled rowdy towns all across the west.
I'm completely hooked on AMC's Hell on Wheels on Sunday nights, and Hell on Wheels is a transient town that follows the building of the transcontinental railroad. It's a dirty, filty place--with lots of bad girls. Poor's heartbreaking...but boy does it make a good story.
I've peeked at your blog since you've had it up, but never commented. Sorry about that.
Your newest book here looks like a good one--I do like the name Odessa.
I'd like to offer you a guest day--2 days--on Sweethearts of the West. We have the 10th-11th and the 20th-21st of each month, and I think we're booked through February. But if you're interested, I can put you on the calendar as my guest. Caroline Clemmons and I own it, and we divide the guests. Let me know!
I love the title of your blog, too.

Unknown said...

P.S. I tried to Follow...but it takes me in a circle. I'll try again another time. Celia

Unknown said...

How funny, Celia. I love history from the old west, and I'd love to be on your Sweethearts blog. Caroline just joined the western tribe on Triberr, so I sort of know her. Let me know when you've booked me and I'll put it on my calendar. :)

Tabitha Shay said...

Ooh, Miz Ging,
You, as always entertain. You knew I'd love anything about the Old have to say though, to Celia, I think Miss Kitty wasn't quite so pure, seems I remember a time or two that she took Matt up those stairs and to her room. We can only surmise what happened behind those closed Okay, so they were very oh yes, I love Hell on Wheels, too. Do you think the widow and the hero are going to have a "thing?"....Tabs