From about the early 1900s to 1953, Miss Hattie ran a bordello on the second story of a saloon owned by her ex-husband. The entrance is rather non-descript (gosh, wonder why that is?) and the stairs leading up to the bordello are precarious.
The bordello has an air of sadness about it. I wasn’t the only one who felt it. Much of the furniture was original, as was all the flooring. Frankly, there’s not a whole heck of a lot that could be done with the building when it was purchased in the 1950s other than turn it into a tourist attraction. The rooms are too tiny to be guest rooms, and there’s only one bathroom.
Miss Hattie was the first person out there to install indoor plumbing–because she wanted her ‘girls’ to be clean. One gal even had her own personal hot water heater and a small bathing tub to sit in. Like a bidet. The implication makes you cringe a little.
You can’t help but feel terrible when you walk into the room with the crib at the end of the bed. One of the women arrived at the bordello with a child in tow. Her husband was reportedly sick with the consumption, and she had to earn money to pay for his medical expenses. She got pregnant in the line of duty, and reportedly her husband accepted the child when he recovered from his illness.
I suspect the story is true. The San Angelo State Supported Living Center run by the Department of Aging and Disability Services is housed in a former sanitorium to treat tuberculosis. It’s not too far out of town–far enough to prevent contagion I guess.
That’s the kind of stuff that happens to families when women have little education and virtually no skills to obtain employment, and there’s no social net (insurance, government aid, etc.) to help out.
I’m not indicting those who choose sex work as an occupation. What I am saying is that we must understand that many people in this world do not make a free choice to work in the sex industry. I can’t imagine having a small child and moving him into a bordello with me so I can pay for daddy’s health care. That’s not a decision a husband would be happy to make with his wife.
If I ever land on the pages of a naughty magazine, let it be known today that I did it for my own amusement or as some kind of feminist statement about the power of female sexuality. Yeah, but I have a graduate degree and a strong back. I live in a world where I can choose a job in construction or academia or law.
I don’t think the women working in Miss Hattie’s bordello had this luxury–one that I consider a basic human right. They did stave off starvation and destitution–but at what cost and for how long? The most popular and well-advertised worker died penniless on the streets.