Abbott, Karen 1973–
Abbott, Karen 1973–
Born 1973, in Philadelphia, PA; married. Hobbies and other interests: Vintage furniture, history, playing sports, reading, writing, and gambling.
Worked as journalist for Philadelphia.
Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.
Also contributor to periodicals, including Philadelphia Weekly, and Web sites, including Salon.com.
Writer Karen Abbott's curiosity about the mysterious disappearance of her great-grandmother's sister in the early twentieth century led her to the red-light district in Chicago, Illinois. The district had claimed many missing women during the time of her great-aunt's disappearance. After three years of thorough research, Abbott completed her narrative nonfiction debut, Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul.
Sin in the Second City tells the story of the infamous and elite Everleigh Club brothel, run by tough sisters Ada and Minna Everleigh. Abbott uses a backdrop of dirty tales of how predatory men would pull young, unsuspecting girls into a life of abuse in the sex trade and emphasizes how Ada and Minna held high standards, ranging from no violence to offering medical care and top wages, for their girls. Abbott also points out how the Everleigh sisters provided a pleasant, inviting atmosphere with lavishly expensive decor for patrons. Writing in the Seattle Times Online, Karen Gaudette noted that the Everleighs "transformed a shabby whorehouse in the red-light district known as the Levee into an opulent playground of gourmet food, orchestras and couture-dressed courtesans that attracted European royalty, elected officials, heirs to this country's fortunes and prizefighter Jack Johnson."
Abbott insists that little is known about where the Everleigh sisters emerged from, but she makes it clear that they had a business sense that kept them in the good graces of the politicians, gangsters, and other influential people in Chicago. She also describes how Ada and Minna staved off famous reformers of the era, including Reverend Ernest Bell, who stood outside brothels preaching to the sinners of the district about repentance, and other crusaders who used the "white slavery" scare as an attack against immigrants.
Critics responded favorably to Sin in the Second City. Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times Book Review, commented that the book is "assiduously researched" and "well put together, mixing brief and longer chapters rather than striving for a more arbitrary format." Dale Singer, a contributor to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, questioned Abbott's style: "Overly dramatic? Needlessly florid? Maybe. But Sin in the Second City lends itself to prose that matches the period, and Abbott spins her story well. In terms of sin, Chicago was second to none." Deirdre Donahue, a contributor to USA Today, felt that the story applies to present times, and concluded "change the hemlines, add 100 years, and the book could be filed under current affairs."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July 1, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul, p. 15.
Books, July 21, 2007, "Chicago's Bawdy Side: Nonfiction Account of a Turn-of-the-century Brothel Is Almost Too Good to Be True," p. 6.
Book World, July 22, 2007, "When Chicago Was a Good Town for Men of Bad Characters," p. 15.
Christian Science Monitor, November 6, 2007, "Book Bits," p. 14.
Entertainment Weekly, August 24, 2007, "A Book You Have to Read," p. 139.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007, review of Sin in the Second City.
Library Journal, June 15, 2007, Frederick J. Augustyn, review of Sin in the Second City, p. 79.
New York Times Book Review, August 12, 2007, Janet Maslin, "Ladies of the Evening," p. 9.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 8, 2007, Rita Giordano, review of Sin in the Second City; August 15, 2007, review of Sin in the Second City.
Publishers Weekly, April 16, 2007, review of Sin in the Second City, p. 41.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 15, 2007, Dale Singer, review of Sin in the Second City.
USA Today, July 26, 2007, Deirdre Donahue, "A Lively History of ‘Sin,’" p. 07.
Karen Abbott Myspace Profile,http://www.myspace.com/abbottkaren (January 11, 2008).
Seattle Times Online,http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ (February 1, 2008), Karen Gaudette, review of Sin in the Second City.
Sin in the Second City Web site,http://www.sininthesecondcity.com (January 11, 2008).