The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Sin in the Second City, by Karen Abbott

I just returned from Illinois, and now I have a strange urge to demand a bribe and run for governor. Seriously, that is one weird state when it comes to politics. Oh, well. Instead, I will review a book about another kind of crime: prostitution. Sin in the Second City is the best book about prostitution that I have ever read.


Seriously, it put me in mind of a 1982 movie, Night Shift (, in which two enterprising young men help a group of prostitutes organize, resulting in them having health care, a savings plan, safety from the hazards of the street, and all the benefits of a “real” job. Turns out, this wasn’t an original idea. In fact, in the early 1900s, sisters Minna and Ada Everleigh opened a Chicago brothel that not only catered to the city’s elite, but also offered its “girls” health care, educational opportunities, gourmet meals, and safety from the hazards of the street. As author Karen Abbott explains, the Everleigh sisters treated their employees as professionals who deserved respect, an anomaly at a time when most madams routinely beat or even flogged their workers.


Abbott goes beyond the doors of the Everleigh Club to explain much about Chicago’s red light district, its politicians, and the reformers who demanded that the latter close the former. She was particularly strong at putting these events into context. For example, the reformers’ efforts to bring women out of prostitution acknowledged the role of economics, resulting in some of the early discussions of the benefits of a minimum wage. I found the book to be engrossing, and I recommend it.


As for animals, this was a time when horse-drawn transportation gave way to the automobile. However, just as there are technophobes today, there were people 100 years ago who feared the new invention. So horses are mentioned periodically in that context, as well as once more in which they suffered from a cold snap. Parrots were popular as brothel pets, and there is a fleeting reference to bestiality (not at the Everleigh Club, of course). With no additional mentions of animals, I am declaring this book SAFE for animal lovers.


December 31, 2008 - Posted by | animals, Book Reviews, history | , , , , , , , ,

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