Lust, Violence, Religion Author Profile: Amy Balderach

16 Apr

In her 2005 master’s degree thesis for the American Studies program at Baylor University, Amy Balderach researched and unveiled astounding information about the role prostitution played in Waco’s history. Her essay, “Waco Undressed,” is included as the second chapter in Bradley T. Turner’s book, Lust, Violence, Religion: Life in Historic Waco. The booming cotton and cattle industries in the Deep South during the post-civil war era led to the birth of an area in Waco known as The Reservation. Waco’s red-light district was housed in this two-street region.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Westminster College in Pennsylvania, Balderach received a master’s degree in American studies from Baylor in Waco, Texas, in 2005 and a master’s degree in history from Rice University in Houston, Texas, in 2009.

Balderach met the book’s author, Bradley T. Turner, at a party for Baylor University graduate students hosted by one of their professors. As a Yankee, Balderach said she immediately noticed Turner’s laid-back personality and said he “embodied an easy-going Texas-kind-of-guy.” Since she was a year ahead of Turner in the program and already working on her thesis, Balderach didn’t get a chance to spend much time with him and his classmates.

A year ago, Balderach was thrilled when she received a Facebook message from Turner asking if she would contribute to his book about Waco’s history. “I was looking for a place to publish more of my work, so I jumped at the chance to polish up a portion of my master’s thesis,” Balderach said.

As a master’s student at Baylor, it took Balderach about ten months to research, write and edit her thesis. She worked closely with Michael Toon of the Texas Collection at Baylor. Toon helped her develop and research her topic. Since prostitutes and madams had to procure city licenses to stay in business during the four decades of The Reservation’s operation, Balderach was able to find extensive data in city records, registries and censuses. “I think the most surprising thing about the whole study was that few people today actually know that a booming red-light district once existed in a ‘conservative’ town like Waco,” Balderach said.

After completing her thesis at Baylor, Balderach continued her studies at Rice University a few years later. A world history course she took with Dr. Kerry Ward was one of the most influential classes of her career. It helped prepare her to publish her thesis.

“I learned more about my own work on prostitution in Waco during that seminar… I left [the] class thinking globally in a local context, rather than just understanding prostitution’s role in one particular city,” Balderach said.

Currently, Balderach is working on an essay about masculinity in the Texas Prison Rodeo during the Cold War period. She works at a part-time job so she has time to finish the project. While a student at Baylor, Balderach served as an assistant editor for the Baylor Institute for Oral History. She was also an assistant editor for the Journal of Southern History at Rice. Because of her experience at these organizations, Balderach hopes to find a job as a writer and editor in the future.

Balderach is also searching for contributors for a recent book proposal. She is planning to write and compile a book geared toward helping prospective graduate students prepare for the experience. “The book will also… help students who have to leave the graduate programs for something else, showing them it’s okay to leave something behind and start a different life,” Balderach said. She is also entertaining the idea of revisiting unused research from her thesis to start a project about women’s criminality in Waco during the 19th century.

Balderach said she is grateful for professors such as T. Michael Parrish and Rebecca Sharpless and to Toon who all helped develop her thesis. “They believed in me and saw me as a humorous, intelligent person and as a good scholar. Those were my formative years, and all of those men and women helped to equip me with great researching and writing skills,” Balderach said. She described her experience writing her thesis at Baylor as one of her most “memorable achievements.”

Balderach said her family also has been extremely supportive throughout all her academic endeavors. “My dad still gets a little nervous, though, about the fact that I’ve completed a major academic project on prostitutes!” Balderach joked.

Working with Turner on Lust, Violence, Religion: Life in Historic Waco has been an amazing experience, Balderach said. She described him as “driven, encouraging and enthusiastic” and hopes to work with him on future projects.

“[Brad] never ceases to amaze me. To be able to teach so many community college classes and finish a book—well, let’s say he is one of the hardest-working scholars that I know. If anyone deserves success, he does,” Balderach said.

Balderach said she is also thankful for TSTC Publishing and all the hard work the staff has put into the book. “I cannot wait to see the final product,” she said.

The book’s official release date is September 1, and will be available through all major book sellers and retail stores. Books are available now for pre-ordering through Amazon.

For more on the book, go to our Facebook Fan Page which also includes audio files of chapters being narrated by Mike Jones.

Rachel

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  1. An Atheist Defends Religion – This Thursday, April 22, 2010, on God Discussion Radio | God Discussion - April 20, 2011

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