Daily Archives: September 19, 2011

Sin in the Second City (Karren Abbott) – Review

Sin in the Second City : madams, ministers, playboys, and the battle for America's soulSin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul by Karen Abbott
Age: Adult
Genre: History
Publisher: Random House, 2007
ISBN 9780812975994
343 pages

Back Cover Synopsis

Step into the perfumed parlors of Chicago’s Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history — and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation.

The Everleigh Sister, Ada and Minna, tried to elevate the brothel culture in the early 1900’s Chicago by making sure their girls were treated with respect, fed gourmet food and listened to literary lectures on a regular basis. Despite their attempts, the progressive era reformers wanted to take down all brothels in Chicago and eventually in the nation. Stating claims of “white slavery” reformers were able to enact laws of Congress to bolster their actions.

I found this historical narrative to be incredibly mesmerizing and well written. Abbott states in the introduction that any and all dialogue is taken directly from transcripts and there are a number of footnotes to back-up her claims. The book is well researched and is really an interesting look into American history, particularly the sordid history of Chicago. It was in this Levee district where Alphonse Capone first stepped into a career of thuggery and crime.

One note of criticism is that it seemed like Abbott painted the Everleigh sisters in a highly glamorized light while other brothel keepers, as well as the reformers were represented as cruel and prudish. I was hoping for a more balanced look on history, but I can see how Abbott would develop a fondness for the Everleigh sisters given their formidable personalities and propensities for the outlandish and over-the-top exaggerations and embellishments of their life stories. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this book.

Find this book at your local library 

Book 41 of 2011