Bernard J. Wilson

Prostitution was a core business of most frontier communities, and Tucson was no exception. From at least 1880 to 1912, Tucson prostitutes worked freely without interference from local officials. However, as Tucson grew, it shed its frontier label to become a more respectable city and began slowly to condemn its “soiled doves.”

At 3:30 p.m. Thursday (July 19) Bernard J. Wilson will share his historical research on the subject at the Arizona Senior Academy in a presentation entitled “From Maiden Lane to Gay Alley: Prostitution in Tucson, 1880-1912.”

The talk will examine the lives of Tucson’s prostitutes during this era, their struggles, their clients, how they contributed to municipal revenues and their eventual removal from Tucson’s growing city center. It will also highlight the many pressures that Tucson’s prostitutes faced as the Women’s Suffrage movement gained momentum.

Wilson is a long-time Tucson resident and has done independent research on the lives and contributions of African Americans in Tucson and the Arizona Territory. His first book, The Black Residents of Tucson and Their Achievements: A Reference Guide, reveals that those accomplishments range from running for public office, becoming millionaires, changing laws and social mores, and much more.

He and his daughter have published several articles together and created an exhibit in the Arizona History Museum, located on 2nd Street in Tucson, entitled Black History Matters.

Witten by Dan Angelo, Academy Village Volunteer

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July 19: A History of Prostitution in Old Tucson