Review Time: Sin in the Second City

Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brother in American history – and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation.

Since we moved to Chicago, I try to read at least one book a month either about or set in the city. It’s a fascinating outside-in look at this new city that I’m just starting to learn and I love having little pieces of history or storylines in my back pocket to help me recognize city streets. Enter Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America’s Soul. A look back at Chicago’s redlight district at the turn of the 20th century. It promised to be provactive, racy and a little dangerous. We’re talking some fabulous sisters, some notorious crime bosses, some saucy harlots. What more could you want?

The Everleigh sisters came to Chicago at the turn of the century to change Chicago’s redlight district, the Levee, into something more prestigious. They had grand ideas and even grander money and, by all accounts, they built themselves a fabulous business. Of course, there are always going to be peopel who oppose this sort of thing and this book has plenty of them. Too many of them, to be honest. What had the potential to be an inside look at one of the nation’s most high profile brothels, the Everleigh Club, turned into a sort of pious-leaning look at the culture of sex slavery and prostitution in 1900 Chicago. You seem to spend more time outside of the the Everleigh Club with the Progressive Era reformers than you do inside with Ada and Minna Everleigh and their harlots.

While I was trying to learn about extravagent brothel madams, I ended up with more knowledge about the anti-sex culture crusade than I probably ever wanted to know. All in all, it was an interesting read and I think I would have liked it more if I hadn’t been so interested in taking a peek into the sordid lives of those well-fed harlots.

Grade: ★★★☆☆


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