Sally Stanford was smart, funny, worldly wise. She carved an unconventional path for herself from 3rd-grade dropout to power and success. From golf caddy to bootlegger to Tenderloin hotel keeper, by the time both she and the century hit their 40s, she had made herself San Francisco’s best madam, hostess to movie stars and moguls, and to politicians from San Francisco to Saudi Arabia. During “retirement,” she ran one of the most famous restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, amassed a real estate empire worth millions, and was elected mayor of Sausalito.
She dismissed feminism but lived through a century bookended with women’s movements—from the fight for suffrage and temperance to the women’s movement of the 1970s and 80s that allowed access through the glass ceiling to corporate boards, the Speaker of the House’s chair and Hilary Clinton’s presidential run.
She married six, or perhaps seven, times (at least three husbands thought they were the first; another two thought they were the second). She used dozens of names: married names, arrest names, business names, plausible-deniability names, keep-my-assets-hidden names, and fanciful, for-no-particular-purpose names.