On Jan 25, 1917 300 sex workers in San Francisco marched to protest the imminent closure of their brothels. The Old Pro Project is an annual event that builds towards this anniversary. We are part of a multigenerational movement that has been advocating for our rights for over a hundred years.


Lulu White | New Orleans Old Pro

Lulu White was the most famed madam in the Storyville district of New Orleans known as the “Diamond Queen” for her love of extravagant jewelry. Much of her early life remains a mystery, but she was born in Selma, Alabama in 1868, and over the course of her life named Cuba, Alabama, and Jamaica as birthplaces.

Lulu first appears in New Orleans city directories in 1888 and began her career as a sex worker creating pornographic images and prostitution. In 1897, she established her famed brothel, Mahogany Hall, located in the city’s Storyville district, where brothels were welcomed. Mahogany Hall was known for its lavish accommodations and expensive rates.

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Lulu White was the most famed madam in the Storyville district of New Orleans known as the “Diamond Queen” for her love of extravagant jewelry. Much of her early life remains a mystery, but she was born in Selma, Alabama in 1868, and over the course of her life named Cuba, Alabama, and Jamaica as birthplaces. She first appears in New Orleans city directories in 1888 and began her career as a sex worker creating pornographic images and prostitution. In 1897, she established her famed brothel, Mahogany Hall, located in the city’s Storyville district, where brothels were welcomed. Mahogany Hall was known for its lavish accommodations and expensive rates.

White amassed a lengthy rap sheet during her career for running a bawdy house, bootlegging, and attempted murder, but she only served time in jail in 1918 for violating the Draft Act, which banned prostitution within ten miles of a military base. She was sentenced to a year and a day, but President Woodrow Wilson commuted her sentence after three months. Upon her release, she returned to sex work and running her brothels until her death in 1931.

Citation: Landau, Emily, “Lulu White,” 64 Parishes, accessed October 18, 2020. Link to the source.

Lulu White. New Orleans Police Department. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Landau, Emily E. Spectacular Wickedness: New Orleans, Prostitution, and the Politics of Sex, 1897 –1917. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013.

Landau’s social history of Storyville uses patriarchy as an analytical lens to examine prostitution and gendered racial ideologies shaped sex and the South after the Civil War.

Long, Alecia P. The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865 –1920. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004.

Alecia Long’s work explores sex work in New Orleans after the Civil War to the Progressive Era, dispels romanticized myths of Storyville to draw connections between “geographical segregation of prostitution” and racial segregation.

Arceneaux, Pamela D. Guidebooks to Sin: The Blue Books of Storyville, New Orleans. New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2017.

Several studies of Storyville have been published, yet Arceneaux’s work is the first centered on the area’s blue books – directories of the local prostitutes, saloons, and VD cures – created by the sex workers themselves. Arcenaeaux offers insight into race, gender, and the economics of the sex industry in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century.

Landau, Emily, “Lulu White,” 64 Parishes, accessed October 18, 2020. Link to the source.

A brief biographical entry on Lulu White authored by historian Emily Landau

“Madams – Lulu White” Storyville New Orleans: Serving All the News That’s Fit to Print, accessed October 18, 2020. Link to the source.

A brief biographical entry on Lulu White and the Storyville district which contains additional images.

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The Old Pro Project Happenings in New Orleans

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