Dora DuFran

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Dora DuFran
Amy Helen Dorothy Bolshaw

(1868-11-16)November 16, 1868
Liverpool, England
DiedAugust 5, 1934(1934-08-05) (aged 65)
Other namesDora Bolshaw
OccupationBrothel madam
Spouse(s)Joseph M. DuFran
  • Joseph John Bolshaw (father)
  • Isabella Neal Bolshaw (née Cummings) (mother)

Madam Dora DuFran or Dora Bolshaw (née Amy Helen Dorothy Bolshaw) (November 16, 1868 - August 5, 1934)[1] was one of the leading and most successful madams in the Old West days of Deadwood, South Dakota.


Dora was born in Liverpool, England and immigrated to the United States with her parents Joseph John (November 14, 1842 - March 26, 1911) and Isabella Neal (Cummings) Bolshaw (November 12, 1844 - April 12, 1911) sometime around 1869. The family settled first at Bloomfield, New Jersey, then moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1876 or 1877. She was an extremely good looking woman in her youth, and became involved in prostitution around the age of 13 or 14. She then became a dance hall girl, calling herself Amy Helen Bolshaw. The gold rush hit Deadwood, South Dakota when she was around 15, and Dora promoted herself to Madam and began operating a brothel.[citation needed]

Dora coined the term "cathouse".[2]


Dora preferred having pretty girls work in her brothel, but the selection in that part of the west was extremely limited. She usually did, however, demand that her girls practice good hygiene and dress well[citation needed]. She picked up several girls who arrived in Deadwood via the wagon train led by Charlie Utter. From time to time, Old West personality Martha Jane Burke (Calamity Jane, 1852–1903) was in her employ. Dora's main competition in Deadwood was Madam Mollie Johnson. Dora coined the term "cathouse" after having "Phatty Thompson" (a Deadwood historical fact) bring her a wagon of cats for her Deadwood brothel[citation needed]. It was not Charlie Utter who brought the cats.

Dora had several brothels over the years. The most popular was called "Diddlin' Dora's", located on Fifth Avenue in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. "Diddlin' Dora's advertised itself as 'Three D's - Dining, Drinking, and Dancing - a place where you can bring your mother.' And though the cowboys frequented the popular place, most just wanted to 'get down to business,' with at least one man remarking, 'I wouldn't want my mother to know I had ever been there.'"[3] Dora also owned The Green Front Hotel, which is where the cats were placed into service.

Dora's other brothels in South Dakota and Montana were located in Lead, Miles City, Sturgis, and Deadwood. While in Deadwood, Dora got married and continued her brothel operations. After her husband's death, she moved the business to Rapid City, South Dakota, where she continued having success as a brothel owner.[3]


Dora married Joseph M. DuFran (June 16, 1862 - August 3, 1909), "a personable gentleman gambler" who helped grow her business.[3]


Dora died of heart failure in 1934. Her pet parrot Fred and husband Joseph are buried with her at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.[3]


DuFran (under the pseudonym: d'Dee) published a 12-page booklet on Calamity Jane titled Low Down on Calamity Jane (1932).[4] In 1981, this booklet was reprinted in an expanded 47-page version, edited by Helen Rezatto.[5]

In popular culture


  1. ^ Accessed July 2, 2014
  2. ^ Adams Museum website
  3. ^ a b c d "[OBITS] Madam Dora DuFran a.k.a. Amy Helen Dorothy Bolshow". 2008-10-06.
  4. ^ d'Dee (1932). Low Down on Calamity Jane. Rapid City, South Dakota. ASIN B00089D9QA.
  5. ^ D'Dee (1981). Helen Rezatto (ed.). Low Down on Calamity Jane. Deadwood, South Dakota: H. Rezatto. ASIN B007FDPBPE.
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