Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute (Heyday Books, October 2016) compiles, for the first time in over 100 years, "A Voice from the Underworld," the serialized memoirs of "Alice Smith," an anonymous sex worker from San Francisco in 1913 who shared her story with the staff of the San Francisco Bulletin. A selection of letters from other working class women and prostitutes, hundreds of whom wrote into the Bulletin in response to Alice's story, are included in this richly illustrated volume.

An introduction by Ivy Anderson and Devon Angus contextualizes Alice's story, tracing San Francisco's shifting take on vice from the Gold Rush to today. Examining the ways in which Progressive Era politics, changing gender roles, suffrage, labor, and a modernizing media shaped Alice Smith's world, they weave connections between Alice's story, the later sex worker's rights movement, and current sex worker struggles. As they reveal in their introduction, the publication of Alice's story may very well have influenced the organizers of the first sex worker's rights protest in modern U.S history.

A foreword by Josh Sides reminds readers that whether Alice was one woman or many, her memoir carries weight as both an historical document and an unflinching tale deserving of scrutiny and respect. 

About the Authors


Ivy Anderson and Devon Angus are both artists, writers, and activists based in San Francisco. They are concerned with examining the rich and shifting landscapes of Bay Area history, culture, politics, and ecology. 

Dr. Josh Sides is the Whitsett Professor of California History at Cal State University Northridge. He is the editor of California History, the state's premier history journal, and is the author of a number of books, including Erotic City: Sexual Revolutions and the Making of Modern San Francisco

The California Historical Society (CHS) and Heyday have established the California Historical Society Book Award for a book-length manuscript that makes an important contribution to both scholarship and to the greater community by deepening public understanding of some aspect of California history. The prize carries a $5,000 advance and publication in both print and e-book formats by CHS/Heyday, with an awards ceremony, ample promotion, and an author tour throughout the state.

The purpose of the award is to recognize and promote an exciting new literary work in celebration of California’s heritage. The ideal manuscript will inform the mind and delight the imagination of readers while generating a deeper understanding of California’s rich history. The work must adhere to high scholarly and literary standards and must be lively and engaging to general readers. In addition to conventional works of historical scholarship, other genres will be considered such as biographies, collections of letters or essays, creative nonfiction or other stimulating literary forms.