Polly Adler Biography

Pearl "Polly" Adler (April 16, 1900 – June 11, 1962) was an American madam and author of Russian-Jewish origin.

The oldest of nine children of Gertrude Koval and Morris Adler, Polly was the daughter of a tailor who travelled throughout Europe on business. Her early education was from the village rabbi. Polly Adler emigrated to America from Yanow, Russia, near the Polish border at the age of 12 just before World War I. The war stopped her family from joining her. She lived for a time with family friends in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where she cleaned house and attended school, and at age 14, she began working in the local paper mill; the following year she moved to Brooklyn, living for a time with cousins.

She worked as a seamstress, at clothing factories, and sporadically attended school. At 19, she began to enjoy the company of theater people in Manhattan, and moved into the apartment of an actress and showgirl on Riverside Drive in New York City. It was at this apartment that she was introduced to a local bootlegger and gangster, who offered to pay Adler if she would allow him and his girlfriend to use her apartment. She began to procure for him and his friends, and became successful as a madam.