A sociological analysis of prostitution as an occupation, this book studies the experiences of the madam of a small house and her career as a prostitute, from her entry into the profession as a teen-ager until her departure in her early for-ties. Of her twenty years in prostitu-tion, ten were spent as a house prostitute, and ten as a madam. Using in-depth interviews, the author investigates the madam's own interpretations of her life, including a term in prison and her revealing experiences after deciding to leave prostitution.
Following the best tradition of life history research, Heyl supplements her discussions with the madam with in-formation from other prostitutes, mem-bers of the madam's estranged family, and other sources; observations made in the house; and a review of the existing literature. Official records, newspaper reports, and personal papers are used in developing a complete, multi-dimensional account of the madam's experiences. Heyl analyzes the career contingencies and identity crisis of prostitutes, as well as the madam's role as teacher and her struggles to keep the house functioning in the face of growing problems with the police, pimps, and the prostitutes themselves.
These two topics — the madam as "madam" and as "businesswoman" — reinforce the central theoretical con-cern of this study.