Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Prostitutes in the Ozarks

Last time I wrote about the rowdy character of the town of Baxter Springs and cited the 1870 census as evidence, particularly the fact that the occupation of seven women living in the town at the time of the census was listed as "prostitute." Actually, I got to thinking about this whole subject of prostitution, gambliing, etc. in the early-day Ozarks because it was pointed out to me not too long ago that several women living in Joplin at the time of the 1880 census were listed as prostitutes. I know, too, that prostitution was fairly common around the mining town of Granby immediately after the Civil War before Joplin was even formed. I'm not as well versed on the early history of Springfield, but I'm pretty sure prostitution was fairly common there during the war, because Springfield was a Union headquarters throughout much of the war. Anywhere young single men congregated; be they soldiers, miners, or cowboys; prostitutes were sure to show up.
What strikes me about the census records is the fact the census takers (not necessarily the women themselves) were so open about calling a prostitute a prostitute. Today, prostitutes would more likely show up on census records as "escorts" or some other euphemism.

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