Feminist re-imaginings of a Victorian brothel: Using a dialogic method between practitioners and academics


  • Rosa Michele Henehan University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
  • Micki Voelkel University of Arkansas Fort Smith
  • Angel Tracy Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Shanna Jones Finance Manager/Avid historian




Miss Laura’s Social Club is a former Victorian brothel that is the Visitors Center for Fort Smith, Arkansas. While the building has been a popular tourist attraction for the city since the 1990s, the exhibits in the site portray an inaccurately sanitized image of prostitution. A recent change in city leadership prompted a re-evaluation of Miss Laura’s and opened an opportunity to re-imagine the space in ways that would continue to appeal to tourists yet reflect a realistic portrait of the lives of the women workers. Through semi-structured dialogue, two practitioners working at Miss Laura’s and two university researchers imagined the exhibit space in the Front Parlor into a restructured historically accurate narrative. Explorations of feminism, glamorization of prostitution, elitism and the conflict between heritage sites’ roles offer a model for other feminist researchers and practitioners to transform these sites by addressing critically their histories of whitewashing inconvenient gendered truths.


Author Biographies

Rosa Michele Henehan, University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

I am an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of Assessment for the School of Education at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith.

Micki Voelkel, University of Arkansas Fort Smith

Dr. Micki Voelkel is a Professor of Management and Leadership in the Center for Economic Development at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. She earned her doctorate in Workforce Development Education and a master’s degree in Adult Education from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Her research interests include encore careers, informal learning in museums and cultural institutions, and feminist leadership.

Angel Tracy, Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau

Angel Tracy is currently the Administrative Assistant for the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Curator of Miss Laura's Visitor Center. She was tasked with managing Miss Laura's and its tour guide staff at the end of 2022. She has been passionate about history all of her life. She has an extremely diverse background and is a seasoned urban gardener. 

Shanna Jones, Finance Manager/Avid historian

Shanna Jones is a Finance Manager for a nationwide therapy company but is an avid historian in her free time. She holds an M.A. in History from Southern New Hampshire University and is currently pursuing her PhD. Research interests focus mainly on changes in culture and society during times of war and conflict.