Money and Ill Fame: Interpreting a Prostitution Hierarchy in Fargo, North Dakota’s Historical Red-Light District
Munns, Anna Marie
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Many inhabitants of early Fargo sought economic opportunities in the local sex trade, and the intersectionality of class, gender, sexuality, and race was central to their varying degrees of success. Police Magistrate Court dockets, Sanborn maps, and Census records offer valuable datasets for linguistic and spatial analyses of prostitution-related crimes, revealing a hierarchy of sex work that differentiated between brothel, crib, and street prostitution. Gender inequalities also persisted within the hierarchy; male clientele were often charged and fined differently from female sex workers. GIS analyses reveal two distinct red-light districts, and highlight brothel differences and racial segregation within the red-light district known as “The Hollow.” Critical theory and practice theory help conceptualize the red-light district as an institution, while exposing the power dynamics at play. This thesis offers new insights into Fargo’s historical red-light district, but also contributes to larger historical and archaeological discussions of prostitution hierarchies, gender, and race.