Miss Kitty

"No problem, man. Now go see Miss Kitty and she'll set you up with a nice hooker."
Chandler, playing barkeep to Joey dressed as a cowboy on Friends.

What is the fate of a Soiled Dove as she grows older? It all depends on how much she's been soiled and who was documenting the events. In early versions of the Romance Novel, any soiling was considered an impurity that could not be erased, so Redemption Equals Death was a common ending to the story, usually with the Soiled Dove ending up addicted to alcohol and/or opiates and Dying Alone in some gutter. In Real Life, though, many a Soiled Dove ended up marrying and leaving what was then called the Sporting Life. This was especially true in The Wild West, where women were at a premium. Some ended up becoming a Determined Homesteader's Wife. Their former lives were generally not held against them, and the act of marriage bestowed social respectability on them.

Fiction provided another solution, though. The Miss Kitty is a Soiled Dove turned entrepreneur. She is the proprietor of the local drinking establishment, very often a Fish out of Water. Sometimes, she has obtained her establishment through the circumstances of becoming a Determined Widow. She is always of a certain age. She is tough as nails. She has an unlimited supply of something that passes for whiskey, with sasparilla for the Determined Homesteader's Children. She has no tolerance for "rowdiness" in her establishment and very often has a shotgun handy to make certain that her policy is enforced. She goes out of her way to make certain that no one mistreats her "girls". She acts as mother-confessor for anyone in town and always has time to provide people with advice and common-sense wisdom. Occasionally, Preacher Man berates her for operating a Den of Iniquity, but most of the time he accepts her business as a necessary evil. She is almost always on the side of the angels.

Initially, Bowdlerization restricted her activities to running a saloon. In today's media, most establishments run by a Miss Kitty are more obviously brothels with ancillary booze service.

If the two are close in age, she will be the love interest of The Sheriff or the U.S. Marshal. She is the employer of the saloon girl and The Piano Player. The Bartender is always her trusted subordinate, if she employs one.

The Miss Kitty is restricted in time and setting. She will be almost exclusively found either in the United States or Canada. In the US, she'll be found between 1860 (the start of the American Civil War) and 1911 (the year the Everleigh Club in Chicago was closed). In Canada she'll usually be in shows set in Alberta or the North (especially the Klondike), and can show up at a much later date than in the US—as late as the mid-1950s for shows set in the Territories. She can also be found in Speculative Fiction that uses a setting that is analogous. The Wild West is her natural habitat, but she can often be found in urban red-light districts of the period. The Miss Kitty does not necessarily have to be female, although the nurturing aspects of a Miss Kitty are more of a female trait.

The trope was so pervasive in Western Canada in the post-World War I era that the phrasing "Miss Firstname" was (and to some extent, still is) used only to refer to madams and whores. This naturally surprises visitors from the southern US, for whom this phrasing is a respectable way for children to refer to adult women. Hilarity can ensue.

The Trope Namer is Miss Kitty, the proprietor of the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City in Gunsmoke. Should not be confused with the burlesque dancer in The Great Mouse Detective or former WWE Diva Stacy Carter, who used this name before changing it to The Kat.


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    Anime and Manga 

  • Poor Dixie Lee in Cimarron, who runs the local brothel, but mainly because she can't catch a break. She was orphaned as a teenager, taken advantage of and impregnated by a man who turned out to be a bigamist, and she was driven off the land she tried to claim in Oklahoma by the Moral Guardians.
  • Maudie in Howard Hawks' El Dorado.
  • Ronda in The Far Country is this—older, sexy, owner of a saloon, wearing bright dresses, rather strongly implied to have once been a prostitute.
  • Jenny in Frisco Jenny. The film begins in 1906 San Francisco.

  • In the Bardic Voices series, the Madam of the brothel that Rune gets a job at (as a musician playing in the common room) goes by the name of Amber. (Not her real name, just the name that all madams of that brothel goes by). She is a nice person and cares for all her employees, from the serving girls and boys in the common room to the ladies working upstairs.
  • Dora Flood in Cannery Row is another Steinbeck example. In the sequel Sweet Thursday, her older sister Flora takes over, having changed her name to "Fauna."
  • Madam later Tribune Cymnea is one of these in Jim Butcher's Codex Alera.
  • Discworld: Mrs. Rosie Palm is one, having risen to President of the Seamstresses' Guild of Ankh-Morpork after working as a Seamstress herself. Seamstresses are referred to as "Miss" while the head of the guild is "Mrs". This causes Sir Samuel Vimes to commit a minor gaff in Night Watch when he travels back in time and comes across Rosie and calls her Mrs. Palm. At that point she was just another working girl and corrected him that it is Miss Palm.
  • Cathy/Kate from East of Eden kills her mentor, who is one of these, and then takes over her brothel and becomes a completely vicious version of this trope.
  • "La Señora" ("The Mistress"), one of Eva's caretakers in Isabel Allende's Eva Luna, is a former High-Class Call Girl and the owner of the most famous brothel in the capital.
  • Flashman hooks up with one of these in Flash for Freedom and the first part of Flashman and the Redskins.
  • Belle Watley from Gone with the Wind.
  • La Señora is predated by the Older and Wiser Tránsito Soto from The House of the Spirits. She's also a rather interesting example in that she began as an mixture of Plucky Girl and Hooker with a Heart of Gold, then went to the city with help from Esteban Trueba, worked hard to become the most beautiful and respected High-Class Call Girl, was still a HCCG when she became a Miss Kitty, and only later fully took up the Miss Kitty roles.
  • Miss Audrey in the Liaden Universe is a brothel owner in the Space Western equivalent of a frontier town. She's a canny businesswoman, and closer to being a respected community leader than the guys who are officially in charge. She even runs a school out of one of the back rooms.
  • Gwen in The Riyria Revelations. Her efforts to become this is the secondary plot of the prequel book The Crown Tower.
  • Chataya of A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • Patricia Utley in Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, who takes good care of her "girls" and is a successful businesswoman, making sure that she only sends them out to high paying customers like celebrities and politicians.
    • Her protegee April Kyle, on the other hand, was doomed from the start (at least in retrospect due to already being pretty fucked in the head before she even became a prostitute).
  • The titular character from Jorge Amado's novel Tieta do Agreste is one of these, albeit she spent a good part of the book hiding this from her relatives and the people of her birth town, by letting them believe she is a boutique owner and a senator widow. But then again, no one asked her the right question.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one skit from The Armstrong and Miller Show, Alexander Armstrong discovers that his ancestor was a prostitute, and determines to find out whether she ever improved her lot in life. Apparently, she did: a later entry into the records he's examining instead lists her occupation as "brothel owner".
  • Eva in Copper. The Contessa is her High-Class Call Girl equivalent uptown.
  • Joanie Stubbs of Deadwood tries to be a Miss Kitty, along with her partner Maddie, but they fail.
  • Nandi from the Firefly episode "Heart of Gold," though her establishment was less bar and more brothel (plus, she is officially shunned by the Companion Guild).
  • The Trope Namer, Amanda Blake's Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke.
  • Luci Prescott in Peacemakers.
  • Psych had an episode set in a Wild West-themed tourist town, complete with a Miss Kitty. After the case is solved, the town's sheriff proposes to her, and Shawn is touched that she's agreeing to leave behind a life of sin until Gus reminds him that she isn't a real madam.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch got transported to a magical Wild West town. Aunt Hilda became Miss Hildy, the owner of the saloon.
  • Mary Barrett from Wild Boys.
  • On Adam Ruins Everything, Adam debunks the notion that the founding of the Wild West was all the doing of gritty white male cowboys. He meets up with a saloon owner named Pearl, and an actual historian, who explain that the towns on the Frontier were basically work camps, with no women. When women did come to the West, some of them found that there was a market for sex (and not many other options open to women)...and that it was a very lucrative one. The prostitutes of the Old West used their newfound wealth and power to transform those settlements from work camps to cities with schools, hospitals, etc. The gritty white male cowboy Adam was talking to is shocked and appalled.

    Mythology and Religion 

  • In The Bible, Rahab owns or works in a brothel (though she is sometimes described as an innkeeper instead). Because she hides the Israelite spies, she is rewarded with a husband and family of her own...and becomes one of the ancestors of Jesus.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Rick O'Shay, Sheriff Rick O'Shay's love interest, dance-hall owner Gaye Abandon, is a family-friendly version of the trope.

  • Molly Fitzpatrick, the Bar Ghost of America's Most Haunted, was apparently one in her past life.
    "She died as she lived � going down."
  • Rosie the saloon bargirl from Cactus Canyon.


    Video games 
  • In the Assassin's Creed games that take place in Renaissance Italy, Ezio finds allies in various brothel madams throughout Italy. Period setting notwithstanding, these women fit the Miss Kitty bill as shrewd, intelligent businesswomen who genuinely care about the women in their employ and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. At one point, Ezio's own mother and sister become madams of a brothel in Rome, in order to feed information to the Assassins.
  • Miss Kitty from Fallout 2, the host of the most renowned brothel in the wasteland in [[Wretched Hive New Reno]].
  • Fallout: New Vegas has "Pretty" Sarah. Once she was pretty... before she was burned and rapped by the Fiend leader Cook-Cook and not necessarily in that order. She now lives in the Casa Madrid Apartments in Westside acting as a madam for her three prostitutes. She may be burned by she's much tougher than she looks and never likes people messing with her "merchandise". That .44 magnum is not just there for show.

    Web Comics 
  • In the Western Arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space, Morgan is the town's Miss Kitty and a Steam Punk genius to boot.
  • Mama Gkika of Girl Genius appears at first glance to be one of these, running a (literal) underground establishment that caters to the Jaegers, and given the decor it is likely also a brothel. However, she's also one of the Jaeger Generals, and may in fact be a parody of this trope.
  • The Prohibition-era Lackadaisy features Mitzi May, a Miss Kitty who actually is a kitty...

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Calista Cypher aka Black Widow used to work as a prostitute (among other things) before she became the matron of Alent's finest brothels.
  • Honey from Hulu's show Quick Draw acts as advice giver and lover to the entire town of Great Bend, including the new sheriff.
  • In Twig, Sy and Jamie seek refuge with one of these, herself a former Street Urchin who, now that she runs her own brothel, takes the opportunity to help children in need and provide shelter to those that need it.

    Western Animation 
  • Bart discovers and eventually ends up working for one of these women on The Simpsons. Even though the show is set in modern America, the matron of the house plays this trope completely straight and makes Marge look foolish by comparison. This episode led to the Crowning Music of Awesome — "We put the *spring* in Springfield."
  • In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, there is a talking cat woman whose name is actually Miss Kitty. She is the head matron amongst the other "singers" in the saloon, and left her troubled past behind her in New York to go off to the west (but soon regrets leaving Tiger).

    Real Life 
  • Some urban examples from the well-documented world of Chicago prostitution of the period:
    • When Carrie Watson was a middle-class girl in Buffalo, New York, she saw her older sisters work for substandard wages as shopgirls, and became determined to avoid that fate. Since her career options were limited by social mores of the time, she decided on an unusual career plan: become a prostitute, learn the business end, and open her own house that would cater to a high-class, moneyed crowd. After an apprenticeship, she gained enough money to fulfill her dreams. Between the 1870s and 1890s, Watson's house was renowned for its women and its customer service. Customers were greeted by a talking parrot which said "Carrie Watson's. Welcome, gentlemen." (Watson was quite discreet; the parrot and a small brass plaque were her only forms of advertising.) Watson invested in real estate and became rich. Her treatment of her girls was renowned in the community at a time when prostitutes were regarded as virtual slaves. When pressure came to centralize prostitution in Chicago away from Watson's house, she decided to retire and quietly faded away.
    • Vina Fields had two handicaps in the 1890s: she was not only female, she was African-American. Her houses specialized in providing African-American women for white customers, although she didn't discriminate. In order to insulate her daughters from how she made her living, she sent them to convent schools. During the Panic of 1893, she provided thousands of free meals daily for out-of-work men. When she left the business, her departure was much-mourned.
    • The origins of the women who called themselves Ada and Minna Everleigh are still in dispute, although a great deal of detective work has been done (most recently by Karen Abbott in her book Sin In The Second City). What is known is that they made a windfall profit in Omaha operating a high-class house, then took that money to create a dream establishment on Chicago's South Side. Opening in 1901, the Everleigh Club soon became world-famous for its opulence and its employment of beautiful, talented women, who were treated magnificently by Ada and Minna. The brothel was down-right palatial in its furnishings; among other things, it had a perfume fountain, a gold-plated piano, and a solid gold spittoon in every room. Not to mention that they got 25 world-class chefs and musicians to work for them. It was as exclusive as possible; new customers needed a letter of recommendation from an established patron to be admitted, they only took checks at a time when only the rich possessed checking accounts, and people who spent less than $50 (worth about $2000-$4000 today) are politely but emphatically advised to never come back, the average "dinner and a night" service costs more than $200. They even entertained royalty. The house was forcibly shut down in 1911, and the sisters went into genteel retirement in New York City.
  • A literal Miss Kitty (Katharina "Kitty" Schmidt) operated a luxurious brothel in World War II Berlin, under the guise of the SD (SS's counterespionage department). She had to submit to them, after SS-Brigadeführer Walther Schellenberg himself had shown her clearly she had no other choice, charging her with money laundering and trafficking, using forged passports, other crimes linked to money laundering and forgery... and helping Jews to escape Germany, all of which could mean either a long prison term in a concentration camp or a summary execution at the hands of the SS. The entire house had been littered with state of the art surveillance electronics, and a large percent of the girls trained to register the slightest word which could mean a valuable secret. Despite prostitution being more or less legal in Germany and herself an agent of the state security, her house had always been more or less illegal, with no advertising and entrance via a password, to keep it exclusive and protect the VIP clients (nearly always married) from unfriendly eyes. Count Ciano while in Berlin used to go ostensibly to a cinema and sneak from the theater after the lights were off, to avoid anyone who might have snitched him to his all-powerful father-in-law, Mussolini.
  • John Steinbeck based the character of Dora from Cannery Row on a Madam named Flora Woods who operated the Lone Star Café on what is now called Cannery Row in Monterey, California. By all accounts, she was a generous woman who cared deeply for her girls and gave large sums of money and food to charity.