This painting depicts Annie Chambers, a former Kansas City-area brothel owner and prostitute whose business capitalized on the booming railroad district that brought money, men and modernization to the city at the turn of the 20th century.
Born in 1843 in Lexington, Kentucky as Leannah Loveall, Chambers endured a series of tragic misfortunes early in her life.
Married in her early twenties, she lost her husband and two children to illness and an accident before she was 30.
Then, after incurring the wrath of her Confederate father who discovered she had participated in a parade honoring President Lincoln, she was forced to forge a life on her own.
Facing the stark reality of being a single woman during the 19th century, Chambers chose the only option she could to survive: prostitution.
Chambers came to Kansas City in 1870 and opened a small brothel in the red-light district, where the City River Market exists today. In two-years, Chambers was operating one of the region's most elite brothels out of a luxurious 25-room residence.
She charged her customers $10, when the going rate was only 10 cents. At a time when women were defined only by the men in their lives, Chambers allowed her girls to keep half of what they earned. They could then regain their independence, feet, provide for their children and go on to successful futures.
At the turn of the century, Kansas City went through a series of reforms, including the end of the red-light district in 1913. Committed to helping young women in more socially acceptable ways, Chambers transformed her brothel into a boarding house.
Annie Chambers died at the age of 92. Her life and work both personify and reflect the spirit of Kansas City and the many opportunities which this city is still known for today.
Installation of Painting.