July 17, 2008
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Sin in the Second City

by Karen Abbott

An entertaining account of a famous Chicago brothel, the Everleigh Club, which flourished in the early twentieth century and which was ultimately closed by growing opposition to prostitution and concern over White Slavery. Abbot is chiefly concerned with the proprietors of the Everleigh, Ada and Minna Everleigh (born Simms), and their relations with their rivals, their employees, with Chicago's colorful political machinery.

The whole White Slavery question strikes us today as a strange mix of naïveté and hypocrisy, mixed with prudery and class friction. This is, pretty much, Abbott’s diagnosis, and because she has little real sympathy with the reformers, nearly half of her book is devoted to preachers and reformers she clearly views as colorless and dull. I think more could be done with this material.

So, opportunities were missed here. But it’s still a hell of a good yarn.