American West •  Biography and Women

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Madam Millie: Bordellos from Silver City to Ketchikan

Max Evans

Mildred Clark Cusey was a whore, a madam, an entrepreneur, and above all, a survivor. The story of Silver City Millie, as she referred to herself, is the story of one woman's personal tragedies and triumphs as an orphan, a Harvey Girl waitress on the Santa Fe railroad, a prostitute with innumerable paramours, and a highly successful bordello businesswoman. Millie broke the mold in so many ways, and yet her life's story of survival was not unlike that of thousands of women who went West only to find that their most valuable assets were their physical beauty and their personality. Petite at five feet tall with piercing blue eyes, Millie captured men's attention by her very essence and her unmistakable joie de vivre.

Born to Italian immigrant parents near Kansas City, she and her sister were orphaned early and separated from each other. Millie learned hard lessons on the streets, but she never gave up and she vowed to protect and support her ailing older sister. Caught in a domestic squabble in her foster home, Millie wound up in juvenile court with Harry Truman as her judge. This would be only the first of many brushes in her life with prominent politicians.

When physicians diagnosed her sister with tuberculosis and recommended she move West to a Catholic home in Deming, New Mexico, Millie moved with her. Expenses ran high and after a brief stint waiting tables as a Harvey Girl, Millie found that her meager tips could easily be augmented by turning tricks. Thus, out of financial need and devotion to her sister, Mildred Cusey turned to a life of prostitution and a career at which she soon excelled and became both rich and famous.


Max Evans, novelist, artist, scriptwriter, former cowboy, miner, and dealer in antiquities, resides in Albuquerque. He received the Owen Wister Award for lifelong contributions to the field of western literature from the Western Writers of America.


"The story of Mildred Fantetti Cusey sells itself -- a memoir about a strong, resourceful survivor in an age of self-made entrepreneurs. . . ."


El Paso Times

". . . the book does deliver its promise: A complete picture of the prostitution business as it was actually practiced in the western states ."


Ravalli Republic, Montana

". . . authentic narratives by prostitutes and madams are rare, and Cusey's raucous recollections are an important addition to the literature."


Western Historical Quarterly

"Local color is an ever-present element in this story, from crooked cops to belligerent johns, and Millie herself stands larger than life as the prime source of energy, humor, and business acumen that made her efforts successful."


The Bloomsbury Review

"Millie's is the quintessential American success story."


The Dallas Morning News

"There aren't many subjects more titilating than good old fashioned whoring."


The Weekly Alibi, Albuquerque

". . .novelist Evans tells the rollicking true story of Mildred Cusey, a resourceful orphan, former Harvey Girl, and astute businesswoman who for nearly a half century lived happily and well off the wages of sin."


Inside Tuscon Business, Southwest Books of the Year

". . .the life of 'Madam Millie' is the saga of the West as it played itself out in bedrooms and back alleys."


Los Angeles Times

"Millie's story is an important one, highlighting as it does that prostitution in the West is not just a nineteenth-century phenomenon. . . . The book is an intersting combination of journalism and biography."


Montana, The Magazine of Western History

6 x 9 in. 344 pages 79 halftones