Learning About Cathouses

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*****From left to right: Laura Gonzales and Felicia Lujan~ NMHU campus~ and images of Laura’s slides.*****

On May 2, I attended the 2014 New Mexico History Conference. I had a good day and had the chance to network with many interesting people. The conference was in Las Vegas, New Mexico. This is a beautiful, quaint little town with a rich history. The sessions, a book fair and lunch were held on the campus of New Mexico Highlands University.

The best session I attended was “Women, Wives and Weapons: Everyday Realities of Life.” The session was comprised of two presentations which were complete opposites. The second was about “pious and submissive” army wives, but I preferred the first which was about the cats that scratched service men. I don’t believe in piety. I took a photo with Laura Gonzales who presented “Caves, Cribs and Cathouses: How Frontier Prostitution Helped Build the West.” Gonzales presented a flawless and extremely interesting paper.

This presentation explored the topic of “prostitution in frontier communities during the 19th century with special attention to prostitution in and around Fort Union.” My maternal line hails from Mora, so this particular fort plays a prominent role in my family history. Gonzales called these women the “scantily clad daisies of the frontier,” and she talked about the women of bordellos, brothels, dance halls and the streets. I loved the photos she used in her slides. Her presentation highlighted the social hierarchy of “crib walkers” and “street women.”

Through her research, Gonzales discovered that these women “enjoyed mobility” afforded to them by working in military posts and mining camps. Many have found that Fort Union was “the hub” of prostitution at that time. Some of this was due to “the scarcity of women.” She called the women available to military men “shady ladies” and “soiled doves.” Gonzales said that many “legitimately employed laundresses” were also “engaging in prostitution.” Seeing several blueprints of these forts indeed confirms that the laundress quarters were often directly across from those of commanding officers. Coincidence? I think not.

I found Laura’s presentation much more intriguing than “Trials and Triumphs on the Western Frontier: Army Officers’ Wives 1850-1890” by Mary Ann Kerstetter and Martha McCaffrey. Though the army wives presentation was interesting, it was a stark contrast to that of Gonzales. I felt that her presentation was much closer to reality. I complimented her for a great job. I like it when people break out of the historical box! She called her presentation “risqué,” which I loved!!

If a scholar, historian or genealogist can keep me thinking when I leave that room, I’m always impressed. I came away thinking…some people just like to think that they are “pious.” It makes them feel better about being a flawed human I guess? With enough practice, men and women get good at hiding the shade and smiling a pious smile because nobody is pristine…not even a white dove!!!

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*****From left to right: Charlie’s Spic and Span~ (Oh yeah) I met Charlie~ delish looking sweets (no I didn’t eat any)~ Our Lady of Sorrows Church~ Kermit Hill and company.*****

Explore posts in the same categories: Allusion, Awesomeness, Conferences, Edification, History, Knowledge, Military, Networking, New Mexico, Presentations, Professional Endeavors, Worthy Reads

2 Comments on “Learning About Cathouses”

  1. Ajaytao2010 Says:

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  2. Meghan Says:

    You’ve got to eat at Charlie’s next time. It’s definitely worth the drive!!


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