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Public attitudes toward the practice were nothing like those of today; to the contrary, prostitutes in San Francisco were highly valued. Men outnumbered women by a ratio of , making female company the most treasured commodity in the city Click to Tweet. It was largely a matter of numbers: women were in terribly short supply in midth century San Francisco. By some estimates men outnumbered them by a ratio of , making female company the most treasured commodity in the city. In fact, the majority of women living here at the time were prostitutes of one sort or another, and there was little stigma attached to the buying and selling of sex.
Syphilis was widespread, and the hazards and rigors of the job generally made for a short, unhappy lifespan. These were larger, more respectable brothels catering, naturally, to a more moneyed clientele.
Enamored, the seaman plied her with gifts, and by the time she disembarked she had already amassed a small fortune. Upon landing in San Francisco, Ah Toy realized her cachet: there were no more than a dozen Asian women in the city at that time, and she was by far the loveliest of the lot.
Fearless, Toy soon became the most well-known Asian woman in the Old West , and notably, the first to successfully defend herself in our courts.
When men cheated her by paying with brass filings in place of gold, she sued them. Likewise, when unfairly targeted by city authorities caucasian women were rarely prosecuted for operating brothels at the time , she took them to court, fighting back vigorously. Hamstrung and unable to defend her interests, Ah Toy was forced to leave the business behind.