Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 6:4 (Fall 1986). Copyright © 1986 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Anne M. Butler's Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery is a broad history of prostitution throughout the American West, based on extensive primary research and illustrated with some wonderful photographs. Like many women's historians, Butler begins with two assumptions: that she will rescue a particular group of women from "historical obscurity" and that she will test and ultimately undermine the stereotypical and often one-dimensional portrayal of their lives. Her major thesis, however, gives her book added scope: while her discussion of the lives of prostitutes reveals that they were often powerless and victimized, she demonstrates convincingly that as a group they "made unmistakable contributions to the development of social institutions" in the West.