Karen Abbott is a journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Sin in the Second City, an exploration of the role of brothels in the cultural and political life of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Prior to publishing Sin in the Second City – which took her three years to write and research – Abbott worked for Philadelphia magazine and for Philadelphia Weekly. Abbott, a native of Philadelphia, received her BA from Villanova University in 1995. The critically acclaimed Sin in the Second City tells the story of Chicago’s Everleigh Club, a famous high-end whorehouse that was known as the “finest brothel in the land.” Abbott lives with her husband in Atlanta and is working on her second book, a portrait of Gypsy Rose Lee and Depression-era New York.
Karen Abbott: I think that would be true to girls of a certain class. I think that if you were lucky enough to be born into a family where they valued you as a female, and considered you a delicate, proper, young Victorian lady you were probably very fortunate in that era, because you were . . . Restricted as your life might be, you were still comfortable and had a chance to have some sort of comfortable existence and happy existence. You know it wasn’t the case for a lot of women – the women especially who fell into prostitution. You know a lot of them, if their parents died they fell into prostitution. You know they . . . A lot of them were thrown out of the home. Even girls who were forced to take work as, you know . . . If a girl was lucky she would get a job at a factory maybe for $6 a week. At a lesser whore house she’d be making about $50 a week. And at the Everleigh Club she’d be making about like $300 a week. So you can see why people sort of geared toward prostitution. If you were born into the higher classes, of course that never really . . . that wasn’t even something you probably had to consider, so . . .
Recorded On: 1/22/08