S.F.'s First Sex Workers Led a Different Gold Rush: Madams of the Barbary Coast

Part of San Francisco's charm is its vibrant history of colorful characters. The city has survived multiple earthquakes in addition to cultural and political upheavals. From the beginning, our enticing Baghdad by the Bay has attracted free spirits and entrepreneurs, perhaps no more so than during the Gold Rush. And sure the '49ers were full of pluck and determination, but what of the women who came to San Francisco to seek their fortunes?

Yes, we're talking about the city's original sex workers, the prostitutes who plied their trade at a time when men outnumbered women in the city 50 to 1. (That bears repeating: 50 to 1.)

Revel in the salaciousness of their stories at Meridian Gallery on Friday evening at a screening of Michael Rohde's film Madams of the Barbary Coast, hosted by local historian and tour guide extraordinaire Daniel Bacon, a man who intimately knows the secrets of this debauched district. There's a video trailer online; we can't embed it here (that function has been blocked) but you can see it for yourself by following this link to YouTube.

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