Saloon Girls: The ‘Soiled Doves’ Of The Old West

By | January 19, 2019

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Pioneer at the bar counter of a saloon, Old West, North America, drawing. Source: (

The Saloon

When one thinks of an old west town usually one includes a church, dusty dirt roads and a saloon with swinging doors. At the very beginning of the westward migration, there weren’t really towns. It was more like communities of tents with pretty much all men, which presents a large opportunity. Back east, women did not go to saloons and upheld the Victorian style morals and behavior. This type of moral code didn’t mesh well with the wild frontier. Shrewd men and women could see the ‘need’ for certain establishments in these communities. Once a saloon was built, then what we think of as an old west town, would get built up.

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Old West Saloon Girl, or ‘Soiled Dove’. Source: (

The Painted Ladies Arrive

Most of the old west towns had a few women of ill-repute. At first, they would hide behind other jobs like a laundress or seamstress. Soon, the saloon owners would entice them to work or the women themselves asked to work there. It was a way for women to earn the kind of money they would not otherwise have the chance to earn. Women started opening up their own businesses and those women became pivotal in the development of the town. The men had names for these women such as ‘Soiled Dove’ and ‘Painted Ladies.’