|This work is licensed under a
|The photo is from 1871 and long past copyright,
so is in the public domain. If you know who took
the photo or know more about the preteen
prostitute Minnie Rae, please let us know by
sending an email to the address listed on our
homepage. We made the wallpaper, but we
made it public domain/kopyleft so you can use it
for whatever you like.
“Minnie Rae” (real name unknown), was a preteen prostitute who lived and worked in San Francisco, California,
in the second half of the 19th Century. Her controversial life was chronicled in the book My Life as a Child
Prostitute: The Autobiography of Minnie Rae (our sources indicate the book was named The Autobiography of
Minnie Rae), all copies of which were apparently lost or destroyed (these were destroyed in a book burning led
by a preacher in 1880, the year Emperor Norton I died. Once copy survived and was passed down to Minnie
Rae's ancestors. But this one was apparently lost sometime in the mid to late 20th century). But fragments of
her life and the book survive.
Infancy and Early Childhood
“Minnie Rae” was born to a woman known only as Lacey and to a shoe worker, possibly named Adam, in 1860.
Birth took place somewhere in the New England area of the United States of America, probably in or near
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While Minnie Rae claimed she was born on February 22, it’s likely this date is
inaccurate. It was probably taken from either George Washington’s birthday or from the New England shoe
workers’ strike which began on that date. Her father had apparently participated in the 1860 strike.
Minnie Rae’s father died two years later in 1862. It’s unknown whether this was during travels to claim land
made available under the Homestead Act (this is what our sources indicate), or if his death occurred during a
Civil War battle with the Confederacy. In any case, Minnie Rae grew up in the new state of California where she
was raised by her mother. Lacey also raised a son named Adam who was born in 1862, possibly while the
family was traveling. It’s not know if Adam’s father ever saw his son.
Little is known of the family’s next seven years, except that Lacey was apparently very resourceful, and raised
her children near the city of San Francisco, California, with little help. Minnie Rae was smart and inquisitive, and
enjoyed caring for her younger brother and for the family’s animals. She especially liked milking cows. She
wasn’t enthusiastic about planting, weeding and reaping crops, but readily learned to read and perform basic
Unfortunately, in 1868 or 1869 Lacey contacted scarlet fever and possibly rheumatic fever (rheumatic fever
often accompanied scarlet fever at that time). She died in 1869, leaving Minnie Rae as an orphan. The fate of
Adam is unknown.
To earn a living, Minnie Rae turned to prostitution at the age of nine. She developed physically at an early age,
and by age 10 or 11 was visibly pregnant. Ironically, this made her services more popular. The only known
surviving photo of her was taken during her pregnancy in 1871. In 1872 she gave birth to her only known child,
a son named Bartholomew.
My Life as a Child Prostitute
Minnie Rae’s life from birth to age 12 was recorded during a series of interviews conducted by a journalist in
1871 to 1872. These weren’t published until they were collected into a book named My Life as a Child
Prostitute: The Autobiography of Minnie Rae (see previous note on title). While the book’s title claims Minnie
Rae wrote it herself, this is unlikely. It’s more probable the journalist did not use his name on the work as he
didn’t want to be identified as one of the girl’s clients. His identity remains a mystery.
Only a few copies of the book were published, but these proved extremely controversial. This was due not only
to the book’s explicit description of the life of a 9- to 12-year-old prostitute, but also because of Minnie Rae’s
opinion of her lifestyle. In the book she said she enjoyed being a prostitute, appreciated the attention and self-
sufficiency she gained, and relished the income the work gave her. “I get paid to be a whore. If I married some
farmer, I’d have to do it for free.”
According to those who knew her, she was a happy and very intelligent girl, and was generally well-liked. But
she was not allowed to attend church. A preacher tried to convince her to repent, but she refused. Minnie Rae
was quoted as saying, “If that preacher man wants me to repent, he better pay me more money.”
She was proud of her book (or at least of the interviews--it’s uncertain whether she ever saw the finished book),
and would read portions of her story to anyone who would listen, including her clients. Minnie Rae also invented
fairy stories, and told them to younger children. She said that her tales inspired some of the works of author
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens). While it’s possible she met Twain, he left San Francisco when she
was very young, so it’s unlikely he ever heard her stories.
She did know Joshua A. Norton, who proclaimed himself “Emperor of these United States and Protector of
Mexico.” Both lived largely on the streets of San Francisco in the early 1870s, where Norton referred to her as
“The Little Countess.” She credited this “proclamation” with softening hostility against her, even with saving her
life. The eccentric “Norton I” was quite popular in the prosperous city, and even had money printed for himself
that area merchants accepted. He was also a major influence on the creation of the religion Discordianism, and
on its first “holy book,” Principia Discordia, which proclaimed him a saint. (Minnie Rae was proclaimed a
Discordian saint in August or November 2006 by the Mythics of Harmonia, W.E.T.D.I.A.P.E.R.S., and the
Discordian Division of the Ek-sen-triks CluborGuild.)
Minnie Rae was fascinated by reincarnation, which was a rare concept in America at that time. She claimed to
have been a prostitute in ancient Babylon who was mentioned in the Bible, perhaps “the Whore of Babylon”
who was villified in the book of Revelation. Whether she actually believed this or not is unknown.
The fate of Minnie Rae is also unknown, as she disappeared in early 1873. She may have continued working
as a prostitute in another area, left the lifestyle at age 12, moved, or passed away. Even the days of her life
that were recorded are little known. For her book was labeled “sinful” and “satanic,” and all known copies of it
were burned. It is probable that no copies survive.
Minnie Rae’s life was fictionalized in the collection Ek-sen-trik-kuh Discordia (later subtitled The Tales of
Shamlicht), edited by Reverend Loveshade. In it she is continually reincarnated, and was known in ancient
Babylon as a ‘born-again virgin,” or “The Harlot of the Healing Hymen.” Loveshade claims Minnie Rae and her
son, Bartholomew, are his ancestors, but this is unverified.
Bullough, Vern, Bonnie Bullough. Women and Prostitution: A Social History (New Concepts in Human
Sexuality), (Paperback). New York: Prometheus Books, 1987.
Cowan, Robert E. et al. The Forgotten Characters of Old San Francisco. Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press,
Levine, Judith. Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex. New York: Thunder's Mouth
McWilliams, Peter. Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free
Country. Los Angeles: 1996.
Rae, Minnie. My Life as a Child Prostitute: The Autobiography of Minnie Rae. San Francisco: North American
Press, 1875. (Surviving fragments)
Only known surviving photo of Minnie
Rae, taken in 1871 when she was 10
or 11 years old and pregnant with
Proclaimed "The Little Countess"
by Emperor Norton I
Proclaimed Saint Minnie Rae
by the Discordian Division of the Ek-sen-triks CluborGuild,
Mythics of Harmonia,
and West End Trash Discordians, Illuminated Adepts, Popes Erisian,
(This is from the article that appeared in The Encyclopedia of World Knowledge.
Notes in red are ours.)
There's ongoing research on Minnie Rae, which has already exposed some startling facts about the
1) There's a street in San Francisco named Minna Street, which was quite possibly named after
Minnie Rae. Several streets in that area are named after prostitutes.
2) Minnie Rae traveled to Great Britain, apparently with a Mr. Simpson, who claimed to be her father.
According to a note written on the back of Minnie's only known photo, the girl was known as "Mary
Simpson" and claimed to be the wife of a "Mr. Berry."
3) It appears that "Mary" met a boy who was also born in 1860. This boy grew up to be J. M. Barrie,
author of "Peter Pan and Wendy." Wendy's mother was named Mary (which was the name by which
Minnie was known to James and was also the name of James Barrie's sister). In Barrie's original story
(before it was "cleaned up" by the folks at Disney), the pubescent Wendy acted as both mother and
wife of Peter. "Mary" apparently acted as both mother and wife of James, and, like Wendy, was in
early pubescence when she began mothering.
4) Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) wrote and
Melinda Gebbie illustrated Lost Girls, a "porno-graphic novel" about Alice (of Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland), Dorothy (of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), and Wendy (of Peter Pan and Wendy). We
had wondered if the Minnie Rae-Wendy connection may have been part of the inspiration for the
book. But Alan Moore told us e was unaware of the connection when the book was written, but "“found
the notion fascinating.”
5) According to the Encyclopedia of San Francisco, in 1874, Emperor Norton became taken with
Minnie Wakeman. Norton was then about 56 years old, and Wakeman was supposedly a 16-year-old
high school graduate. He described her as "a tall, beautiful creature who had lovely dark blue eyes
with fringed lashes and long curls that were the admiration of the whole school." He hinted at a
proposal, but was turned down as she was already engaged. While Minnie Rae would have actually
been age 14 and possibly close to 15, considering her early physical development she could easily
have passed as a 16-year-old. The only known photo of Minnie Rae (above) is of course in very dark
shadows in black and white and has nothing next to her to give a hint of her height, so whether this
could have been a description of her is unknown. We are attempting to get copies of her and
Emperor Norton's letters.