Let Freedom Reign

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“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Thank you, Harriet Tubman. On this day, in 1853, she started the Underground Railroad of safe houses and helped many slaves escape to freedom. Later, she became an activist and an advocate for women’s suffrage.

Eggs against Prostitution and Alcohol Reform

(1901) Meta learns, while attending the Women’s Christian Temperance Union rally, that soiled dove Sadie has snuck out of the bordello and is hiding in the background. As Meta listens to the speakers advocating for women’s rights, and the men become angry at the progressive words, something unexpected happens.

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Excerpts from The Last Bordello,  Chapter 28: Eggs of Folly

Meta Duecker

“Due to the efforts of the WCTU, the age of consent has been raised from thirteen to fifteen. We strive for even higher,” Miss Fisher <Minnie Fisher Cunningham, Women’s Right Activist> said. “Every day, the newspapers report acts of violence against women and remind us of men’s incapacity to cope successfully with this monster evil of society.”

“What are you saying, missy? We men ain’t capable?” The man’s words elicited angry comments from the crowd.

Miss Fisher hesitated before she continued. “We know you men are hardworking gentlemen. For women, education is the key, both in and out of the home.”

Some women clapped. Others squinted in puzzlement as if the thought of learning something other than child-rearing had never occurred to them. Her words enlightened me and affirmed my goals.

A man, close to the front, pumped his fist. “My wife don’t have time for more learning. We got six kids needing supper on the table.”

Querulous male voices erupted from the crowd.

“Why do women prostitute themselves to the abnormal passion of man?” Miss Fisher continued. “Because they are poverty-stricken, destitute above temptation, and driven by necessity. They sell themselves, in marriage or out, for bread and shelter, for the necessities of life. How can we blame them? They have no other recourse but to live in a society that dictates what they—we—can and cannot do. To solve this problem, we demand that women be allowed to exercise their inherent, personal, citizen’s right to be a voice in the government—municipal, state, and national. Then, women will have the power to protect themselves.”

“We men protect our women just fine,” a man shouted. Other men yelled their agreement.

Mayor Hicks stepped to the podium, his lips pursed. “Enough of your heckling. Save your disagreements for editorials in the newspapers. She has a right to free speech.”

“So do we,” someone yelled back.

The mayor banged a fist on the podium. “These women are invited guests. By God, we will show them our Southern hospitality.”

The raw egg came from nowhere. It narrowly missed the mayor’s head before landing on the bandstand floor. He squinted, scouring the crowd.

Poor Mrs. Fenwick held a shaky hand over her mouth.

Miss Fisher reached below the dais and pulled out a speaking trumpet. “The true relation of the sexes can never be attained until women are free and equal with men,” she said, her determination thundering above the chaos.

The second egg hit the podium dead center. The crowd either gasped or laughed. Some men took hold of their wives and scurried them away, while the women in black remained steadfast in their chairs behind the podium.

…  The yolk running down the front of the dais did not deter Miss Fisher. She stood firm, her voice amplified by the speaking trumpet. “As the great Susan B. Anthony said, whoever controls work and wages, controls morals. Independence is freedom. Independence means happiness. Therefore, we must have women employers, superintendents, legislators. For moral necessity, we must emancipate women, pull them out of prostitution, and safeguard our country. Thank you.”

 

 

 

The Red Bordello Door-To Enter Or Not?

 

If you choose to go inside…

Madam Fannie Porter will answer your knock, her  head tilted back and a hand on her protruded hip. If you are a customer, she’ll first point out her list of rules and if you don’t follow them, the ratchet of a shotgun will show you the way out.

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Then, she’ll point to one of her soiled doves –Chubby Greta from west Texas with her big brown eyes and no nonsense attitude; timid Lillie who grins but rarely exposes the gap where her tooth had been knocked out by a brute; Sassy Sarah with her flaming red hair and ample bosoms. Then there’s Sadie. Well, Sadie …

If you are a lost young woman steered to the wrong “boarding house,” Madam Fannie will keep you safe. She might also offer you a job as the bordello’s pianist.

But perhaps you choose not to enter.

You may be against vice, the Social Evil, the Grand Wrong. Then go to the public forum in Alamo Park. Hear Minnie Fisher (Cunningham) speak out on women’s rights. Listen to Women’s Christian Temperance Union‘s Texas president, Helen Stoddard, speak out against prohibition. But prepare yourself. Texans likes their beer.

Whichever choice you make, know this. The Last Bordello is not a novel about what goes on behind closed bedroom doors (okay, perhaps a tad), nor is it merely a whodunit. It’s about powerful women at the turn of the twentieth century who fought for their standing in life. While some found prostitution to be their only means of survival, other women fought for equal rights.

The Last Bordello depicts the struggle and determination of both sides.

Oh, and I suggest NOT entering Southwestern Insane Asylum.

It is 1901. So, would you enter or not? Are you curious about what’s inside? Appalled? There’s no wrong answer. There’s no right one, either. I’d love to hear your response and a reason or two why you chose to go in or stay out. 

All the best,

Carolyn

 

The Last Bordello-True Characters

Inspirations for the novel – true characters in The Last Bordello (San Antonio in 1901) Opposing forces or unified goals?

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Madam Fannie Porter
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Butch Cassidy

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Kid Curry

 

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Etta Place and the Sundance Kid

 

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Helen M. Stoddard

 

 

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Mayor Bryan Callaghan

 

 

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Mary Eleanor Brackenridge

 

 

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Minnie Fisher (Cunningham)
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Carry Nation
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Mayor Marshal Hicks
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Otto Koehler

The Last Bordello

It’s done. Finished. Inches away from publication. Whew!

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Madam Fannie Porter runs the best bordello in Texas. Just ask the outlaws she harbored and entertained for the weekend—Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch.

But when the gang rides off, Sadie, her best soiled dove, is left unhinged.

While the Pinkerton Detective Agency remains in hot pursuit of the outlaws, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union plans a town rally against alcohol and prostitution.

Neither is good news for Miss Fannie.

First, she will never give up a client. Second, while pondering the upcoming temperance powwow, she relies on her business savvy. She forbids her girls from attending the meeting and hires a pianist, the talented, yet virtuous, Meta, to keep the customers coming.

When a temperance woman is found murdered, Sadie becomes the key suspect. Now, Miss Fannie and Meta must discover the truth before the WCTU—or the killer—nails the red door, or another coffin, shut.