Sisters in Sin

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Sisters in Sin
Series Title:
Sisters in Sin
Secrest, Clark
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
Publication Date:

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Source Institution:
Auraria Library
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Sisters in Sin | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:37:16 AM] Home Sisters in SinSisters in SinSubmitted by nwharton on 9-20-2011 02:20 PMAuthor: Duane A. Smith Publishing: Lake City, CO: Western Reflections Publishing Company, 2011. Photos, maps, index. xii + 148 pages. 5 x 8. $12.95 paperback. Reviewer: Clark Secrest Duane A. Smith has authored or co-authored fifty-two previous books, with an emphasis on the history of southwestern Colorado (the San Juans) and its mining. Because commercial women inevitably followed the mines, Smith naturally had accumulated a trove of notes on the subject, which he offers in these pages. The books title as presented on the front cover is the generic Sisters in Sin The title page, however, is more specific: Sisters in Sin: The Nellie Spencer Story. Durangos Spenceronce the main text finally gets around to her on page sixty-threeis the focus here, augmented with data concerning her counterparts in Rico, Telluride, Silverton, Ouray, Lake City, and Creede. The author opens with a general discussion of mining-camp prostitution; then an introduction to Spencer, followed by a transcript of question-and-answer sessions that Smith conducted with her in the 1980s, when she was in her nineties. Next are presented interviews with Durangoans of her acquaintance, plus additional accounts regarding other twentieth-century sex merchants of the San Juans. Spencer was somewhat of a late arrival to the business, turning pro at about age sixteen, circa 1907 1908. Open prostitution flourished in the San Juans long after it was essentially driven away from other Colorado locales beginning in about 1913. Her yarns, sometimes inconsistent and contradictory, are important nonetheless because this is all fresh information and memoirs of early prostitutesin Colorado or elsewhereare hard to find. Absent from these pages are two significant players in the history of prostitution in the San Juans: (a) Emma Lillis Quigley, who in about 1892 became Creede Lil. Ten years later, as Lil Lovell, she hit the big time as one of the prosperous madams of Denver. (b) Town marshal Jim Clark, whose loathing of brothel women led to his notorious execution of a Telluride madams small dog, a noteworthy occurrence in the bordello history of that mining camp. Also missing here is the story of a Creede conflagration in the mid1890s, when women of the nether world moved residents possessions from burning buildings into the street, and then stood guard against looters. Perhaps the author wished to confine the book to material not previously published, but there is no such disclaimer. Inadequately attributed material is utilized in the book, with numerous direct quotes of undetermined origin. Several town ordinance journals are referenced as sources, which is helpful and illuminating, but future researchers will wish that the repositories of those books had been listed. Historic maps are included, but parts of the Silverton map are presented upside down and the Ouray map includes modern EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanCasimiro Barela, state senator for over 37 years, fought to ensure Colorados first constitution was published in English, Spanish and German.


Sisters in Sin | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:37:16 AM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us facilities such as tennis courts and State Highway Dept. The photo on page 23 is inexplicably repeated on page 80. The book lacks a bibliography, and the index is notable for its pagination errors and multiple omissions. Among the names absent from the index is that of Nellie Spencer, subject of the book. Reviewer Info: A longtime staffer at The Denver Post (1962), Clark Secrest enjoyed a second career as editor of Colorado Heritage the flagship magazine of the Colorado Historical Society. He authored Hells Belles: Denvers Brides of the Multitudes (Aurora: Hindsight Historical Publications, 1996), subsequently revised and reissued as Hells Belles: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime in Early Denver (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2002). He co-authored (with Ariana Harner) Children of the Storm: The True Story of the Pleasant Hill School Bus Tragedy (Golden: Fulcrum Publishing, 2001). Add new comment