The Everleigh Poems by Elisa Orzac Shoenberger


The Everleigh Poems are a series of poems from the perspectives of the infamous prostitutes or “butterflies” of the Everleigh Club in turn of the century Chicago. The madam sisters, Minna and Ada Everleigh, decided they wanted to open a different kind of brothel in 1900. They opened a luxurious mansion with a gold plated piano. They believed in elevating the oldest professional, notably treating their prostitutes well. Minna Eveleigh allegedly explained a bit more crudely, "You have the whole night before you and one $50 client is more desirable than five $10 ones. Less wear and tear.” They had rules: no stealing, no drugs, and no illness. Allegedly, the phrase “get laid” comes from their name, Everleigh.

Each poem is from the perspective of a different butterfly. The poems reveal their motivations, their demons, their delights, and life stories. The poems are loosely based on the history as discussed by Karen Abbott in her fabulous Sin in the Second City. Princes, politicians, and even the grand Midwest poet, Edward Lee Masters, alike visited at the house. They were targeted in anti-vice efforts due to their popularity and their temerity in publishing advertisements for the club and closed their doors in 1911.

About the poet: Elisa Shoenberger is a Chicago based writer. She has a BA in Latin American History from the University of Chicago, a MA in Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MBA in Marketing and Operations Management from Loyola University Chicago. She has written for the Ozy, the Billfold, iExplore, City Creatures blog for the Center for Humans and Nature, Love TV, the Reset, Sonderers, Rebellious Magazine, vis a tergo, and Our Urban Times. She is a regular contributor of Book Riot. She is the co-editor and co-founder of the literary journal, The Antelope Magazine. She writes a travel and art blog called Not Without My Bowler Hat. In her spare time, she plays alto saxophone, travels, stiltwalks, and makes cheese.

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