Notorious female gambler, Maria Gertrudis Barcelo or Tules,

Notorious Female Gamblers of the Southwest

Women can be just as wild and wooly as men.  The ladies of the “Wild West” in this post were notorious female gamblers. Fierce and strong as any man, but in a different way. In this time period women had to use their charms and wits instead of the brawn a man usually displays. 

Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty

Lottie Deno, who came to be characterized as Miss Kitty on the TV show Gunsmoke. She also went by the names Carlotta J. Thompkins, Charlotte Tompkins, Charlotte Thurmond, Mystic Maud, “the Angel of San Antonio,” and “Queen of the Pasteboards” at different times in her life. She came by her gambling skills honestly, learning them from her plantation-owner father. Lottie and Thurmond (her lover at the time) traveled the Texas circuit, but eventually opened their own gambling room in Kingston, New Mexico, and later a restaurant in Silver City, New Mexico. She and Thurmond were finally married in 1880 and settled in Deming, New Mexico.

portrait of Lottie Deno
Lottie Deno

Madame Moustache

Then there’s Eleanor Dumont, called Madame Moustache because of her appearance later in life. However, when she was young, she was regarded as exceedingly beautiful. Her occupation of gambler, prostitute, and madam led her into Montana, Idaho, Utah, South Dakota, Arizona, and anywhere there was money in a boomtown. At a certain point, she eventually added prostitution to her repertoire and acted as a real “Madame.”  At first offering herself and later hiring girls to work in her houses.  She was found in Silver City and Corinne, Utah.  Silver strikes brought her back to Nevada where she found herself in Virginia City. 

Eleanor Dumont, called Madame Moustache
Eleanor Dumont, called Madame Moustache

Eventually, she would be found in Deadwood, South Dakota and then Tombstone, Arizona.  In Tombstone, she was known to drum up business by dressing her girls in finery and driving a fancy carriage up and down the streets, smoking a cigar, to the cheers of onlookers.Her final stop was the notorious Bodie, California in 1878.  Her luck had run out, and about a year and a half after arrival, she borrowed $300 from a friend to open a table.  After a few hours, she had lost it all.  Without a word, she left the table and walked a mile out of town and committed suicide by drinking a bottle of red wine laced morphine.  Her body was discovered the next day, September 8, 1879, her head resting on a rock and with a note explaining that she was “tired of life.”

Big Nose Kate and Doc Holliday

Big Nose Kate who supposedly married “Doc” Holiday, but nobody knows for sure. Their relationship was one of on and off again. She lived throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and South Dakota. Kate also took on many names, at times being known as Kate Fisher, Kate Elder, Nosey Kate, Mrs. John H. “Doc” Holliday, Kate Melvin, and Kate Cummings, depending on the place and time, but was best known as Big Nose Kate to distinguish her from another prostitute named Kate. She lived till age 89.

Big nose Kate and Doc Holliday
Big nose Kate and Doc Holliday

Baby Doe Tabor and her Matchless Mine

Baby Doe Tabor’s story is infamous. She met Horace Tabor, a silver magnate and Colorado’s lieutenant governor, and the two fell in love. Tabor lost his fortune in the Panic of 1893, and the family had to give up the mansion and move into a rented house. Tabor worked in the mines until he was appointed postmaster, but died soon after. Baby Doe could have remarried, but she chose to try making Tabor’s Matchless Mine profitable again. In her efforts, she lived in a mine shack in Leadville, CO for the last 30 years of her life and died in poverty.

Notorious female gambler Baby Doe Tabor
Baby Doe Tabor

"Tules" Barcelo from the Ortiz Mountains

Born in 1880, this Mexican saloon owner and gambler was known as the Queen of Sin. Maria Gertrudis Barcelo or Tules, – the shortened version of her middle name, Gertrudis. Tules operated a gambling den in New Mexico’s Ortiz Mountains, (not far from Cerrillos, NM)  and became an accomplished player of the card game Monte, often winning huge amounts from her male clientele. However, she got caught and fined. When she died in 1852, she had amassed a fortune of $10,000 (which was worth closer to $300,000 in those days), and she owned several houses. Not bad for a life of sin…

Notorious female gambler, Maria Gertrudis Barcelo or Tules,
Maria Gertrudis Barcelo or Tules

These notorious female gamblers were risk takers in so many areas of their lives.  These ladies lived a full life even it is wasn’t easy, but it was on their terms!

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