Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Soiled Dove

There may be more words in the English language for prostitute than there are for sex. There's courtesan (from Italian for "woman of the court"), daughter of joy (from the French fille de joie), harlot (from French for tramp), hooker (not from the army of women who followed Civil War general Joe Hooker's troops, but from the habit of whores to grab at men on the street), loose woman, painted woman, scarlet woman, streetwalker, strumpet (either from the Latin for dishonor or the Dutch for stalker), tart (from a term of endearment, sweetheart), whore (the original Old English word for the profession), working woman (which explains why to this day men hit on secretaries and nurses just trying to get their jobs done) and many others.

My favorite all time is the Old West term Soiled Dove. It's sort of a sweet term that brings up the image of an innocent bird befouled by others. While Hollywood makes the Western whore an image of beauty, like Megan Fox over to the right, most Western prostitutes were successful for their availability, not their looks.
For example, Alice Abbot of El Paso (left).

For most, the job was a horrible existence that led to an early death. In San Francisco the service charge was 25 cents for a Mexican woman and $1 for an American, more for redheads.
A woman what hustles
Never keeps nuthin
For all her hustlin.
Somebody always gets
What she goes on the street for. ~
Harrison Street Court

All night she offers passers-by what they will
Of her beauty wasted, body faded,
claims gone,
And no takers.
~ Trafficker

Let us be honest; the lady was not a
harlot until she married a corporation
Lawyer who picked her from a Ziegfeld chorus.
~ Soiled Dove (all by Carl Sandburg)
Additional links: The whorehouses of Austin, Texas
a man who has made a career writing about Western Soiled Doves

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