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The Infamous Working Girls of Historic Deadwood

From 1876 until the 1980s, prostitution was Deadwood’s “not so little secret”. The first of the Working Girls, along with infamous Madams Mustache and Dirty Em, arrived in Deadwood via Colorado Charlie Utter’s wagon train—the same wagon train that carried Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Miners were so happy to see the prostitutes roll into town that they lined the streets and clapped as the wagon passed by. After that, prospecting and prostitution went hand and hand in Deadwood. In fact, an entire city block was occupied by nothing but brothels.

Long after the Black Hills gold rush ended, the brothels of Deadwood’s Main Street continued to operate. They were shut down briefly in 1950 when a South Dakota State’s Attorney tried to shut them down. But just a few months later, many of the establishments reopened due to a legal technicality. In 1980, federal and state authorities were finally able to shut down the last four remaining brothels including the famous, Pam’s Purple Door.

Local supporters protested the raid with a Main Street parade—much like the one that happened when Madam Mustache and Dirty Em rolled into town on Charlie Utter’s wagon train.

Visitor’s can learn more about this history at Deadwood’s newest historic attraction, The Brothel: Deadwood. Must be 16+.

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