Who Is Dorothy Baker and Why Do I Care?

By Ann Minnett

A writer friend sent me this quote, encouraging me to disregard the internal censor that second-guesses what I write.

It’s a simple formula: Do your best and somebody might like it.  –Dorothy Baker

I think, Here’s a topic for my April blog post! It is approximately 8:50 a.m.

Who is Dorothy Baker? I google her. Sure enough, Ms. Baker was a novelist in the mid-20th Dorothy Baker, Novelistcentury and wrote Cassandra at the Wedding, Young Man with a Horn, and Trio. She enjoyed both success and notoriety. Scanning photos of multiple Dorothy Bakers, one looks like a writer but further searches reveal her to be a missionary. Finally, I’m certain that the fuzzy photo at right is Dorothy Baker, Novelist. It is now 9:49 a.m.

The Google entry following Novelist Dorothy Baker is Dorothy Baker, Madam—different women, but both were born in Montana and lived at about the same time. Dorothy Baker #2, aka Big Dorothy, was the last madam to operate a brothel in Helena, Montana. Wikipedia

Dorothy Baker aka Big Dorothy

Dorothy Baker aka Big Dorothy

reports she ran a clean establishment and was a benefactor of numerous community projects and institutions. She looks like a Big Dorothy (see photo, courtesy of Wikipedia). I love her eyebrows. It’s 10:15.

Now I’m thinking… Forget the novelist. For that matter, forget the quote. Let’s google the madam. I abandon the blog topic at 10:18.

Helena as It Was offers quite a write-up about Big Dorothy, including many photos of her brothel, Dorothy’s Rooms. Open-source entries verify Wikipedia’s account of a big-hearted madam whose business closed after a police raid in 1973. She died three weeks later.

I finish reading newspaper clippings of the day and examining photos of her gaudy ‘rooms’ and colorful alarm system at 11:20 a.m.

As fascinating as Big Dorothy might have been, surely the encouraging quote came from less interesting Novelist Dorothy. But I can’t stop thinking about Big Dorothy, and it dawns on me that the quote could have been hers. After all, they say she excelled in business. It’s getting close to noon. My stomach growls.

My internal censor kicks in. I abhor the sex trade and admonish (can we say censor?) myself for thoroughly enjoying Big Dorothy’s story. I eat a handful of crackers and consider a fresh start for my blog entry at 12:20 p.m. but save what I’ve written just in case.

At 12:35 I’m wondering if Montana Women Writers will kick me out for writing about nothing

I order my internal censor to chill. It’s 12:40. Welcome to my world.

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One thought on “Who Is Dorothy Baker and Why Do I Care?

  1. Madams, upstairs girls, soiled doves…all interesting. I have one in my upcoming historical novel. Maybe we like thinking they got away with breaking the rules. There’s a documentary available on Netflix called Storyville, about the red light district in New Orleans back in the day. It shows the plus and minus real aspects of that life. Karen

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