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.


Lou Graham | Seattle Old Pro

At a time where full service sex workers in Seattle euphemistically called themselves seamstresses, Madam Lou Graham was so rich that she served as an alternative to banks, giving loans to business propositions deemed too risky by bankers. She was also largely responsible for the funding of Seattle’s school system.

At the height of her power, Graham got arrested by a rookie cop who clearly did not know who he was dealing with. She was so influential that she was cleared of all charges AND had the police commissioner fired.

Lou Graham’s episode of The Oldest Profession Podcast »

Lou Graham, born Dorothea Georgine Emile Ohben, was Seattle’s most famous madam. Born in Germany around 1861 (some scholars believe she was born closer to 1857) and emigrated to the United States aboard the Pacific Pride in 1881. Graham arrived in Seattle on the cusp of reforms inspired by the area’s fight for women’s suffrage. The city’s economy – largely dependent on collected fines on various forms of vice – crashed due to the revocation of liquor licenses and the closure of brothels. But Graham was an old pro and master negotiator. She met with Seattle’s most prominent businessmen, including banker Jacob Furth, to establish an upscale bawdy house on Third and Washington Streets.

Graham’s establishment rivaled the most expensive hotels of the day and she offered her employees lodging and educational opportunities. The brothel burned down in the Great Fire of 1889, but Graham didn’t miss a beat. She had amassed a fortune to not only rebuild her brothel, but to also fund a multitude of city projects, private businesses, and public education.

Graham left Seattle in 1902, as moral policing became more restrictive. She died later that year and her cause of death has been under dispute, with overdose, syphilis, and suicide named as causes. No matter how she died, Lou Graham maintains a legacy of an entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, and the old pro who rebuilt Seattle.

Citation: Valley, Rebecca. “The Damnable Dames Who Helped Shape Seattle’s Character,” in Atlas Obscura, (March 16, 2016) accessed October 29, 2020. Link to the source.

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Gonzalez, Sara. “Washington Court Building, (May 24, 2014) accessed October 29, 2020. Link to the source.

A blog post about the original site of Lou Graham’s brothel and the post contains links to additional resources about Graham and the building. Sara Gonzalez is a professor of anthropology at the University of Washington.

McNeill, Maggie. “Lou Graham,” in The Honest Courtesan (December 4, 2014), accessed October 29, 2020. Link to the source.

Biographical sketch of Graham written by a fellow pro.

Valley, Rebecca. “The Damnable Dames Who Helped Shape Seattle’s Character,” in *Atlas Obscura*, (March 16, 2016) accessed October 29, 2020. Link to the source.

Valley’s short essay provides details of Lou Graham’s life, along with other notable Seattle madams, and a glimpse into Gilded Age Seattle.

get involved in the Old Pro Project now »

Mx. Pucks A’Plenty

City Coordinator for Seattle

Mx. Pucks A’Plenty is the Director of Junk in da Trunk, the Michelle Obama of Burlesque, and Seattle’s Own Mxtress of Thiccness! Pucks is the founder and co-producer behind What the Funk?! An All POC Burlesque Festival. The Femme Daddy that your mother should have warned you about, Pucks is not only a performer and a producer, but stage manager and themcee.

You may have seen them in VHOF (Virtual Burlesque Hall of Fame) this past August. They have performed in several festivals as well including the Buxom Blaze Burlesque Festival, Savannah Burlesque Festival, FIERCE! Queer Performing Arts Festival, Edmonton Burlesque Festival, They/Them Festival, Disabilitease Festival as well as performed in The Body Political in San Francisco and as a guest performer with Bless Your Heart Burlesque in San Diego and Gritty City Sirens of Tacoma. They are also the current Mx. Congeniality of the 2019 Savannah Burlesque Festival.

When they aren’t burlesquin’, Pucks is a sex educator and activist. You can catch them on Instagram under @_sexuali.tea_ as co-host to an intersectional sex education podcast with a mission to ‘queer up’ sex ed! They also run the FemDom lifestyle group Diadem-Events which features play parties, workshops, high protocol teas, and socials.

“The They/Them/Yas Queen of Burlesque” is Mx. Pucks A’Plenty and they have #nopucksgiven.

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