Frontier Madam

The Life of Dell Burke, Lady of Lusk

Book Description

This is the first biography of Dell Burke, whose estate sale drew national attention when she died in 1981 at age 93. Painstakingly researched for over five years, June Willson Read's landmark history tells the story of a broken young woman who saw opportunities in the Alaskan gold rush, the copper mines in Montana and the oil fields in Wyoming. But it wasn't mining that made Burke's fortune – she focused on the entertainment needs of the lonely men who poured into the uncharted west to strike it rich. In 1919, the genteel and gracious Burke opened the Yellow Hotel brothel in Lusk, Wyoming, where she reigned for six decades, until 1978. Although condemned for her profession, she was beloved for her generosity and her devotion to the community. For example, during the Depression, Burke financed Lusk's water-power system and single-handedly saved the town from going bankrupt. Read interviewed locals, historians, and Burke descendents to present a fascinating story of a little-known entrepreneurial powerhouse.

About Read, June

June Willson Read, PhD draws on her own western heritage and uses personal knowledge of the Wyoming town where Burke built her dynasty to provide context for this book. June's family homesteaded near Lusk in the 1980s and owned a ranch for about 100 years. Her family is well respected, and so June was able to get inside more homes and memories than previous writers have to conduct personal interviews and get inside information about Burke.

Spurred by anecdotes at Burke's 1981 estate sale and drawing on regional and family interviews, Read's five-year exploration of Burke's history reveals many facets of the double life that this legendary benefactress led.
Through her research June made many contacts at museums, libraries, and similar outlets across Wyoming and in similar states. Many of these places have agreed to carry the book and would like to hold signings.
Although orginally from the West, June currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.