As She Was: Soiled Doves & Painted Ladies

In the old west in the 1800s, ladies of the night (prostitutes) were called Soiled Doves. Don’t judge me, but I like that term for some reason. It’s a mix of something innocent and sweet with something well, not innocent or pretty.

The history of prostitution is a very sad tale and it is sometimes haunting to look into the faces of these women and wonder who they are, what became of them?


No matter what they were called or how they were perceived, the doves were there for the taking and taking all they could get because as you might imagine, this was not a lifelong career and when it was over, it was over. ”  / source Soiled Doves


Have you seen the vintage movie Pretty Baby starring Susan Sarandon and a fresh faced Brooke Shields? If you haven’t, you need to go see it! Susan Sarandon is a prostitute and also a young mother to teenage Brooke Shields. The movie is controversial because Brooke Shields appears nude in this movie and she was only 12 when the movie was in production and barely 13 when the movie was released.

image credits: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

Some just had no other skills to provide a means of support. Others were the daughters of prostitutes, already tainted in the business.” – Legends of America, Painted Ladies

If you would like to see more photos of Painted Ladies, check out photographer E.J. Bellocq’s portraits of prostitutes in Storyville (a red light district in New Orleans that no longer exists). This image below is one of his photos and I just find them so delightful. Here’s another E.J. Bellocq link (with more pictures!) at


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