Annie Chambers: Kansas City Madam
Production for the Meet the Past television series continues in August with two programs taped before a live audience at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. The series will air in prime-time on KCPT (channel 19) during the 2009-10 season.
Meet the Past features Library Director Crosby Kemper III interviewing prominent historical figures (as portrayed by actors and veteran Chautauqua performers) with Kansas City-area connections.
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Major funding for Meet the Past has been provided by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Admission to all Meet the Past programs is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes each event. Click here or call 816.701.3407 to RSVP. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at 10th and Baltimore.
On Tuesday, August 18, at 6:30 p.m., Jan Chapman portrays Annie Chambers, Kansas City's most well-known brothel proprietor.
Born in Lexington, Kentucky, on June 6, 1843, Chambers left home following a disagreement with her father over her decision to support Abraham Lincoln's 1860 presidential bid. She moved in with an uncle, where she completed her education, began teaching, and eventually married William Chambers.
Their first child was one year old when he died. While pregnant with their second child, Chambers was thrown from a buggy and was carried home unconscious. In the three days she was in a coma, her father lost his hotel, her husband was killed in a work-related accident, and her second child was born dead.
That string of events prompted Chambers to move to Indianapolis to seek employment with a brothel there. After opening her own house in Indianapolis only to see it raided by police, she became angry and left for Missouri. In 1869, she opened her first house in Kansas City. Chamber's Kansas City brothel became the finest and most exclusive in Kansas City.
Chapman is a theatre and creative writing graduate of the University of Kansas, and trained professionally at Circle In the Square in New York City. She is a founding member of the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre and performed in MET's inaugural production of Line. She has also performed in the well-received “Script-in-Hand Series” with the Kansas City Public Library.
Chapman portrayed Nell Donnelly Reed in a July Meet the Past interview.