Hookers and Booze

Red Lights on the PrairiesRed Lights on the Prairies

Submitter: I snatched this up when my high school’s library held a sale of the oldest and most useless books, although I’m not really sure why it was there in the first place. Not a single person had checked this out.  Also, I was expecting a book about prostitution to have some juicy bits; instead I was treated to speculation on whether or not some women from Saskatchewan were hookers, based on the fact that they were seen in the company of men, wore red lipstick, and showed their ankles. Pure scandal!

Holly: Well, those were scandalous situations in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries!  This sounds kind of funny – the police and clergy were outraged by all the brothels popping up in prairie towns.  There’s a companion book:

Booze: The Impact of Whiskey on the Prairie West

  1. O Canada! Our drunken, sexy land! True patriot love (oh yeah!) in all thy sons’ (and daughters!) command!

    They was called the Wild West for a reason, don’t you know, eh?

  2. ‘Hooker’s happy hunting ground’ rang a vague bell, and indeed Wikipedia tells me that Xaviera Hollander’s book “The Happy Hooker” came out in the same year. Hey ho. I wish I hadn’t known that. Goshdurn those predatory hookers, eh, happy or otherwise?

    If only there were a companion volume on the subject of cigarettes in the Wild West, and then it would be the cue for a song. Possibly. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVw96wzmZC8

  3. I fail to understand why there is little to no interest in these books. I always assumed that most people are interested in the mythology of the Wild West.

  4. Why should this be weeded? Poor circulation? Is there new more relevant research regarding prostitution in the Wild West?

    Seems to me that history books have a long shelf life.

  5. Somehow the cover photo on Red Lights on the Prairies doesn’t quite have that authentic ring to it. It looks like a promotional still for a TV show.

    1. It’s somebody’s idea of what Victorian bad girls looked like. You can tell they don’t have on enough petticoats – their skirts don’t look like a bundle of carpet. The hair doesn’t reflect any specific era.

  6. I am amazed that there are any prairie-related books that we don’t own.

    Maybe they were stolen.

  7. No way, these are classics! I’m from Manitoba and I know a lot of people who’ve read and enjoyed these… although I haven’t myself… as a historian I might get angry.

  8. I too wonder why these books were removed from a library. Are they historically inaccurate? Is there more recent edition? Do we not want to read about hookers in the Wild West? They were part of that culture.

  9. Red Lights on the Prairies is a classic of Canadian history. How many public libraries have strong readership in Canadian history? Mine does–we have this book and it circulates well. If yours doesn’t, weed it! Weeding is always contextual, no?

  10. “Hookers happy hunting ground”…right, because being a prostitute in the 19th century would have been a barrel load of laughs, and wouldn’t have involved being raped or hated by society in any way.

  11. Gray was a respected author of popular histories. He won numerous awards, including Pierre Berton Award and the University of British Columbia Medal, and he was a recipient of the Order of Canada.

    Although I’m not familiar with Red Lights on the Prairies, I expect the cover does the work a great disservice. That said, it is very much in keeping with its time – by which I mean the 1970s, not the 1870s.

    Must say I’m quite surprised that it was never once left the library. I’d have thought the subject and pitch would’ve appealed to high school students. Too embarrassed to check it out, perhaps?

  12. Great title,and the subject reminds me of an awful month-long family road trip on the oregon trail. the only highlight, for a stupid, wanna-be-rebellious teenager was sneaking peeks at copies of “Soiled Doves of the Old West” which was in healthy stock at every single small town museum along the trail.

  13. Red Lights on the Prairies may be a scholarly book, but the fake “19th Century ” photograph on the cover is AWFUL. It helps to perpetrate a Hollywood myth that beautiful, bold tarts with hearts were involved in frontier history – when of course they were actually raddled old toothless trollops with syphillis.

    1. Am I the only one who can tell that this “fake photo” is a pencil drawing? It’s a DRAWING, that’s why it doesn’t look like a proper photo.

  14. “of course they were actually raddled old toothless trollops with syphillis.”

    Crikey- all of them? -they must have had to drug them thar poor innocent cowboys. Who all looked and acted just like Alan Ladd in Shane. When they weren’t being drugged and Taken Advantage Of by ROTTWS, leastways. Hornswoggled, too, probly.

  15. Awesome! I actually own a copy of Red Lights on the Prairie (my parents were big prairie history buffs), and I’ve used it for research (clearly not super up to date research, but still). It’s actually pretty interesting if you’re into prairie history, and the cover makes it a total keeper for my own collection.

    Sad that it has to be weeded, but you can’t keep everything.

  16. Got to admit, if I found this book — or that Burt Reynolds one — for an euro somewhere, I’d probably snap it up for my trashy book collection. Red Light even got reissued as a “Western Canadian Classic” in 1995…