Notorious for her connections with gangsters at the height of Prohibition, Polly Adler fought to become “the best goddam madam in all America.” Separated from her family by the Great War as a teenager, Adler did factory work until her friendship with a bootlegger created a very different opportunity for making money: using his apartment as a base for herself and women she hired to entertain his gangster friends. Adler went on to open a series of increasingly fancy brothels, culminating in a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, where the rich and fashionable vacationed. The gangsters who frequented her bordellos only added to the excitement and glamour of “going to Polly’s” during the Prohibition era when so much of America’s nightlife was underground. Frequently investigated and arrested, the unflappable madam kept her doors open until her last arrest in 1943 before retiring to California, where she finally earned her long-delayed high school diploma, started a college degree, and wrote her scandalous memoir, A House Is Not a Home.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Polly Adler." (Viewed on January 22, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/adler-polly>.