Prostitution Biography of Madams The Everleigh Sisters Part 2

About the famous Madams the Everleigh Sisters, biography and history of their Chicago bordello and its specialties.


The Everleigh Sisters

Specialties and Eccentricities: Often on special occasions, Minna would set a number of butterflies loose to flit about the house. Madam Cleo Maitland, an old friend of the sisters, once remarked that "no man is going to forget he got his behind fanned by a butterfly at the Everleigh Club."

Aida once told journalist Charles Washburn how she selected her "hostesses." "I talk with each applicant myself," she said. "She must have worked somewhere else before coming here. We do not like amateurs. . . . To get in, a girl must have a pretty face and figure, must be in perfect health, must look well in evening clothes. If she is addicted to drugs, or to drink, we do not want her. . . ."

The girls received weekly instruction in makeup, dress, and Southern manners. They were required to read books from the Everleigh library. And Minna lectured them on general operating procedures.

"Be polite, patient, and forget what you are here for," she said. "Gentlemen are only gentlemen when properly introduced. . . .No lineup for selection as in other houses. . . . It means, briefly, that your language will have to be ladylike and that you will forgo the entreaties you have used in the past. You have the whole night before you, and one $50 client is more desirable than five $10 ones. Less wear and tear. . . .Give, but give interestingly and with mystery. I want you girls to be proud that you are in the Everleigh Club."

The rewards for such conduct were princely. The sisters made an annual profit of about $120,000 (despite the fact that expenses were high and that graft cost them over $10,000 a year). When a wave of reform forced them to close the club on Dearborn Street, Minna and Aida departed with a cool million in cash, furnishings worth $150,000, and about $200,000 in jewelry.

They lost a hunk of it in an abortive attempt to reopen on Chicago's West Side in 1912, but they still were able to retreat into comfortable obscurity. Like most investors, they were hit hard by the stock market collapse of 1929, but they salvaged an expensive home off New York's Central Park, where they lived the life of genteel clubwomen.

"All they ask for the remainder of their lives," reported Charles Washburn, "is a roof and one quart of champagne a week."

Minna died in 1948, Aida in 1960. Both were buried quietly in Virginia. They left behind their famous gold piano, paintings, books, statues, $100,000 in diamonds, and a legend that refuses to die.

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