Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, August 1, 2017


By Kathleen Bittner Roth

Mattie Silks was born Martha Ready in Pennsylvania 1845. High spirited and competitive, she had no inclination to work as a schoolmarm, considered the only respectable career for a woman during that era. Instead, Mattie knew a good opportunity when she saw it. She began her career as a madam in a rented flat in Springfield, Illinois where she took in twelve “Upstairs Girls.” Although considered a great beauty, she never resorted to prostitution herself. With a sharp business acumen, she expanded her “pleasure palaces” to include Dodge City, Kansas, and Denver, where she quickly became one of the best-known madams in the west. She took great pride in seeing that her girls were well taken care of. She even designed a Mattie Silks knife, which she gifted to her ladies to wear on their person on the streets of these wild towns.

Demand for women was highest in Denver, Colorado, due to the gold rush. Soon, Mattie’s expensive parlor houses made her fabulously wealthy. So accomplished was she as a madam, her reputation grew. Even the style of boot she wore bears her name. In Denver, she openly feuded with her competition, Kate Fulton and Jennie Rogers. Things got so bad between Mattie and Kate that they wound up in the only known pistol duel between two women. The fight, as it turned out, was not over money, but over a local businessman, Cortez Thomson, whom both women were seeing. When the day of the duel arrived, he stood off to one side, watching the battle take place. They both fired their pistols, but due to Mattie’s bad aim, Cortez got the bullet. He recovered, and ended up marrying Mattie three years later, and proceeded to lavishly spend her money. But such was love, for Mattie’s business continued to thrive, and her investments in real estate made her even wealthier, so she had little care as to how Thomson spent her money because she was having just as good a time spending it herself.

From 1877 to 1897 her brothel was the most successful in Denver. In 1898, Madam Jennie Rogers opened the House of Mirrors and quickly became more successful than any of the competition. But then, Jennie Rogers died, and being the good business woman that Mattie was, she purchased the House of Mirrors for $14,000 and went on to make even more money.    

Mattie Silks passed away in 1929 due to complications from a fall. She was buried beside the love of her life, Cortez Thomson, in the Fairmount Cemetery in Denver.

Kathleen Bittner Roth creates evocative stories featuring characters forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love. Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. A PAN member of Romance Writers of America®, Kathleen was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest. 

You can find Kathleen at:

Website:          www.kathleenbittnerroth.com
Twitter:           @K_BittnerRoth
Pinterest          https://hu.pinterest.com/bittnerroth/

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