Episode 390:

Cow Women

The Heroic Story of Charity Hospital During Hurricane Katrina


Dell Burke and the Yellow Hotel Brothel


Episode 390: Cow Women

On today’s episode, Karen tells the heroic story of Charity Hospital during Hurricane Katrina and Georgia covers Dell Burke and the Yellow Hotel brothel. While recording during a visit to Home Jim, Karen experienced some Zoom-related audio issues. Things will be back to normal next week.

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The Heroic Story of Charity Hospital During Hurricane Katrina

The Heroic Story of Charity Hospital During Hurricane Katrina Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by beau images / Stockimo / Alamy

Other Images:

  1. The abandoned Charity Hospital in 2018 (Jim West / Alamy)
  2. Hurricane Katrina as pictured from the NOAA satellite on August 29 2005 (Scott Camazine / Alamy)
  3. Aerial view of massive flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (FEMA / Alamy)


"Save for the echoing drip of water in the hallways, there was nothing to disturb the sleep of the dead who lay shrouded in sheets on the landings of a stairwell, the sole custodians of Charity Hospital.

Banners made from bedsheets and anchored with bags of saline solution hung from shattered windows and railings, testament to the despair and fear of the living trapped in the crippled building for five long days by the flood of Hurricane Katrina.

"Get us the hell out of here," one said, a plea to the world outside, which was spiraling into anarchy and appeared to have forgotten the sick and injured at "Big Charity," the largest public hospital that cares primarily for the poor and the needy.

Inside, the smell of human waste was overpowering. The floors were wet and slick and littered with Latex gloves, syringes, hospital gowns and water bottles. Huge piles of fetid garbage filled doorways. Heart monitors, dialysis machines, respirators, all useless and silent, had been carelessly shoved aside. Two bloody handprints were smeared on a wall like graffiti.

In the waiting room on the first floor, those who have sought help at Charity Hospital for generations, even when they couldn't pay, could read the motto of the hospital printed in large letters on the wall.

Charity Hospital, it says, is a place where the unusual occurs and miracles happen.

In its long, storied history, that was never more true than on Aug. 29, when Hurricane Katrina delivered a devastating glancing blow to the city of New Orleans, trapping about 360 patients and 1,200 staff members in the hospital.

What transpired during the next five days was, to say the least, both unusual and miraculous..."


Source: “Trapped hospital workers kept most patients alive” by Tony Freemantle (Houston Chronicle) 2005

Dell Burke and the Yellow Hotel Brothel

Dell Burke and the Yellow Hotel Brothel Notes:

Other Images:

  1. Dell Burke 
  2. The Yellow Hotel in 2005 (Geoff Dobson - wyomingtalesandtrails.com)


"Born July 5, 1888 in Sommerset, Ohio as Mary Ada Fisher, Dell Burke wasn't the only name Mary would take throughout her life and in her career.

By the time Mary was seventeen her family, which moved around frequently, was living in North Dakota close to the Canadian border. Here, Mary took up with and married Stephen J. Law for whom she then moved in with. Living with the newlyweds was also Law's sister; where both siblings were Canadian, Law often boasted that Canadian women were far superior to American women-- including his wife.

After less than a year Mary had decided that marriage and the domesticated lifestyle was not for her. Packing her bags and leaving behind her husband, house, and family Mary fled to Canada where she took the name Marie and began her career as a 'soiled dove'.

Marie's life took her all around the world. A beautiful young woman, many men tried to show her affections outside of her career however she knew what she wanted and when they became too attached she would up and leave to the next location. Marie went from Canada to Alaska. She spent some time in Montana and other states before following the oil boom-- and the men-- to Wyoming.

It was in Wyoming that Marie took her last known name of Dell Burke. With the oil boom she made home in Casper, Wyoming at the Sandbar District. Around this time prohibition was beginning and Casper officials soon began cracking down on alcohol and prostitution so, again Dell fled this time staying in Wyoming and just moving down the road to the oil boom in Lance Creek, where, at the time, the population had reached 10,000 plus.

Dell set up camp with Bessie Housley, a friend of the same profession she had made along the way. That was in 1919, by 1920 they had purchased the Yellow Hotel which set across from the train depot. With the population booming and their client list growing, more girls joined them.

Clients of the Yellow Hotel were served the best food,and even in the midst of the prohibition, alcohol with nights ending in a room upstairs. Because of what her business offered and the nature of her profession, Dell was often visited by the law for which these visits stopped after she threatened to shut down the towns electricity. Lusk, having borrowed money from her for a transformer, had yet to pay her back.

Though Dell led a life that most deemed unfit, she held herself to high standards. While she may not have been liked around town she was highly respected; her name appeared at the top of every charity list (she was a major contributor in the monument for Mother Featherlegs), she is credited with sending a number of people to college for higher education, and always she gave money where and when it was needed..."


Source: “Town of Lusk, Wyoming”

Karen's Episode Sources

  1. “Charity” by Jim Carrier   
  2. “Trapped hospital workers kept most patients alive” by Tony Freemantle (Houston Chronicle) 2005
  3. “America’s Oldest Hospital: Abandoned” (Real Stories) 2022 
  4. “Hurricane Katrina: Heroes of Charity Hospital” (History) 2016
  5. “2005: Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on Charity Hospital” (CNN) 2005
  6. “Dispute Over Historic Hospital for the Poor Pits Doctors Against State” by Adam Nossiter (New York Times) 
  7. “The Oldest Hospitals in the United States” (World Atlas)
  8. “Courage Amid Katrina’s Chaos” (ABC News) 2005
  9. “New Orleans Community Profile” (City of New Orleans) 2020
  10. “New Orleans Hospital Is Replaced, With Hope of Preserving Its Mission” by Abby Goodnough (New York Times) 2015
  11. “How New Orleans Flooded” (NOVA)
  12. “#throwbackthursday 44 photos of Charity Hospital's illustrious past & uncertain future” by John Pope (The Times-Picayune) 2014
  13. “Charity Hospital” (Wikipedia)
  14. “What is an AMBU bag?” (AED Brands) 2023
  15. “New Orleans: A City Without Charity” by Desiree Evans (Facing South) 2009
  16. “A Look Back At Hurricane Katrina” (Office of Policy Development and Research)
  17. “A Surgeon Caught Up in the Flooding Tells of a Week of Chaos, Peril and Heroism” by Donald G. McNeil, Jr (New York Times) 2005
  18. “Misleading reports of lawlessness after Katrina worsened crisis, officials say” by Mark Guarino (The Guardian) 2015
  19. “All Faculty Excerpts: The Katrina Experience” (Gotham Writers)
  20. “The Levees Worked in New Orleans – This Time” by Jake Bittle (Curbed) 2021
  21. “Death toll for Hurricane Katrina reduced by 25%” (Fox 8) 2023
  22. “Hurricane Katrina: 10 Facts About the Deadly Storm and Its Legacy” by Sarah Pruitt (History) 2020
  23. “We Still Don’t Know How Many People Died Because of Katrina” by Carl Bialik (FiveThirtyEight) 2015
  24. “Extremely Powerful Hurricane Katrina Leaves a Historic Mark on the Northern Gulf Coast: A Killer Hurricane Our Country Will Never Forget” (National Weather Service) 
  25. “Hurricane Katrina” (Britannica)
  26. “Timeline: Who Knew When the Levees Broke” (NPR) 2006
  27. “What is Ham Radio” (The National Association for Amateur Radio) 
  28. The Louisiana Health Care Landscape (KFF) 2016