Mary Bell Brezing (Cox) (1860 - 1940) MP

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Nicknames: "Belle McMeekin", "Belle Breezing", ""Madame" Belle Brezing", "Mrs. James C. Kenney"
Birthplace: Lexington, Fayette , Kentucky, United States
Death: Died in Lexington, Lexington-Fayette , Kentucky, United States
Cause of death: Uterine cancer
Occupation: Keeper - House of Ill Fame
Managed by: Erica Howton, (c)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Mary Bell Brezing (Cox)

Belle Brezing (June 16, 1860 – August 11, 1940) was a nationally known brothel madam in Lexington, Kentucky at the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th.

Her luxuriant salon was famed for its influential patrons and for being "the most orderly of disorderly houses".

"Belle Brezing was the most successful madam this town ever had. The bed she (and others) slept in for 40 years was bought at the 1894 Exposition in San Francisco and was later sold for a whopping $30,000 at auction simply because it was hers. It is slept in every night in a private home in Lexington and has inspired the Downtown Lexington Corp. to run its first-ever bed race downtown Thursday afternoon in her honor." (1)

Belle is said to be the prototype for "Belle Watling" in Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind." Her first employer was Jennie Hill, whose brothel was located in the same house that was the childhood home of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.

A long term morphine addict with a legal prescription, she died August 11, 1940 of advanced uterine cancer, at the age of 80. Her fame was still wide-spread; her obituary appeared in Time magazine.

On the side of her monument facing her grave in Calvary Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky (plot next to her mother's): "Blessed are the Pure in Heart." 

References

  1. Madam Belle Brezing, by Buddy Thompson (Buggy Whip Press, 1983).

Sources (see timeline tab for details)

  1. The Book on belle Published: April 9, 2008 in the Lexington Kentucky Herald-Leader
  2. Belle Brezing: a short biography of Lexington's Most Famous Lady
  3. 1880 - US Federal Census.
  4. 1900 - US Federal Census..
  5. 1910 - US Federal Census. Occupation: Keeper - House of Ill Fame.
  6. 1920 - US Federal Census.
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Belle Brezing's Timeline

1860
June 19, 1860
Lexington, Fayette , Kentucky, United States
1875
September 15, 1875
Age 15
Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, United States
1876
March 14, 1876
Age 15
Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, United States
1880
1880
Age 19
Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, United States

1880 US Federal Census.

Residence: 1880. Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, USA. Household head: Jennie Hill. occupation: Housekeeper. Boarders: Lue Bennet 43, Ann Bishop 25, Maude Jones 24, Dolly Morgan 20, '''Belle Breezing 19''', Mag Lyons 18, Amanda Johnson 17.

1882
1882
Age 21
Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, United States

"Brezing opened her first brothel in a row house at what is now 314-318 North Upper St. Around this time, Brezing was indicted on the charge of "keeping a bawdy house." Kentucky Governor Luke P. Blackburn (1879-1883) pardoned Brezing and the indictment was dismissed. This was the closest Brezing ever got to serving jail time."

Source: http://libraries.uky.edu/libpage.php?lweb_id=341&llib_id=13

1883
1883
- 1888
Age 22
Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, United States

"Brezing opened her second brothel in 1883. She purchased a free-standing house at 194 North Upper St., not too far from the row house. In the late 1880s, mounting public pressure began closing the brothels along North Upper St. "

Source: http://libraries.uky.edu/libpage.php?lweb_id=341&llib_id=13

1900
1900
Age 39
Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, United States

1900 US Federal census

Residence: 1900. Lexington city, Fayette, Kentucky, USA. Marital status: Single Race: White. Ethnicity: American. Head: Bell Breezing. Boarder: Mayme Davis 18

1910
1910
Age 49
Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, United States

1910 US Federal Census

Residence: Lexington Ward 4, Fayette, Kentucky, USA. Household Head: Belle Brezing 60. '''Occupation: Keeper - House of Ill Fame'''. Housekeeper Pearl Hughes 30. Boarders Anna Williams 24, Marcella Walters 23, Thelma Farmer 22, Alice Ely 22, Lulu Rose 21

1920
1920
Age 59
Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, United States

1920 US Federal Census

Bell Brezing Gender: Female Birth: Circa 1865 Kentucky, United States Residence: 1920 Fayette, Kentucky, USA Age: 55 Marital status: Single Race: White Ethnicity: American Father's birth place: Kentucky, United States Mother's birth place: Kentucky, United States. Household Head Bell Brezing 55. Occupation: none. Roomer Pearl Hughes 40

1940
August 11, 1940
Age 80
Lexington, Lexington-Fayette , Kentucky, United States