First Friday

A discussion on the history of sex work with the co-writers and editors of Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute

The program is scheduled for Friday, May 5, at the Northwest Maritime Center. It will be offered in-person (capacity limited to 75) and by livestream.

The suggested donation is $10. Registration on JCHS Website

Join writers and historians Ivy Anderson and Devon Angus in a discussion about the history of sex work and their book, Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute (Heyday Books). Presenters will also share themes in Alice’s story that extend to issues facing sex workers today, thoughts about shifting ideas of gender roles, and some newly uncovered research about Alice herself and the history of sex work in Washington state.

About Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute

In 1913 the San Francisco Bulletin published a serialized, ghostwritten memoir of a prostitute who went by the moniker Alice Smith. “A Voice from the Underworld” detailed Alice’s humble Midwestern upbringing and her struggle to find aboveboard work, and candidly related the harrowing events she endured after entering “the life.” While prostitute narratives had been published before, never had they been as frank in their discussion of the underworld, including topics such as abortion, police corruption, and the unwritten laws of the brothel. Throughout the series, Alice strongly criticized the society that failed her and so many other women, but, just as acutely, she longed to be welcomed back from the margins. The response to Alice’s story was unprecedented: 4,000 letters poured into the Bulletin, many of which were written by other prostitutes ready to share their own stories; and it inspired what may have been the first sex worker rights protest in modern history. For the first time in print since 1913, Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute presents the memoirs of Alice Smith and a selection of letters responding to her story.

About the Authors

Ivy Anderson (she/they) is a queer writer, historian, activist, and performance artist. Devon Angus (he/him) is a writer, historian, actor, and musician. Together they discovered the memoirs of a sex worker from Progressive Era San Francisco, which led to co-writing and editing Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute, winner of the 2015 California Historical Society Book Award.