Writers Revealed: 7.1 Sin in the Second City
Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history—and a catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago’s notorious Levee district at the dawn of the last century, the Club’s proprietors, two aristocratic (or so they said) sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, attracted the elites of the world with their opulent parlors and stunning courtesans. While lesser whorehouses specialized in deflowering virgins, beatings and bondage, the Everleighs spoiled their harlots with couture gowns, gourmet meals and extraordinary salaries. Not everyone appreciated the sisters’ attempts to elevate the industry. Rival madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including attempts to frame them for murder. But the sisters' most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who whipped the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of “white slavery.” It was a furor that shaped America's sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, even leading to the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. With a cast of characters that includes Jack Johnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Theodore Dreiser, William Howard Taft, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbott’s portrait of the maverick Everleigh sisters, their world-famous Club, and the perennial clash between our hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots.
Karen Abbott worked as a journalist on the staffs of Philadelphia magazine and Philadelphia Weekly, and has written for Salon and other publications. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives with her husband in Atlanta, where she’s at work on her next book for Random House, a portrait of Gypsy Rose Lee and Depression-era New York City. Visit her at www.sininthesecondcity.com.
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