Created By: Wichita History Walk
Prostitution flourished in Delano, and these "soiled doves" or "painted ladies" did a brisk business along the Chisholm Trail. In 1872-73, an event called the Running of the Doves took place where the ladies were loaded in wagons, carted off to the Arkansas River, and took off all their clothes to race back to the saloons on foot. Cowboys and customers bet on the fastest ladies and cheered them on from along the route.
Risqué entertainments such as these were quite popular at the time. While some women did quite well for themselves in this trade, overcoming rough backgrounds and impoverished pasts, others were taken advantage of and treated badly. An 1887 grand jury investigation in Wichita examined the claims of nearly 300 prostitutes in the area, who asserted that they were being used in a scheme that ultimately prevented them from making any sort of real money in their line of work. Hotels and boarding houses in Wichita would charge a prostitute one price for her own room and board, but when she arrived at her "place of business" they would charge a completely different rate for her use of the room with clients. The network of price fixing ultimately took advantage of the "soiled doves" and resulted in their having to pay over 60% of their income just for housing.
While much about the Old West is glamorized in contemporary movies and literature, it was far from a perfect place according to many accounts from those who lived it.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Wild West Delano