Saturday, March 07, 2015

Poor Madge

In Hidden History of Portland I describe the wave of young women who came to Portland in the early part of the twentieth century. The Lewis and Clark Exposition of 1905 brought about 1,600 young women to the city, seeking their fortune. By 1907 there were more than 7,000 a year coming to town. Many of them found opportunities here that were still not available to women in other parts of the country. For example in 1900 3% of American doctors were women, but in Oregon it was 9%. Mayor Harry Lane led the country in appointment of women to public office and women like Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, Dr. Marie Equi, Lola Baldwin and Louise Bryant were able to make successful careers in Portland. Most women didn’t find such great opportunities though and some of them didn’t survive.
The 1905 Lewis and Clark Expo drew about 1,600 young women to Portland looking for a new life. By 1907 more than 7,000 a year came here. Portland Police Historical Society.
We don’t know where Madge Wilson (aka Madge Doyle and Nellie Doyle) came from. She might have been a Portland girl or she might have come to town looking for a new life. What we do know is that while the Lewis and Clark Expo was in full swing in the summer of 1905 she was already working with John “Jack” Doyle a drug addict and pimp who worked hotels in downtown Portland. Doyle got his girls hooked on opium and used their addiction to keep them in virtual slavery. Madge, like many of Jack’s girls, took his last name as if they were married. In July Madge and Jack were arrested while smoking opium in bed with two other men at F.A. Clark’s “fashionable” rooming house at SW Fourth and Salmon, across the street from the city jail. Clark called in a complaint of burglary when he found money missing from his room. Suspecting the “peculiar” lodgers who had checked in that day he had the police pay them a visit. Madge was undressed and smoking opium when the police opened the door. Two of the men were “in a stupor,” but the third climbed out a window before being apprehended. The men gave obviously false names, but Madge Wilson, claiming she was 21, was booked under her real name.
Little Egypt was the first "exotic dancer" to reach widespread popularity. She performed her dance of veils at Expos and World Fairs all over the country including the Lewis & Clark Expo. Portland Police Historical Society.
Henry Hose came to town for the Expo. He was a soldier in Company K of the U.S. Tenth Infantry. The Tenth had recently returned from combat duty in the Philippines and were in transit through Vancouver Barracks when they were tapped for parade duty at the Expo. Military parades were a popular form of entertainment at the time and after three years in the Army Hose had done plenty of marching. It isn’t clear whether Hose served in the Philippines, but the Tenth Infantry served several combat tours during the Insurrection so it is likely that he did. We can’t say for sure whether Hose suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, an unknown and unrecognized illness at that time, but he was certainly suicidal when he checked into the Winchester House, a large wooden transient hotel on the corner of SW Third and Burnside, where Dante’s is today.
Third and Burnside has always been a dangerous intersection, but in 1906 it was also a very popular intersection. Across the street from the Winchester House in one direction was the Sailor’s Union Hall. In the other direction was Ericson’s famous saloon. The Winchester House was a crumbling old building that catered to Portland’s poorest residents. I wouldn’t say it was Portland’s first “skid road” hotel, but it was an early one. Hose, recently discharged from the Army, did what many visitors did in Portland – he blew all his money on a drinking spree. He was down to his last quarter when he woke up on October 19, 1906. Madge Doyle, “neither attractive nor peculiarly bad looking” according to the Oregonian, was in bed with him. Madge and Henry had spent several days together; she was very helpful in getting rid of his money. When he showed her the quarter and said he wanted to have breakfast she demanded that he spend the money on a quart of beer for her.
It wasn’t just thirst. Madge told him that “there was a man once who spent everything he had on her and went hungry.” She said that if Henry cared for her he could do no less. Henry Hose seemed to have a very romantic imagination as he recounted his crime. He described a doomed love for a tragically flawed woman who couldn’t return his love. He claimed that she goaded him into killing her before he slashed her to death with a straight razor. How she welcomed the blows without fighting and the only reason he didn’t kill himself immediately was the razor broke. He demanded that the state hang him and finish the suicide pact. Evidence didn’t really match Henry’s story though. Deputy Coroner Arthur Finley testified that Madge was choked and hit on the head with a beer bottle and only after she was unconscious was her throat slashed with the razor.
The Oregonian liked to dramatize these cases and point out simple minded morals. Henry Hose participated fully, playing the sympathetic fallen man led to violence by a fallen woman. While there was no actual corpse-kissing as in the murder of Professor Herbert, the following year, Henry Hose kissed the photo of his victim and claimed to be haunted by dreams of her at night. The morals were: Vice is bad. Drugs are bad. And young women need to be protected from predatory men. Did you think the War on Drugs was something new?
Hose went to the gallows before Christmas and Madge Doyle was soon forgotten, but her story played out hundreds of times in that neighborhood. “Lover” TaToruelle of the 1920s and Stormy Jean Duncan in the 1940s continued to use drugs to enslave young women into prostitution from that very same corner. Jo Ann Dewey, the young woman who was abducted and murdered in 1950 was a frequent visitor to Burke’s Café, located directly across Burnside from the Winchester House. My new book, with JB Fisher, Portland on theTake tells more about it.

If you found any value or interest in this article I hope you will read my books. I also hope you will visit my site at where you can see my work displayed in a very interesting way and offer direct support. Thanks.


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