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Madam Dora Dufran

Prostitution: A Deadwood Institution

In remote parts of the American West, it was not uncommon for men to outnumber women 200 to1.  So when "sporting girls" came to Deadwood by wagon train in 1876, along with two infamous madams, Madam Mustachio and Madam Dirty Em, prostitution began its long history in the city.  Dance halls, gambling establishments, saloons and brothels sprang up.  They were quickly constructed on both sides of lower Main Street and included the Melodeon, Bella Union, Bodega and Gem Theatre.

These brothels were the heart of Deadwood's "Badlands" where violence and addictions were common.  Most prostitutes died in obscurity under assumed names, but a few became well known, if not respected.  Madam Dora Dufran, who ran "houses" in several cities, is remembered for her kindness to her girls.  Calamity Jane worked on and off as a prostitute throughout her life.  Poker Alice Tubbs gained fame as a faro dealer and madam in nearby Sturgis.  Pam Holliday, Dixie Fletcher and Elsie Irwin were the last madams in town.  When the State's Attorney General closed the brothels permanently in 1980, city residents staged a protest on their behalf, echoing the miners who had once lined the streets in welcome a century earlier.

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June 30, 1880
Fire destroyed most of Deadwood's downtown on the west side of Main Street, from Lee Street north past Wall Street.
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