With the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848, fortune-seekers from around the globe descended on California, among them a sprinkling of enterprising women. Author Sherry Monahan explains, ""Living in the wild American West provided women with equal opportunity - for both success and failure. Conventional wisdom suggests that women became prostitutes only because they were desperate. . . In fact, many of the women were smart entrepreneurs and saw a way to acquire fast and, in several cases, vast wealth. Rich in details combed from historical archives, California Madams uncovers the enigmatic and salacious lives of twenty-four women who ran houses of ill repute in the Golden State from the 1840's to the 1940's. Here are the hedonistic and sometimes heroic exploits of Margaret Appel, Diamond Jessie, Hattie Wells, Ah Toy, and Lee Francis, but also the unsung sagas of Emily Edwards, Cora Lee, Sylvia Daniels, May Ellis, Alma, Jewett, and many more.