On the Wrong Side of Allen Street: Businesswomen in Tombstone, 1879-1884


Allen Street in Tombstone, 1880

This program by Arizona State University history professor Heidi Osselaer, Ph.D. challenges the perception of women in territorial Arizona. In the late 1800s, women came to Tombstone hoping to cash in on the silver boom. Many women were forced to work after being widowed, divorced or abandoned. Others chose to remain single and financially independent of men. Although it was frequently said that a proper woman would never be caught walking down the wrong side of Allen Street, where on one side “ladies of the night” plied their trade, many ran legitimate businesses including saloons, boarding houses and hotels, restaurants, dress shops and general merchandise stores. These women, who included Nellie Cashman and Molly Fly, defy being neatly categorized as either “saints” or “sinners.”


Heidi Osselaer, Ph.D.

Osselaer, whose work focuses on women in Arizona history, is the author of the award-winning book, Winning Their Place: Arizona Women in Politics, 1883-1950, published by the University of Arizona Press. She also served as the historical consultant and producer for the 2015 documentary film Power’s War about the deadliest gunfight in Arizona history. She is a recipient of the Sharlot Hall Award for her “valuable contributions to the understanding and awareness of Arizona and its history” and plays an active role with the Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail.

Included with museum admission; free to museum members.