Friday, November 9, 2018

Wild Women Gamblers of the West

By Jacqui Nelson

Life is a gamble. No words more accurately described the Wild West where life's entertainments were as limited as the opportunities for a woman to earn a living.

Here are 2 real-life lady gamblers who bet against the odds (and won and lost) every day of their lives...

Carlotta Thompkins, Aka Lottie Deno (shortened from dinero - Spanish for money)

( born 1844 in Warsaw, Kentucky ) 

Lottie’s father, a wealthy Kentucky tobacco farmer, took her with him on business trips where they played poker, faro, and roulette at the finest gambling houses. By the time she was 16, she was a skilled card player. After her father enlisted in the Civil War and died during his first battle, her mother sent her to Detroit to live with friends and find a husband.

When the war left everyone struggling financially—her in Detroit and her mother and sister back home in Kentucky, she used gambling to earn enough to support herself and her family. When her mother died, she became a riverboat gambler in order to put her sister through private school.

Lottie fell in love with Frank Thurmond while dealing cards at his saloon, but Frank was forced to go on the run after he stabbed and killed a disorderly patron. She followed a rumor that he was heading West and went that way as well, gambling in each town until they played out—and until she found Frank in Texas.

After they married, she dealt cards at night and managed their restaurant, hotel, and two saloons during the day. When she eventually gave up poker to play bridge, she also became involved with civic organizations and helped build an Episcopal church.

Eleanor Dumont, aka Madam Mustache

( born 1829 in New Orleans )

Not much is known about Eleanor’s early years, but she worked in San Francisco dealing cards until 1854 when she traveled to Nevada City and opened her own gaming house. She decorated it expensively and tastefully, kept it open 24-hours a day, and offered guests free champagne.

In addition to being a beautiful and talented cardsharp, she had a reputation for being honest and for being generous to losers. She had many admirers but she loved unwisely.

The first was the editor of the Nevada Journal, a man who never returned her affections. So, when Nevada City’s gold mines stopped producing, she took her winnings to the gold camps that were booming. When their fortunes waned, she moved to the next camp, and the next.

When her good looks started to fade and the facial hair under her nose earned her the name Madam Mustache, she left gambling and bought a cattle ranch. Knowing nothing about the lonely life of ranching, she married a handsome cattle buyer who turned out to be a smooth-talking scoundrel. When he took all of her money and deserted her, she returned to her first love—gambling.

Sadie Sullivan

( born... in my mind )

Who is Sadie Sullivan? 

She's my Kansas farm girl turned Dodge City cardsharp in my novel, Between Love & Lies (the first story in my Gambling Hearts series). And what happens to make Sadie turn to a life of gambling in 1877? 

Here's the book blurb...

Sadie Sullivan lost everything when a herd of longhorn cattle bound for Dodge City destroyed her farm. Now she works in Dodge—one of the most wicked and lawless towns in the West—at the Northern Star Saloon. But her survival in this new world of sin and violence depends on maintaining a lie so deadly it could end her life before the town of Dodge can.

The one man capable of unraveling Sadie's secrets is Noah Ballantyne, the Texan rancher whose herd destroyed her home. Back in town and taking up the role of deputy alongside legendary lawman Bat Masterson, Noah vows he won't leave until he's made things right. But with the saloon’s madam unwilling to release Sadie and a rich cattle baron wanting her as well, the odds aren’t in favor of finding love…or leaving town alive.

In a town ruled by sin, will he earn her love or her lies? 

Want to read more about Sadie and Noah?
 CLICK HERE to read the opening scene of their adventure.

~ * ~

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Julie Lence said...

Great blog, Jacqui. Such interesting ladies from long ago. Every time I see Eleanor with that mustache, it gives me the willies, but I feel sorry for her. Seems like she had a good heart and men took advantage of that.

Jo-Ann said...

Great stories Jacqui. It was hard to make a living as a woman and I commend these ladies for using their skills.

Sheila Currie said...

Great blog with lots of information about real women of the 19th century West. I love to read novels by authors who have done research enough to enrich their books. Going to buy the book!

Alice V said...

Interesting blog, Jacqui and a great tie-in to your new book. Love your historical references.

Jacqui Nelson said...

Thanks for your comments and your compliments on my blog post! Julie, poor Eleanor makes me feel the same way. Jo-Ann, yes it would've been a real challenge to make a living back then. Unknown :) thank you for loving history and research and for buying my book! Alice, awesome to hear you enjoy my historical references and felt it all tied into my book. It's hard sometimes to get it all coordinated. A writer's life is a juggling act for sure!