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Date of Graduation
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of History
Emily M. Westkaemper
In 1897, the red-light district of Storyville was officially consecrated in New Orleans, Louisiana. Storyville encapsulated centuries’ worth of Southern cultural, social, and political values that culminated in the creation of a legally recognized district of vice. New Orleans was an economically situated city, profiting from the business and tourist routes provided by the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River. Known throughout the nation for a plethora of negative attributes, such as disease, prostitution, and murder, New Orleans developed a national reputation as a city of immorality, which was only furthered by the creation of a red-light district.
In exploring the city’s history of media fascination, murder cases, and notable women in the district, this thesis argues that Storyville was both created and destroyed due to the collision of moral reform and vice in the city of New Orleans. Specifically, the thesis focuses on the experience of three key women within New Orleans’ culture of vice and how their positions and identities effected the development, growth, and destruction of Storyville over a fifty year period. Kate Townsend, Lulu White, and Willie Piazza are the three key figures discussed in this thesis, specifically how the concepts of race, gender, power, and morality interact with their positions within New Orleans and Storyville. Each of these women possessed power within Storyville that affected their public perception and the overall perception of the red-light district throughout its existence.
Nelson, Tiffany R., "Sleeping with Storyville: The influence of media, race, and morality in New Orleans’ red light district" (2021). Masters Theses, 2020-current. 77.