Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mary Gleim

Every western town had its houses of ill repute. In Montana, a few significant remnants of these colorful businesses survive. There’s the Dumas in Butte, Big Dorothy’s in Helena, and two of Mary Gleim’s West Front Street brothels in Missoula. Gleim was a flamboyant character who operated eight “female boarding houses” in Missoula’s red light district where railroad men patronized its honky tonks and saloons. Gleim’s splashy career included conviction in 1894 for the attempted murder of a rival. Her prison record notes that she arrived at Deer Lodge to serve her sentence dressed to the nines in a “complete outfit.” During her prison term, another female prisoner viciously stabbed her, and Gleim never quite recovered from the attack. Reputedly a smuggler of laces, diamonds, opium, and Chinese railroad workers, the mountainous madam weighed three hundred pounds. She was a formidable opponent and a match for any man. “Mother Gleim,” as she was also known, operated brothels until her death in 1914. She left an estate of one hundred thousand dollars. Her former brothels, both nicely renovated and adaptively reused as businesses, add to the interesting history of the 200 block of West Front Street. According to her wishes, Gleim’s tombstone—unlike all the others in the Missoula city cemetery—faces the railroad tracks. This way, Gleim could bid farewell to the many railroad men who were her customers.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go
P.S. Remember this flamboyant madam?


  1. Love this little blurb about Mary Gleim! The interpreter who dons her persona every year for Halloween Stories and Stones event suggests an alternate reason for the headstone placement: upon the brothel owner's death, a headstone was purchased without properly managing the width of the plot. The only way the large memorial could be placed was over the grave rather than at its head. I've heard the 'farewell' version more than once (and personally find it to be a better story), but it might be worth looking into!

  2. I am looking for information Frances Fannie Meader aka Mrs. H Anderson! She was a madam between 1930 to 1950 in montana! Do you know where I can do more research on the madams of montana?
    Kimberlee Meader

  3. Kimberlee, items you can check would be the US census, the city Polk directories, police reports, and newspaper obituaries, which often lead to a good starting point. It’s not an easy subject to research, but if you are diligent, no telling what you might find!

  4. Can you get some info for Mary Gleim, i cant find that much about her that would be a great help thanks.s

    1. the most complete info about Mary Gleim can be found in Jerks in Montana History, a reprint of Speaking Ill of the Dead. The chapter is by Jodie Foley entitled "Missoula's Murderous Madam." The collection is published by Globe Pequot Press, reprinted in 2011. It should be available in libraries or on

  5. I will give the book a look