Miss Laura’s Social Club is a restored Victorian brothel that serves as the visitors’ center for Fort Smith, Arkansas. Miss Laura’s reflects the values and power structures of the community in which it exists reinforcing the dominance of privileged white males. This qualitative study analyzed the results of three previous studies about Miss Laura’s—a case study, a social science portraiture study, and an embedded thematic analysis. The primary research question was What is the master narrative of Miss Laura’s Social Club? The original case study consisted of semi-structured interviews with three docents and 16 visitors to the site, four site visits, and a textual analysis of online marketing materials. Using emergent coding the researchers developed three key areas in which they critiqued and contested the narrative of Miss Laura’s: (1) the madams were depicted as feminist figures; (2) the prostitutes were depicted using “Cinderella” imagery; and (3) the narrative explicitly excluded the stories of those who were not privileged and white. Discussion points included the conflict inherent in Miss Laura’s dual roles as a marketing tool and as a museum, the transformative learning the researchers experienced, and the responsibilities of adult educators and museum staff to represent marginalized voices.


Adult Learning, Case Study, Cultural Institutions, Embedded Thematic Analysis, Feminism, Heritage Tourism, Narrative, Portraiture, Transformative Learning

Author Bio(s)

Micki Voelkel, Ed.D., is an Associate Professor in the Center for Business and Professional Development at University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. She earned her doctorate in Workforce Development Education from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She has a master’s degree in Adult Education from the University of Arkansas and a bachelor’s in Performance Studies from Northwestern University. She teaches undergraduate courses computer applications, personal effectiveness, project management, time management, and quality processes. Her research interests include cultural institutions, displaced workers, encore careers, generativity, and narrative inquiry. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: micki.voelkel@uafs.edu.

Shelli Henehan, Ed.D., is the Director of Early Childhood and an Assistant Professor for the School of Education at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith. She earned her doctorate in Workforce Development Education and her Master’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. Shelli teaches education courses each semester, and is the administrator of grants for providing professional development for adult learners who teach in the field of early childhood education. Shelli's research interests include cultural institutions, early childhood curricula and transformative learning strategies. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: shelli.henehan@uafs.edu.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.