Hey everyone! Guess where I’m going later this week? The Chicago Writer’s Conference! It’s a relatively small annual writer’s convention held in Chicago in the lower level of the Harold Washington Library Center on State Street. The conference is only three days long, but they manage to pack quite a lot of stuff in there: talks, panel discussions, workshops, plus actual real life agents! 😉
All the talks sound great, but this year I’m most excited to hear Kate Abbott, who is this year’s special closing speaker. If you don’t already know, Abbott is the author of quite a number of popular history books about the 1800s and early 1900s, with a particular focus on famous women in history. Her best-selling works include Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy (about famous women during the Civil War), American Rose (about entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee), and my personal favorite (for obvious reasons), Sin in the Second City, which chronicles the rise and fall of the notorious Everleigh Sisters, two madams who ran the most prosperous, expensive and elaborate brothel in Chicago’s Levee District, the Everleigh Club.
The Everleigh Club was a pretty spectacular place. Rooms were appointed in rich velvet, potted palms and dark wood fixtures. The girls, called “butterflies,” were both beautiful and well-trained in many arts, including conversation, poetry, and music. They also raked in the dough: one butterfly could make $100 to $400 a night, an amount that was unheard of in most brothels of the time. Besides lining the pockets of the madams (and the corrupt politicians of the Levee who allowed them to operate), the money the girls earned also went into extravagant gestures—such as a $15,000 gold-plated piano. The Club was so well-known, even internationally, that it was included in Chicago guidebooks as a must-see for the gentleman traveler.
If you’re looking for a terrific introduction to the corrupt world of Chicago’s Levee District, Abbott’s book is a great place to start. If you’re interested, you can read a sample from her website from Sin in the Second City. This Q&A she did for the Freakonomics blog, about the economics behind prostitution, is also pretty interesting.
But Abbott isn’t the only attraction at CWC. All the panels sound great! Whatever I see, I bet I’ll learn a lot—and next week, I’ll share some of that with all of you! This conference is gonna be awesome!!! 😀