Brothels, Bordellos & Bad Girls: Prostitution in Colorado, 1860-1930


Prostitution thrived in pioneer Colorado. Mining was the principal occupation and men outnumbered women more than twenty to one. Jan MacKell provides a detailed overview of the business between 1860 and 1930, focusing her research on the mining towns of Cripple Creek, Denver, Salida, Colorado City, and other boomtown communities. She traces the movements of soiled doves over the course of their careers, uncovering work histories, social problems, and numerous relocations from town to town. MacKell has unearthed numerous colorful and often touching stories, historical facts and other aspects of the prostitution industry.

"Delicacy, humor, respect, and compassion are among the merits of this book. Although other authors have flirted with Colorado's commercial sex, Jan MacKell has been researching these elusive women for years and offers rich data."

--Dr. Thomas J. "Dr. Colorado" Noel, from the Introduction

Cripple Creek District: Last of Colorado's Gold Booms

The Cripple Creek District, on the back of Pikes Peak in central Colorado, first found fame through Bob Womack, the cowboy who talked of gold in the high country and drew thousands to the area. Gold fever allowed the region to flourish, while strikes, fires, and economic hardships threatened the district's survival. The dwindling population's fortitude, plus innovative ideas to boost the economy, carried the city from a struggling gold-miners' paradise to a favored tourist spot. MacKell tells of the District's history in detail. A great appendix to Marshall Sprague's Money Mountain.

"I highly recommend this 160 page paperback to anyone who has an interest in Colorado mining history." --Gold Prospectors of the Rockies

The Colorado Labor Wars 1903-1904: Cripple Creek District


Commemorating the centennial of the Cripple Creek Labor Wars, 1903-1904, this book recalls the causes and consequences of one of the era's violent labor strikes that spread throughout Colorado. This book contains the scholarly papers contributed MacKell and other presenting authors (Elizabeth Jameson, Kathryn Scott Sturdevant, Marcia Goldstein, Bridget Burke and Ed Hunter) during the June 5, 2004, symposium at Pikes Peak Library District explaining Cripple Creek's tumultuous Labor Wars. 


Historic photographs and lively stories of the events, people and places during these wars make this book a "must read" for those interested in labor history, mining, and a time when the WFM asked, "Is Colorado in America?" 

Extraordinary Women of the Rocky Mountain West


In this second book compiled by the Pikes Peak Library District, MacKell and other renowned local authors explore the real women who homesteaded, worked the ranches, built the cities, ran the businesses, brought art to the frontier, founded the institutions, preserved human history and natural wonders, fought against racial and gender discrimination, and advanced the cause of equality for women. 

Extraordinary Women of the Rocky Mountain West was a finalist in the 2011 Women Writing the West WILLA Literary Awards competition which honors the best in literature, featuring women’s or girls’ stories set in the West. The award is named in honor of Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather, one of the country’s foremost novelists.

Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains


Throughout the development of the American West, prostitution grew and flourished within the mining camps, small towns, and cities of the nineteenth-century Rocky Mountains. MacKell expands her research in this tome to include the prostitution history of Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Western celebrities like Big Nose Kate and Calamity Jane are given their due, but MacKell also includes the stories of lesser-known women who have shaped our understanding of the American West.

Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains was a finalist in the 2010 Women Writing the West WILLA Literary Awards competition which honors the best in literature, featuring women’s or girls’ stories set in the West. The award is named in honor of Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather, one of the country’s foremost novelists.

The Cripple Creek District


As one of the last major boomtowns created from gold rushes in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, the Cripple Creek District, located just west of Pikes Peak, became home to thousands of men, women, and children from dozens of nationalities the world over. They struggled to establish homes in the rugged and sometimes inhospitable environment of high-altitude gold camp life. From the forgotten to the famous, hundreds of the thousands of people have passed through the District since its beginnings in 1891.


As Jan MacKell Collins, former Director of the Cripple Creek District Museum, the author collaborated with her staff and Board of Directors to present the best in historic images from the Museum's collection - some never before published - to tell the story of America's last great gold boom in the west. 

"Love it!" -- Nancy Spraker, review

The Hash Knife Around Holbrook


For more than 140 years, the Hash Knife brand has intrigued Western history lovers. From its rough-and-ready-sounding name to its travels throughout Texas, Montana, and Arizona, the Hash Knife sports a romance like few others in the cattle industry. Several outfits have been proud to call the brand their own, and the stories behind the men who worked for these companies are the epitome of Western lore and truth combined.

Using images from her own family archive, Jan MacKell Collins introduces readers to Frank Wallace, George Hennessey, Burt Mossman, Mack Hughes and numerous others who worked for the brand and shaped the Hash Knife's reputation in the West, seeing the outfit through the end with the purchase of the brand by the famed Babbitt Brothers of Flagstaff. 

"Jan always does wonderful on her research and her writing style. Can't get enough of her!" --Lori Sewald,

Wild Women of Prescott, Arizona


Arizona remained a raw, rather uncivilized territory before it became one of the last states to enter the Union. Few towns exemplify this more than Prescott.  A staple of any western town, the wanton women of Prescott were independent, hearty individuals eager to unpack their petticoats and set up shop. As their clientele grew, so did their influence.


Mollie Sheppard, Lida Winchell, Gabriell Dollie and many more women were integral forces on the city that should not be forgotten. From Granite Street to Whiskey Row, Prescott's painted ladies established an ever-expanding red-light district halted only by military interference beginning in WWI.

"Mackell Collins is not only a historical researcher, but a wonderful storyteller, piecing together from archives to documents in search of the plot lines behind the many historical dramas in saloons, brothels, and courtrooms of our area." --Susan Lang, Preregen Book Company

Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County


Throughout Teller County, Colorado, history lovers can discover abandoned towns and forgotten main streets that once bustled with life and commerce. Even before Teller was carved from surrounding counties, the scenic mountains and lucrative mines of the gold rush era brought thousands of settlers, and attracted resort owners and tycoons eager to develop the rich setting. From miner's shacks to resort  hotels, Teller County became one busiest places in Colorado.


Seemingly overnight, towns in the Cripple Creek District and other places popped up, flush with gold and people looking for opportunity. As the ore disappeared, the miners moved on in search of the next big lode. One by one, the towns were all but forgotten. Join Jan MacKell Collins and discover the booming history, lost towns and hardy settlers of Teller County.

"For those that love Colorado history, including the development of its mines, this is a must own book." --Kenneth C. Jessen, Author

Good Time Girls of Arizona and New Mexico: A Red-Light History of the American Southwest

Expanding on the research she did for Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains, Jan MacKell Collins further explores the history of prostitution in the Southwestern states of Arizona and New Mexico. Each state had its share of working girls and madams like Sarah Bowman, Dona Tules and Silver City Millie who remain celebrities in the annals of history, but Collins also includes the stories of lesser-known women like Big Bertha of Williams, Sammie Dean and the notorious Bronco Sue whose roles in this illicit trade nonetheless shaped our understanding of the American West.

Good Time Girls of Colorado: A Red-Light History of the Centennial State

Throughout the Gold Rush years and beyond, prostitution grew and flourished within the mining camps, small towns, and cities of nineteenth-century Colorado. Thousands of good time girls chose or were forced to enter an industry where they faced segregation and persecution, fines and jailing, and battled the hazards of their profession. An integral part of western history, the stories of these women continue to fascinate readers and captivate the minds of historians today. The Centennial State had its share of working girls and madams like Mattie Silks and Jennie Rogers who remain notorious celebrities in the annals of history, but Collins also includes the stories of lesser-known women whose roles in this illicit trade help shape our understanding of the American West.

Good Time Girls of the Rocky Mountains: A Red-Light History of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming

As settlements and civilization moved west to follow the lure of mineral wealth and the promise of free land, prostitution grew and flourished within the mining camps, small towns, and cities of the nineteenth century Rocky Mountain region. Expanding on the research she conducted for Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains, Jan MacKell Collins provides more in depth details about good time girls including the massive red light district in Butte, Montana, Madam Dell Burke of Lusk, Wyoming, Etta Feeley and many more. Lesser-known women are introduced as well for a well-rounded look at prostitution in the frontier-era Rocky Mountains.

Good Time Girls of the Pacific Northwest: A Red-Light History of Washington, Oregon and Alaska

Forging into new territory, Jan MacKell Collins approaches the historical prostitution industry along the Pacific Northwest coast and its inland territory. Readers will enjoy chapters like Camp Women of Washington, Naughty Ladies of North Bend and Marshfield and the Demimonde of Dawson City, plus well-researched details on such famous madams as Lou Graham of Seattle, Dolly Arthur of Ketchikan and courtesan Jane Barnes, first Anglo woman to set foot on Oregon soil. Klondike Kate is here too, but also less-famous ladies who deserve their spotlight in the history of the American West.


  • word press logo
  • Facebook Social Icon

© 2019 by Jan MacKell Collins