There is nothing more American than the West; the icon of the West has been the cowboy. Until now. The only cowgirls I knew about were Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Dale Evans, and Sky King’s niece, Penny. In Westerns, women were portrayed as ancillary one-dimensional figures: weary matriarchs, respectable and compliant wives, mothers, companions and children; demure maidens, schoolmarms and seamstresses, or as sullied bad girls, unsavory bar girls or girl’s in men’s clothing. The west was portrayed as almost exclusively white, except for Native Americans, which were portrayed negatively.
I was introduced to these cowgirls three decades ago; I did not know the word “cowgirl” was originally coined to describe LUCILLE MULHALL (attribution given to President Theodore Roosevelt). I did not know that the pioneer rodeo cowgirls were the first successful popular female athletes, featured prominently in international and national front pages, lauded for their courage, risk taking, achievements and athletic prowess. Most of the information contained herein is based on scholarly research; we can ignore or distort the facts, acts and events, we can criticize or discount the fiction, but we must never ignore the truth.