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Wicked Women: Notorious, Mischievous, and Wayward Ladies from the Old West

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This collection of short, action-filled stories of the Old West's most egregiously badly behaved female outlaws, gamblers, soiled doves, and other wicked women by award-winning Western history author Chris Enss offers a glimpse into Western Women's experience that's less sunbonnets and more six-shooters. During the late nineteenth century, while men were settling the new f This collection of short, action-filled stories of the Old West's most egregiously badly behaved female outlaws, gamblers, soiled doves, and other wicked women by award-winning Western history author Chris Enss offers a glimpse into Western Women's experience that's less sunbonnets and more six-shooters. During the late nineteenth century, while men were settling the new frontier and rushing off to the latest boom towns, women of easy virtue found wicked lives west of the Mississippi when they followed fortune hunters seeking gold and land in an unsettled territory. Prostitutes and female gamblers hoped to capitalize on the vices of the intrepid pioneers. Pulling together stories of ladies caught in the acts of mayhem, distraction, murder, and highway robbery, it will include famous names like Belle Starr and Big Nose Kate, as well as lesser known characters.


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This collection of short, action-filled stories of the Old West's most egregiously badly behaved female outlaws, gamblers, soiled doves, and other wicked women by award-winning Western history author Chris Enss offers a glimpse into Western Women's experience that's less sunbonnets and more six-shooters. During the late nineteenth century, while men were settling the new f This collection of short, action-filled stories of the Old West's most egregiously badly behaved female outlaws, gamblers, soiled doves, and other wicked women by award-winning Western history author Chris Enss offers a glimpse into Western Women's experience that's less sunbonnets and more six-shooters. During the late nineteenth century, while men were settling the new frontier and rushing off to the latest boom towns, women of easy virtue found wicked lives west of the Mississippi when they followed fortune hunters seeking gold and land in an unsettled territory. Prostitutes and female gamblers hoped to capitalize on the vices of the intrepid pioneers. Pulling together stories of ladies caught in the acts of mayhem, distraction, murder, and highway robbery, it will include famous names like Belle Starr and Big Nose Kate, as well as lesser known characters.

30 review for Wicked Women: Notorious, Mischievous, and Wayward Ladies from the Old West

  1. 5 out of 5

    patrick Lorelli

    This is differently a book for mature people. The women here were subjected to a life of struggle due to what was thrown their way in the 1800’s. Some were orphaned, widowed and such had to make a living by any means in that time period. What was okay for men is still looked down in our society and if they owned a saloon, brothel, or robed they were not looked at or glamorized like the male cater parts. Some of the stories I had heard about before, Big Nose Kate, Belle Star. But Libby Thompson “ This is differently a book for mature people. The women here were subjected to a life of struggle due to what was thrown their way in the 1800’s. Some were orphaned, widowed and such had to make a living by any means in that time period. What was okay for men is still looked down in our society and if they owned a saloon, brothel, or robed they were not looked at or glamorized like the male cater parts. Some of the stories I had heard about before, Big Nose Kate, Belle Star. But Libby Thompson “Squirrel Tooth Alice”, and Jennie Rodgers, to name a few I had not. There are more from San Francisco, to Denver, the Black Hills, and Texas. Overall I found this book to be interesting and well written. I got this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 4 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    Literary Chic

    This book is a compilation of brief biographies on infamous women from the Wild West. Prostitution and gambling was a central theme as there weren't many options for unattached women. I shouldn't have, but I found it surprising how common suicide was a final solution for these women. I tend to shy away from feminism, but stories like this make me grateful for feminist accomplishments. Many of the women in this book didn't "go looking for trouble." They simply found themselves unattached to a fat This book is a compilation of brief biographies on infamous women from the Wild West. Prostitution and gambling was a central theme as there weren't many options for unattached women. I shouldn't have, but I found it surprising how common suicide was a final solution for these women. I tend to shy away from feminism, but stories like this make me grateful for feminist accomplishments. Many of the women in this book didn't "go looking for trouble." They simply found themselves unattached to a father or husband and their options were starvation or crime.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    This is a fun look into the past through stories about some notoriously wicked and noteworthy women from history in the American West. I found these were eye-opening and informative peeks into women's lives back then, and quite revealing. I went through the book rather quickly during the recent power outage from Hurricane Irma, when it felt like I was in the same time period, reading by whatever light source I could find. A likable Goodreads Giveaway win.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Daisey

    As soon as I started this book I found it interesting, but after several chapters it seemed that many were turning out to be fairly similar. Many of the women followed similar journeys through life and dealt with similar struggles. Some made it successfully through life and others suffered for their choices, but for the most part it seemed that in general these women were at least financially successful throughout much of their lives. I was expecting to see more of the hard side of these women's As soon as I started this book I found it interesting, but after several chapters it seemed that many were turning out to be fairly similar. Many of the women followed similar journeys through life and dealt with similar struggles. Some made it successfully through life and others suffered for their choices, but for the most part it seemed that in general these women were at least financially successful throughout much of their lives. I was expecting to see more of the hard side of these women's lives along with the success. If this is a topic that is of particular interest and you are looking for some information on a variety of women, I would say this is a great place to start. * I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Scott Thompson

    Fun stories about women who did what they had to do to make it in the Old West. It provided new perspectives for my Western education.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    Interesting, at first, but after awhile the stories were too similar to keep me interested.

  7. 5 out of 5

    JZ

    Fantastic stories about fabulous women. A lesson in how women had to get by when they didn't have family or friends when they needed them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Holt

    I listened to the audible edition of this fine book, and recommend it. The narrator's presentation was superb and added value to an already quality book. Each chapter detailed the life, happenings, memories, and details about one notorious "Wicked Woman", including everything from first-person memories (diaries, interviews years later) to newspaper reports, death certificates, etc. Each chapter began with a scene from that highlighted woman's life, showing that woman's personality, tragic demise I listened to the audible edition of this fine book, and recommend it. The narrator's presentation was superb and added value to an already quality book. Each chapter detailed the life, happenings, memories, and details about one notorious "Wicked Woman", including everything from first-person memories (diaries, interviews years later) to newspaper reports, death certificates, etc. Each chapter began with a scene from that highlighted woman's life, showing that woman's personality, tragic demise, a highlight in her story, or other captivating moment. While I never doubted the content of each chapter, covering the highlights of her life, debunking myths, mentioning when historians disagree, or when the woman disappeared (likely changed her name and chose to live the rest of her life in anonymity), I did have to question whether these opening scenes were fictionalized or simply embellished. In one particular case (no one remained alive in the room afterward), I suspect the historical facts were highly embellished. This storytelling method caught and held my attention. See my full review (posted 11-13-17) on my website: http://www.kristinholt.com/archives/1...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Morris

    “Wicked Women” is a fun read that also includes a wealth of little-known history. It’s obviously well-researched and written from a point of love of the wild west. The stories feature a wide variety of women whose stories will have you laughing and horrified, sometimes both at the same time. I definitely recommend “Wicked Women” for anyone with an interest in women’s history, the wild west, or even history in general. It’s an easy read that can appeal to anyone. This review is based upon a complim “Wicked Women” is a fun read that also includes a wealth of little-known history. It’s obviously well-researched and written from a point of love of the wild west. The stories feature a wide variety of women whose stories will have you laughing and horrified, sometimes both at the same time. I definitely recommend “Wicked Women” for anyone with an interest in women’s history, the wild west, or even history in general. It’s an easy read that can appeal to anyone. This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David Crow

    Chris Ennis chronicles the American West through the women who put up with the terrible men who got all the fame and glory. Chris fills an important gap in history by demonstrating that women were every bit as important as the men and oftentimes even more ruthless—they had to be in order to survive. I have read all of Chris's books and have loved them. Wicked Women is one of her finest, and these women are highly memorable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marissa

    About half of the stories in there are really interesting...the rest all begin to sound the same. I'm amazed at how many women got away with murder and attempted murder though.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tess DeGroot

    A wonderful and honest look at women of the wild west, including some of the forgotten ones. Will be referring back to this one as I write my historical fictions.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Note: I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. I had so much fun reading and learning about all the unconventional women who made an impression on the history of the American Wild West, even if it wasn't a good impression. A lot of them had to find their way out of difficult, desperate circumstances with only themselves to rely on. They chose the paths they did because they believed it to be the best option available to them with a few women being exceptions to the rule. I'm a Note: I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. I had so much fun reading and learning about all the unconventional women who made an impression on the history of the American Wild West, even if it wasn't a good impression. A lot of them had to find their way out of difficult, desperate circumstances with only themselves to rely on. They chose the paths they did because they believed it to be the best option available to them with a few women being exceptions to the rule. I'm a history buff and this book is a great addition to my collection of books about obscure or little known parts of history. The only problem that I found with this book was that a better editor was desperately needed. What I mean by that is that the author would write semi-fiction clips at the beginning of each chapter that focused on events that could have, or did, happen in a particular woman's life. The clip would then immediately transition into the historical fact part of the chapter, and you, as the reader, would have no clue what was fictional and what actually happened. It was extremely confusing and became quite frustrating after it continued happening. That combined with some other minor editorial errors did detract from the story quite a bit. However, I would definitely recommend this nonfiction book to anyone looking to learn more about the seedy side of the Wild West.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hiebenthal

    "I admire a prostitute" are words I thought I would never say. And maybe admiration isn't quite the right word; maybe respect is a better fit. This book gave me a view into just how hard it was for women to make their way in the "Old West" in the 1800s. No doubt life was also tough for men at that time, but there simply wasn't the same amount of opportunity for women. Many of the "soiled doves" in this book moved west to either escape a bad life back east or to try to find wealth and power. Many "I admire a prostitute" are words I thought I would never say. And maybe admiration isn't quite the right word; maybe respect is a better fit. This book gave me a view into just how hard it was for women to make their way in the "Old West" in the 1800s. No doubt life was also tough for men at that time, but there simply wasn't the same amount of opportunity for women. Many of the "soiled doves" in this book moved west to either escape a bad life back east or to try to find wealth and power. Many were very cunning and shrewd business women. Many of the madams took care of their working girls as if they were daughters. Even women with a skill for gambling and playing cards had to overcome the notion that a woman couldn't be good at cards--that if she was winning, surely she must be cheating. Mattie Silks, the "Queen of Denver's Red-Light District said it well: "I went into the sporting life for business reasons and for no other. It was a way for a woman in those day to make money, and I made it. I considered myself then and I do now--as a business women. I operated the best house in town and I had as my many clients the most important men in the West" (140). And I most appreciate how the book ends with a reference to Jesus' words in John when the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hiebenthal

    "I admire a prostitute" are words I thought I would never say. And maybe admiration isn't quite the right word; maybe respect is a better fit. This book gave me a view into just how hard it was for women to make their way in the "Old West" in the 1800s. No doubt life was also tough for men at that time, but there simply wasn't the same amount of opportunity for women. Many of the "soiled doves" in this book moved west to either escape a bad life back east or to try to find wealth and power. Many "I admire a prostitute" are words I thought I would never say. And maybe admiration isn't quite the right word; maybe respect is a better fit. This book gave me a view into just how hard it was for women to make their way in the "Old West" in the 1800s. No doubt life was also tough for men at that time, but there simply wasn't the same amount of opportunity for women. Many of the "soiled doves" in this book moved west to either escape a bad life back east or to try to find wealth and power. Many were very cunning and shrewd business women. Many of the madams took care of their working girls as if they were daughters. Even women with a skill for gambling and playing cards had to overcome the notion that a woman couldn't be good at cards--that if she was winning, surely she must be cheating. Mattie Silks, the "Queen of Denver's Red-Light District said it well: "I went into the sporting life for business reasons and for no other. It was a way for a woman in those day to make money, and I made it. I considered myself then and I do now--as a business women. I operated the best house in town and I had as my many clients the most important men in the West" (140). And I most appreciate how the book ends with a reference to Jesus' words in John when the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tony Parsons

    1800’s, Times were rough in those days. How can you condemn these women? Or still today for that matter. They can make their own choices. More than 29 stories of the toughest, roughest independent woman in the US. Warning: This book is for adults only & contains extreme violent or graphic adult content or profanity &/or sexually explicit scenarios. It may be offensive to some readers. I did not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing this book. While I receive free books from pu 1800’s, Times were rough in those days. How can you condemn these women? Or still today for that matter. They can make their own choices. More than 29 stories of the toughest, roughest independent woman in the US. Warning: This book is for adults only & contains extreme violent or graphic adult content or profanity &/or sexually explicit scenarios. It may be offensive to some readers. I did not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers & authors, I am under no obligation to write a positive review. Only an honest one. A very awesome book cover, great black/white pictures, font & writing style. A fabulous Wild West historical book. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. There were no grammar/typo errors, nor any repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a great set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great fantasy movie, an PowerPoint presentation, or better yet a mini TV series. A very easy rating of 5 stars. Thank you for the free Goodreads; Making Connections; Twodot (Roman & Littlefield); AUCP; paperback book

  17. 4 out of 5

    JPLuckyMe

    I think I may have enjoyed this more had I not so recently finished “Lady Killers” by Tori Telfer as the stories in Wicked Women seemed so surface and shallow by comparison. I felt like the women weren’t humanized and certainly didn’t come to life for me anyhow. While occasionally sad or amusing, the stories were so glossed over many seemed to run together, repeated use of the same words and phrases (soiled dove, paramour etc) didn’t help that either. Most read like an anecdote at best. Still it I think I may have enjoyed this more had I not so recently finished “Lady Killers” by Tori Telfer as the stories in Wicked Women seemed so surface and shallow by comparison. I felt like the women weren’t humanized and certainly didn’t come to life for me anyhow. While occasionally sad or amusing, the stories were so glossed over many seemed to run together, repeated use of the same words and phrases (soiled dove, paramour etc) didn’t help that either. Most read like an anecdote at best. Still it’s nice that their names haven’t been forgotten.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Holli

    I received this book as a goodreads giveaway. I enjoyed the stories about the “wicked” women of the west. It is always good to hear more stories about women in history. These stories were a bit hard to read through, and that is why this relatively small and interesting book took me so long. I think it was the repetitive and depressing nature of the stories that contributed to the difficulty. Women, in particular, really had it hard in this time frame, and I am really impressed by these women who I received this book as a goodreads giveaway. I enjoyed the stories about the “wicked” women of the west. It is always good to hear more stories about women in history. These stories were a bit hard to read through, and that is why this relatively small and interesting book took me so long. I think it was the repetitive and depressing nature of the stories that contributed to the difficulty. Women, in particular, really had it hard in this time frame, and I am really impressed by these women who worked the system as best they could.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Barb

    Listened to this. Was interesting but so many of the biographies were essentially the same. Hard life for women in the late 19th century. If she didn't have a husband to take care of her, there wasn't much choice other than prostitution or gambling. Was surprised at the amounts of money mentioned.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    Some old favorites and some new names, this was a fun book and a solid introduction to a number of the colorful lady characters of the Wild West. As much a buff as I am, I still learned some new things and it was a fun, easy read. Only one chapter threw off the groove as the author tried to squish two totally unrelated ladies together to form something that matched the size of other chapters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Butler

    Interesting and informative, but repetitive. I’m not sure why a nun was included in this book, given the title, and at one point uses the g-slur, as well as the tone-deaf phrase “workers of a plantation” instead of “slaves.” I did like the chapter that describes a fashionable parade as a marketing tactic.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Ottesen

    Super awesome stories about women! It wasn't incredibly well edited, and the stories get a bit repetitive given that there were few ways women could ever make money at this time in history in the West... And I could have used a bit more detail in some stories. It seemed very well researched, though, and I enjoyed every story!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cottero

    I have always been interested in the 1800 to 1935 time period...If you are like me, you will enjoy this book. It is a series of short non-fiction stories that cover the lives of some very interesting women. I found the book to be well written and brought to back a remembrance of people that helped shape the history of the US West.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tonya Scott

    Interesting read but much of what I suspected compared to other short biographies that I’ve read. Very much centralized around prostitution and gambling. It still shocks me sometimes to read what humans in general endures to survive, both genders.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    This was an interesting b0ok about women in the old West. Most were forced into prostitution to survive. Many became rich, gave to the poor, wrote letters for dying miners and took care of their families. The facts about these successful women were taken from state historical societies.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sheryl

    I enjoyed this book but I don't think it is for everyone. I would read a chapter at a time in between reading other books, otherwise I think it would have gotten tedious.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Deidre

    As others have said, the stories get repetitive and the research isn't very deep. It's a real shame that there seem to be no thoroughly researched bios of these women for people to read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brittney

    Repetitive stories about degenerate women

  29. 4 out of 5

    Darel Krieger

    Great book to learn a bit about the women who also had a hand in taming the Wild West. What a sorry commentary on what they had to put up and and how they were mistreated in a large part.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rosie Barraza

    Easy and entertaining read, a lot of the short stories are good.

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