Prostitution has been practiced throughout ancient and modern times. It has been described as the ‘world’s oldest profession,’ and despite attempts at regulation, it continues and will persist.
The Page Act of 1875 forbade any importation of women for the purpose of prostitution but in the practice continued. Until the 1890s, madams predominately ran the businesses, after which male pimps took over. This led to the generally declined treatment of women. It was not uncommon for brothels in Western towns to operate openly, without the stigma of East Coast cities.
Gambling and prostitution were central to life in these western towns, and only later, as the female population increased, reformers moved in and other civilizing influences arrived, did prostitution become less blatant and less common. After a decade or so the mining towns attracted respectable women who ran boarding houses, organized church societies and worked as laundresses and seamstresses, all while striving for independent status.