2014 A to Z Challenge: B is for Brothel

Welcome back for the next A to Z Challenge installment. For those of you new to this, during the month of April, I -- and over 2,000 other participants -- will put up a new, daily post with a topic that corresponds to each letter of the alphabet and, in my case, revolves around the historical elements that have informed my new novel, Famine. (Yes, blatant book plug.) Next up:


B is for Brothel

For Victorian and Edwardian women from poor backgrounds, there were few prospects for income if they fell on hard times. Prostitution was a necessity, not a career choice. Many suffered from addictions to laudanam, opium, and/or alcohol, had been abused as children, or had fled violent marriages.

High class brothels were places where men (and even women) went to socialize, discuss politics, play games, and conduct business deals away from prying eyes. Ironically, many madams made substantial fortunes, and Seattle isn't the only city that financed its early growth with taxes collected from "seamstresses" (as they were known in the Emerald City).

Some images of Victorian and Edwardian working girls:

The 2011 Bertrand Bonello film House of Tolerance served as another visual reference for Famine's brothel scenes.

Lou Graham was the inspiration for Georgine, the owner of the Seattle brothel that Bartholomew, the main character in Famine, frequents. (By the time of her death in 1903, Lou was one of the wealthiest landowners in the Pacific Northwest and had been a great supporter of children's charities.)

“Iona is a sweet-natured girl, though a bit timid. Unless that is a problem?”

Non. I will treat her kindly.”

“Of course you will.” She directed him to a blue velvet chair and provided a glass of fine Scotch; Georgine knew his preferences. “I will explain what is expected of her.” She went to awaken Iona.

Bartholomew knocked back the drink, stood, and paced the sitting room. The art that adorned the walls was more tasteful than typically seen in such establishments. There were small nudes, but also larger works depicting galas, the symphony, boating on Lake Union. Or was it Lake Washington? He looked closer but caught his reflection in the glass and turned away. Bartholomew didn’t want to see the face of a monster; he was unfortunate enough to dwell within its body.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll take a few minutes to check out some of the other A to Z bloggers, leave comments, and see what everyone else has to say about B.