A Note from the publisher
We’re living in an unprecedented moment in history, and it’s been amazing to see how people are pulling together to support one another. Here at TouchWood we’ve decided to ask our authors what has been keeping them busy during a time when we’ve all been asked to stay home to Flatten the Curve.
Hello, authors and fellow detainees. I am Linda J. Eversole, retired museums and heritage professional and author who takes a long time to get anything written, but boy do I have a lot of research! My first book, Stella: Unrepentant Madam, came out in 2005 and was the result of many years of gathering research, making contacts, and travelling the twisted trail of Stella’s life. My new book, Victoria Unbuttoned, will carry on in the same manner, setting the context from early instances of sexual commerce during the establishment of Fort Victoria to the moral reform movement and up to the First World War. Interspersed with a recounting of the broad strokes of history will be the individual stories of people, and particularly the women whose lives played a vital, yet oft hidden role in society.
My love and passion for history started at an early age, living with my grandfather who valued his Scottish heritage to a high degree. Our Menzies family tartan was everywhere, and he would reminisce fondly about his old Scottish grandfather who immigrated to Canada in 1834. These stories led me to a long career in museum work, predominantly historical research and heritage preservation in British Columbia. I even did a brief stint in York, England, working in archaeology, mostly cleaning human bones from the Medieval and Anglo-Saxon periods.
I have been fortunate to indulge my passion for travel, always inspired by some aspect of history, from Egypt most recently to India, Easter Island, Japan, Europe, Oman, Tunisia, and the South Pacific. I am fascinated by the small stories of people whose lives have changed our world in minute ways that may never be known. There are always those who had the odds stacked against them and persevered, or not. There is something to be learned from everyone.
As I write this it is April Fool’s Day. I am sitting at my desk, reading glasses sliding down my nose, peering at my computer as per usual and periodically glancing out to a blue sky and clouds. Another beautiful day, a little windy but the calm aspect belies what is happening in our world. It is no joke. We are in the midst of a pandemic and like so many others I will do as I am asked by our much-revered Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and stay home, washing my hands and keeping my socializing to the digital. I justify one exception, taking a solitary walk for the purpose of exercising body and mind carefully avoiding others. On my walk my thoughts turn to Dora Son, one of the women I am writing about in my upcoming book.
I am carrying a picture of Dora looking serious whilst sitting in a large wheeled phaeton carriage with the top down and clutching the reins of a horse who didn’t make it into the picture. Behind her Beacon Hill rises, much barer than the view we enjoy these days, while men in the background mill about waiting. They wait for a race to begin, as this is the old horse racing track that ran around the southern part of what we know as Beacon Hill Park. The track circled Beacon Hill following today’s Dallas Road and Circle and Camas Circle Roads that pass the petting zoo.
The fields around the old track are resplendent with daffodils, and the playing field is dotted with the few tents of less fortunate people seeking comfort. The sun warms the slight breeze that brushes my hair, perhaps like the one that fluttered the feather in Dora’s small hat. I continue my walk, imagining the thundering hooves and the cheers and exhortations of crowds of men, a few women, and children. There are no crowds today, just carefully spaced individuals walking with small dogs on leashes.
My circumnavigation complete, I head home still imagining Dora, with luck collecting her winnings, and chatting to a few men who well know her profession and that of her “girls.” Perhaps they are here too, setting up appointments for celebrations after the race. There was no social distancing in the brothel.
I head home to await the words of another woman in charge, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Dora’s (a.k.a. Maud Lord) Story
Excerpted: Victoria Unbuttoned
After things settled over at 27 Broughton Street Maud returned only to find more trouble was brewing as mentioned in the same newspaper chronicling her bad driving. A young man by the name of Porter had come to retrieve his seventeen-year-old sister from the brothel, claiming she had been seduced by a commercial traveller, but he found resistance from his sister who claimed she was “having too good a time”.5
Both incidents and the repeated mention of 27 Broughton Street put the police in a position of needing to be seen to be doing something. So, they did. In September, two days of systematic raids focussed first on View Street and then on Broughton and Douglas Streets. Police Chief Sheppard, two sergeants, and three constables divided up and each took different premises. Sheppard handled Maud Lord’s. In total they rounded up Lena Woodruff, Louisa Jones aka “the Countess”, and Maud as “keepers,” and Claude Hunt, Lizzie Wilson, Stella Elliott, Stella Blanchard, and Lizzie Murdoch as “inmates”
Lawyer Samuel Perry Mills appeared for all of them and the cases were tried at the same time. Mills was very clear and efficient in presenting his defense and helped set the unofficial ground rules for the future on issues such as when warrants must be issued and what evidence was needed to prove a house was being used for immoral purposes. Not one to mince words he added,
As to those who have complained about the places on View St., let me tell those church men that some of the owners of the property in question are men who attend that same church. Let us stamp this thing out, but let it be done in a manly way.