Hays City, Kansas, founded in 1867, became a bustling Western frontier town due to its possession of the Eastern Division terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad and its position near a military post, Fort Hays. Prostitutes, often among the first arrivals to Western frontier towns, played an integral role in the social and economic livelihood of Hays City. Sex work brought necessary commerce to the town and helped to support other aspects of Hays City nightlife like the gambling dens and saloons. Though respectable employment was largely closed to women in the West, prostitutes in Hays City maintained a mutually beneficial relationship with the town, at least initially. As Volga Germans settled in the area, though, family farming began to replace nightlife as the economic center of the county. As this happened, attitudes toward prostitution in Hays City shifted and citizens were less tolerant of the presence of sex work. By examining court documents, census records, and newspaper accounts, historian Hollie Marquess, Fort Hays State University, explores the contributions of prostitutes to Hays City in its infancy.
Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains
© Kansas Historical Foundation. Posted with permission.
Marquess, Hollie. "The Frontier Demimonde: Prostitution in Early Hays City, 1867-1883." Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains 43, no. 4 (Winter 2020-21): 216-233.