A dead prostitute prompted thousands of clients and other spectators to view the cortege. That deceased madam of a brothel was Julia Bulette. She had become an entrepreneur in the sex trade. In the mining town of Virginia City, Nevada, her clientele included many of the men from the mines who supported her brothel. None other than one of America’s greatest novelists, Mark Twain, reported about her dealings on numerous occasions.
Her ladies of the night entertained their customers and delighted them with their many wiles. Bulette would charge $1,000 for an intimate encounter with one of her personnel. This was a hefty sum in the mid 19th century. In her time, the fire service bestowed upon her the title of fire marshal, the sole woman to receive this honor.
Sadly, on a winter’s day, John Millain strangled Bulette to death. Her funeral processional consisted of her client base and other supporters who wished to send her off into the unknown and unknowable. As for Millain, his arrest signaled a swift hand of justice to swoop down and punish him for his crime. The authorities hanged Millain 1 mile outside of the town on April 24, 1868.
While some may consider the profession of exchanging money for sex to be taboo and in some cases illegal, Bulette commanded respect from her workers and clients alike. Because of her staunch position on how to make a dollar, she enabled herself and others to see the business side of the trade.
Touted as “the West’s favorite prostitute” she developed a rapport amongst most of the town’s people. That is of course barring the wives of the miners who frequented her brothel.
Her death was a blow to free trade on a semi-free market. Sex workers of this time period faced great dangers such as sexually transmitted diseases, robbery, and like Bulette, murder.
The irrationalism displayed by Millain is what continues to shred this nation apart. The idea of women and some men who cannot work and be paid for their passionate encounters. Bulette died with the thought that her brothel would survive without her. She figured that in death, multiple sex dens would pop up all over the country. Mainly, they would remain states like Nevada.
Her death meant that working girls would have to have increased protection. Whether that would mean carrying a firearm in their crotch or a switchblade on the nightstand, they would have to use self-defense in order to survive. The rationality of Bulette should be championed by anyone in the skin trade. Her stature in the neighborhood propelled some of the inhabitants to make a state-like funeral procession replete with a fire brigade. Bulette’s relatively early death should be a reminder to every sex worker who has ever been with a john or trick.
The amount of outpouring following Bulette’s demise shows that a business that is often regarded as low, debased, and ugly can stand for something positive. Bulette wanted to project the sense that her role in life was to provide her customers with the highest quality time at the highest price. She presided over her fellow workers like a mother to guide, sister to confide in, and a best friend to know every secret.
Though a change in management would cast a dark shadow on Bulette following the Civil War, she still held onto some vestige of respect and fame in her final days. Reason placed at the forefront of this story means that Bulette should be remembered as a business lady. Despite Millain’s whims and evil, Bulette’s memory will forever be held in high esteem.