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Deadwood Madam Mollie Johnson was a 19th-century madam. Johnson was born in Alabama, and migrated west due to the demand for working prostitutes. Indications are that she began working that trade in her early teens, around the age of 15 or 16 by some reports. However, definite information on her early life is unconfirmed.
She was known in Deadwood, South Dakota as the "Queen of the Blondes". Her nickname came from the fact that she had three blonde protégés who worked for her who also maintained their own boarding houses. The twenty-ish foursome, Mollie Johnson and her girls Ida Clark, Ida Cheplan and Jennie Duchesneau, were often embroiled in personal and physical altercations among each other.
She first appeared in Deadwood shortly after the gold rush, and was first mentioned in public writing in February, 1878, when she married Lew Spencer, an African American comedian who was performing at the time in the Bella Union Theater. Although married, Johnson continued to work in her chosen profession, both as prostitute and madam. Spencer eventually left Deadwood and was later arrested in Denver, Colorado for shooting his other wife. Evidently Spencer had been married to both a woman in Denver, and Johnson. There are no indications that Johnson and Spencer ever saw one another afterward.
Reportedly a widow before her arrival in Deadwood, and in her early to mid-20's, Johnson was described as being a pretty woman, and a very good businesswoman. She was also a known supporter of Irish Famine Relief. The competition for brothel owners in Deadwood was light, as there were very few girls to choose from, but plenty of men. Her main competition during most of her time in Deadwood was Madam Dora DuFran, but there is no indication that the two madams didn't get along.
The brothel houses were described in the papers as being a resort for naughty men. Mollie Johnson was also noted to be of a kind heart, caring for the dead body of one of her girls, before trying to save her possessions in the "Big Deadwood Fire" of September 26, 1879. She immediately opened another brothel, and suffered two more fires over the course of the years. She reportedly left Deadwood, as business dropped off, in January, 1883. Where she went or what happened to her following her departure of Deadwood is unknown.
- Deadwood newspaper accounts of Mollie Johnson's Brothel and her girls 1878 to 1883
- Mollie Johnson - Queen of the Blondes, The Painted Ladies of Deadwood Gulch, Legends of America.
- Madam Mollie Johnson, queen of the blondes, Deadwood Magazine.