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They are ready for business around the clock. For more than a century, these pioneers of a different ilk, highly transient and frustratingly anonymous, molded their business practices to survive changes and reforms.
As elsewhere, the fines they paid fattened city coffers, and businesses depended upon their patronage. Miners who spent money, time, and energy on public women were less likely to organize against the powerful Anaconda Copper Mining Company. These prostitutes, posing ca. Photograph from Robert C. Small brothels and cribs, reeking of disinfectant, lined the streets and alleyways where thieves loitered.
The end of the Copper Kings in signaled the end of the elegant parlor house. Anticipating changes, the women began to solicit more blatantly, lounging in the windows of houses and cribs along the district thoroughfares. In , the Miner issued a special Sunday section on the red-light district that addressed solicitation, unhealthy conditions, urban blight, alcoholism, and the graft city officials openly demanded from public women.
While some citizens proposed eliminating or moving the district, the Miner presented both sides of the argument. Public women responded to subsequent ordinances. They willingly paid crib rents and monthly fines, but orders to lengthen their dresses, don high-necked blouses, and draw their blinds left them outraged. The women cut holes in the blinds for their faces and organized a protest. In Butte, the heart of the labor movement, prostitutes banded together just this once, loudly tapping on their windows in solidarity.
Even so, the city banned solicitation from public thoroughfares, at which point the women cut doors and windows in the backs of the cribs, creating the labyrinth known as Pleasant Alley. In January , the district expanded as copper rose to a high of twenty cents a pound. At the back of the Dumas, new brick cribs opened onto Pleasant Alley. Activity, however, was short-lived. In , federal law closed red-light districts in an effort to protect World War I enlistees from rampant venereal disease.