In this photo, the seated woman in white was one of the most well-known women in late 19th-century Chicago…but not for the reason you might think.
Vic Shaw, born Emma Elizabeth Fitzgerald, was the Madam of one of the most popular brothels in the Levee District in Chicago. The Levee district was located between Clark, State, 20th, and Cermak.
Her “resort” was situated on Dearborn between Cullerton and 21st Street, where the Hilliard Apartments currently stand. This is the approximate location.
While she had fierce competition in the form of the Everleigh Sisters’ Club, Shaw’s brothel was successful until the Levee District was shut down in 1912 by the Chicago Vice Commission. After the Levee closed, Madame Shaw opened another brothel on South Michigan Ave. in a mansion that reportedly had belonged to the Armour family, a prominent Chicago meatpacking family.
The above photo is of Vic Shaw and her “nieces” and was taken in the early 1900s.