Audio tour recorded by Laramie's own Germaine Saint John, who was mayor of Laramie in 1980. Listen in as she recounts her memories of Laramie's brothel ladies, alongside the history of those brothels in the downtown.
Read more about Germaine's memories of the brothels on the Albany County Historical Society's website. An excerpt:
"There was rumored gossip that the “girls” contributed approximately a half million dollars to the economy of Laramie by the 1950s. Grocery stores, dress shops, shoe shops, liquor stores, etc., reaped the dollars in their tills.
A non-traditional UW student wrote an account that was first published in the Fall 1991 issue of the UW student magazine “Frontiers” though it was probably written in 1953 or shortly after. For the story, town officials such as the 1950s police chief Vern Breazeale and district court judge Vern Bentley were quoted. They echo the sentiments that the girls were good for Laramie. In the article, the writer relates the experiences of a fictitiously named young man who visited the establishments of 1st Street in 1953.
The unnamed author who patronized a Laramie brothel (an editor’s note at the end suggests it was Mark Harvey) describes the precautions the woman took to assure hygiene before their encounter. He also names businessmen of Laramie who provided information for his story. All of those named individuals were people I knew, though none are still living. I tend to believe the story in which 1st Street was indeed portrayed as “wide open” but “regulated.”
People tend to be very judgmental about the role of sex workers in society. Yet they are also very curious about the practice.
In the past two years I have led three “brothel history” walking tours of downtown Laramie. In one, I dressed as Christy Grover, a pre-1900 prostitute of Laramie, for a tour of Greenhill cemetery. Christy’s bereaved spouse erected a nice tombstone for her. Before me, there were others who have led Laramie brothel tours. They are well attended.
Part of our history
I hope these tours continue in the future as I feel there is a place for relaying that part of Laramie’s history. Others have done research that points out that the madams of Laramie contributed substantial funds to local projects. They helped finance the “Police Athletic League” that former Police Chief Barney Deti established to keep teenage boys out of trouble. They are also reported as big donors toward the construction of War Memorial Fieldhouse at UW.
It is a business that is not without a downside, for sure, as the early deaths of some sex workers attests to. Women don’t always freely choose this trade; they may not have other options, and, as the adage goes, it is “the oldest profession.” I feel there was a kind of dignity about the way these “unrespectable” women of Laramie behaved when I knew them, and it is a story worth passing on."
Meet 5 of Laramie's ladies of the night in the video below.
In the late 1800’s, the saloons, dance halls, and alleys of Laramie were packed with a cast of colorful characters whose occupation included keeping the company of men to make their living. Meet 5 of these women and hear about their lives below.