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Sally Stanford - San Francisco Madam

business prostitution time marcia

Police began investigating Marcia's business in the early 1930s. Because of her criminal record in Oregon, she feared she might end up in prison again. As a precaution, she sent her adopted baby to live with her mother in Oregon. As she expected, authorities charged her with operating a house of prostitution. Marcia was acquitted but found she was stuck with the label "madam" by the news media. She decided to make it official and go into the business in a bigger way.

Marcia's first order of business was to create a new name in order to avoid embarrassing her former attorney husband with whom she remained friends. One weekend the two local universities, the University of California and Stanford University, played a football game against each other. After seeing the resulting newspaper headlines about Stanford beating California and having just won her trial against the state, she decided Stanford would be a good fit for her new surname. Then, while dining out, a band played a popular tune, "I Wonder What's Become of Sally?" and Sally Stanford was born.

Stanford set up a business at 610 Leavenworth Street in San Francisco. She hired a group of professional prostitutes, created an inviting atmosphere, and hung up a sign advertising "Rooms." San Francisco had many establishments for gambling, drinking, and prostitution at the time but Stanford's business flourished. She attracted a wealthy clientele from the city's high-society, including government officials. Stanford established several more houses and married once again, this time to a man named Lou Rapp.

Stanford kept busy throughout the 1930s despite the Great Depression (1929–41) and the growing threat of the United States entering World War II (1939–45; war in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allied forces defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan). The Great Depression was a major economic crisis lasting from 1929 to 1941 leading to massive unemployment and widespread hunger. It was also a time of numerous official investigations High-end prostitutes being arrested in 1943 after being rounded up on vice charges. (© Bettmann/Corbis)
into corruption spreading throughout the country. Prostitution was often included because of its ties to organized crime and white slavery (see sidebar).

The Bureau of Internal Revenue began a grand jury investigation when a San Francisco police captain was suspected of bribery and tax evasion. The bureau hired a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent named Edwin Atherton to conduct a thorough search into prostitution in the city. The Atherton Report resulted in a series of indictments (formal charges). Feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the investigations, Sally Stanford decided it was time to look for a new location for her business enterprise.

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over 9 years ago

I am in the process of gathering more info on Sally Stanford. I have already read her autobiography 'THE LADY OF THE HOUSE'.

I will be either doing a documentary or writing a script fore either LIFETIME or HBO.

Since she had adopted children, could one of them contact me via email? Please, put 'SALLY STANFORD' in body of email.

I am a literary agent as well for comic books and animation.

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about 10 years ago

I'd be interested to know if there is a list of the women who worked for Sally Stanford?

How could I find out about police records of any of these women?

I am looking for one women imparticular