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Legendary Brothel Madame Molly B'Dam

Updated on July 2, 2015

"Heart of Gold"

Molly B'Dam is probably the lady from which the stereotyped image of a Brothel Madame with a heart of gold was fashioned from. However, she was the real thing.

Molly was born as Maggie Hall in Dublin, Ireland on December 26, 1853. And how she came to be known as Molly B'Dam makes for an interesting story. She was a beautiful young woman with golden blonde hair, blue eyes and stood about five feet six inches tall.

Maggie Hall arrived in New York from Ireland in 1873 at the age of 20. She had had plenty of proposals of marriage before leaving but had turned them all down to come to America. She felt that was the place to fulfill her dreams. Her parents tried to talk her out of it but she had made up her mind.

Maggie’s story began like many other Irish women who had immigrated to this country in the 1800’s. She wasn’t able to find employment in New York. So she took the only job she could find…a barmaid in an establishment of questionable reputation. However, her Catholic upbringing, along with her wit and charm kept her in good stead and earned her the respect of her patrons.

New Occupation

Eventually she met a man by the name of Burdan, fell in love and married. Her new husband was from a wealthy family and fearing their disapproval of his marriage he kept it secret. He knew if they found out his allowance would be cut off. Burdan had never worked a day in his life, nor did he intend to.

Burdan persuaded his new bride to change her name to Molly and introduced her to a life of prostitution. He had a serious gambling problem and had Molly sleep with his debtors to off his debts. At first she refused but after his relentless pleading she changed her mind because she loved him. For this, she was later excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Feeling she was damned forever anyway, she continued her new occupation.

Finally she had enough and left her husband. She boarded a train and set out for the Western mining camps. While in San Francisco, she read of a gold strike in Murray, Idaho and decided that was where she might find her fortune.

Part of the trip to Murray had to be done by pack train. Along the way they were caught in a blizzard. One woman and her child could not keep up with the others and fell behind. Molly stayed behind to help. They spent a cold, snowy night on the trail. The news of her mercy reached Murray before her. Upon arrival, she received a hero’s welcome.

It was during this time her new name was bestowed upon her. An Irishman approached her and asked her name. She said Molly Burden. With her Own Irish accent on her former husbands’ name he thought she said Molly B'Dam and the name stuck.

Shortly thereafter, Molly's profession became public knowledge and when she asked for "cabin number one.” she got it. In a mining town this was the name usually given for the red light district’s madams’ residence. She liked Murray and vice versa. She treated her working girls well and could be counted on to help anyone in need.

There are many stories of Molly's contributions to the town. Perhaps she will be most remembered for the invaluable aid she dispensed when a Smallpox epidemic hit Murray in 1886. Molly never contracted the disease. Rather it was her untiring efforts to help those who did that lead to her death. She died of consumption, a disease with no cure.

The town gave her a simple but elegant funeral with thousands of people coming to pay their respects. On her tombstone in the Murray Cemetery it states simply: "Sacred to the life of Maggi Hall, Molly B'Dam"

Molly's life became legend in Murray and the Coeur d' Alene mining district. Many locals still remember the lady and her dedication and commitment to the citizens of Murray. Many still refer to her as "The patron saint of Murray.”

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    • profile image

      Deborah Phenis 

      6 months ago

      It is a well written story. It's very interesting, but it still has the picture of my aunt Ruth as Molly. Please change it, or take it down. Walt Almquist of Murray Idaho, found the picture and didn't know who she was and decided that it had to be Molly and put it in his museum with her story. I have pictures in a setting, with different poses. This is not Molly.

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      3 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      That's the one I found online under her name. Thanks for the correction.

    • profile image

      Deborah Phenis 

      3 years ago

      The picture on your website that you say is Molly Burdan is not a picture of her. The picture actually is a picture of my great aunt Ruth Aulbach Sellers, daughter of Adam Aulbach, who ran the newspaper in Murray Idaho.

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Never heard of that one though.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      I like those old west Madams. Makes me think of the movie McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Ever heard of squirrel-tooth Alice? Or any other cool names the girls had? useful n up!

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Thank you Dirt Farmer

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

      Well-written, interesting hub! Thanks. Vote up.

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