Madam Dora DuFran

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Amy Helen "Dora" DuFran (Bolshaw)

Birthdate: (66)
Death: 1934 (66)
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph John Bolshaw and Isabella Neal Cummings
Husband of Joseph M. DuFran

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Madam Dora DuFran

Madam Dora DuFran or Dora Bolshaw (née Amy Helen Bolshaw) (November 16, 1868 - August 5, 1934) was one of the leading and most successful madams in the Old West days of Deadwood, South Dakota.


Dora was born in Liverpool, England. She emigrated to the United States with her parents Joseph John (November 14, 1842 - March 26, 1911) and Isabella Neal Cummings Bolshaw (November 12, 1844 - April 12, 1911) sometime around 1869. The family settled first at Bloomfield, New Jersey, then moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1876 or 1877. An extremely good looking woman in her youth, Dora became involved in prostitution around the age of 13 or 14. She then became a dance hall girl, calling herself Amy Helen Bolshaw. By the time the gold rush hit Deadwood when she was 15, Dora promoted herself to Madam and began operating a brothel.

Dora coined the term "cathouse."


Although she preferred having pretty girls work in her brothel, the selection in that part of the west was extremely limited. She usually did, however, demand that her girls practice good hygiene and dress well[citation needed]. She picked up several girls who arrived in Deadwood via the wagon train led by Charlie Utter. From time to time Old West personality Martha Jane Burke (Calamity Jane, 1852–1903) was in her employ. Her main competition in Deadwood was Madam Mollie Johnson. Dora coined the term "cathouse" after having Charlie Utter bring her a wagon of cats for her Deadwood brothel.

She had several brothels over the years. The most popular was called "Diddlin' Dora's," located on Fifth Avenue in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Her other brothels in South Dakota were located in Lead, Miles City, Sturgis, South Dakota, and Deadwood. Although she married a man named Joseph M. DuFran (1862 - August 3, 1909), Dora continued her brothel operations throughout the marriage. She eventually moved her operations to Rapid City, South Dakota, where she continued having success as a brothel owner. Dora died of heart failure in 1934. Her pet parrot Fred and husband Joseph are buried with her at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.


DuFran (under the pseudonym: d'Dee) published a 12-page booklet on Calamity Jane titled Low Down on Calamity Jane (Rapid City, South Dakota: 1932). This booklet was later reprinted in an expanded 47-page version, edited by Helen Rezatto (Deadwood, South Dakota: 1981).

Dora DuFran was played by Melanie Griffith in the 1995 made-for-tv movie 'Buffalo Girls', based on the book by Larry McMurtry.

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Madam Dora DuFran's Timeline

Age 66