above is link to
TEXAS BAD GIRLS: HUSSIES, HARLOTS AND HORSE THIEVES
By J. Lee Butts
Republic of Texas Press * $17.95
Women in the West have long been
subjected to a wide range of stereotypes. We have images
ranging from gentle tamers and saintly schoolmarms to wild, wild
women. Jimmy Lee Butts transports us back to the lives and
times of 15 Texas women of the latter type.
Some of the names in this book are familiar
outlaws from long ago -- Belle Star, the Bandit Queen; Etta Place of
the Wild Bunch; and Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde. We also
hear from more recent bad girls, including ill-fated rocker Janis
Joplin and Karla Faye Tucker, executed for murder on February 24,
2000. However, Butts does not just rehash familiar facts about
familiar names. He introduces us to lesser-known figures,
including Chipita Rodriguez (the first woman legally hanged in
Texas), Sally Skull (who smuggled arms from Mexico for the
Confederacy), and a bevy of others.
Butts is not arguing, of course, that these
women are in any way typical of the Lone Star State. However,
he recognized the power and appeal of his "sometimes humorous,
sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes deeply sad and affecting set of
biographies." Like their male outlaw counterparts, these
Texas bad girls continue to fascinate. Butts brings their
colorful lives to us in engaging, readable prose.
--Richard W. Slatta
Butts, J. Lee. Texas Bad Girls: Hussies, Harlots, and Horse
Thieves. Republic of Texas Press, pap., $17.95 ISBN
I confess that I could not resist a book with such a title,
not the least because the cover copy promised stories of floozies.
Depending on your age you may or may not have heard your mother
refer to someone as a floozie.
Your mother, like mine, may not have defined the term, but she
didn't have to. One understood that a floozie had difficulty
keeping her buttons buttoned and her behavior suitable to a Sunday
School party. A floozie wasn't evil, but she was a bad girl,
one that mothers warned their sons to avoid, and their daughters not
to behave in similar manner.
Among the killers,
prostitutes, thieves, gamblers, bank robbers, and whorehouse madams
in this book, there seems to be one floozie: Adah Isaacs
Menken. She is featured in a chapter called "Nekkid,
Nekkid, Nekkid!" And Adah did seem to enjoy
"nekkidness" to a degree that rivals modern day
centerfolds. She had in the author's words, "footlights
in her eyes..." and went through several husbands, legal and
otherwise, in search domestic and professional happiness. Her
opportunity knocked in 1861 when she starred in Mezeppa: or The
Wild Horse of Tartary. Adah "brought the whole new
interpretation to the role. Through a combination of careful
lighting, a flesh-toned set of skin hugging silk tights, and a
careful draped piece of diaphanous cloth, Adah Isaacs Menken
appeared to be totally, absolutely, and beyond any shadow of a
doubt, nekkid, nekkid." The author states that Adah
became... "the highest paid actress in the world." No
Among the other featured players in the book are
such well-known figures as Bonnie Parker, Belle Starr and Etta
Place, as well as much lesser known but equally disreputable ladies
as Beulah Morose, a "friend" of John Wesley Hardin, and
Sarah Bowman, featured in a chapter entitled "Texas's Biggest Harlot,"
and at six feet, two inches tall and weighing in at over 200 pounds,
she earns the title. Perhaps the most famous madam in Texas is
Mrs. Swine, who is responsible for the establishment of the oldest
continually operating whorehouse in Texas or anywhere else: the
famous Chicken Ranch of La Grange. The Chicken Ranch existed
for more than 130 years, until August 1, 1973, when a "meddlin'
busybody from a Houston TV station who feigned shock and amazement
...ran a week-long expose on Miss Edna and the girls... ."
Lee Butts presents a humorous, accurate, and very entertaining story
of Texas Bad Girls.