Ever wonder where the expression ‘get laid’ came from? Meet the Everleigh sisters

One of my capsule reviews for Paste. Sadly, the lovely Ms. Abbott no longer calls Atlanta home.


Long before Hef, a palace of pulchritude

Ada and Minna Everleigh, the Victorian sisters behind the expression “get laid,” might relish their enduring place in the lexicon, but they’d likely sniff at its frat-house vulgarity. In their brothel, the Everleigh Club, Venuses swathed in French couture recited Longfellow while kings sipped champagne from their slippers. Pleasure was an art, hard-won and forever under siege, as Abbott, an Atlanta-based journalist, reveals in this engaging account of Chicago’s bawdy, turn-of-the-century belle époque.

“I want to stress that this is a work of nonfiction,” she writes, as if to wink, “You won’t believe this!” before affectionately introducing her rogues gallery of crafty courtesans, underhanded aldermen and Bible-waving crusaders. Their schemes culminate in a showdown over “white slavery” that heralds, with a ragtime beat, American ambivalence about the pleasure principle.

If only their puritanical detractors had understood: The Everleighs strove to cleanse the red-light district, too, with their own high-end (and scrupulously hygienic) brand of gentrification.


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