Cowgirls in History: How Female Equestrians Made an Impact in the Wild West

By: Sheena J. 

For the entire International Women's Month, we have been talking about female empowerment and the different ways female equestrians have shown their importance in the equine world. For this issue, we will be taking a closer look at famous cowgirls who have made a name for themselves in history not just because of their talent for riding and caring for horses, but mainly because of their contribution in making this world more aware of how females can be equally strong and be persevering as men in this so-called “man's world”. 
Brief History of Cowgirl Emanation 
The term “Cowgirl” was first made known in the 19th Century when females started working in cattle ranches along with men. Women in the Old West serve as helpers for cowboys in the beginning, but cowgirls did a considerable amount of work for these ranches and even manage them by themselves, especially during when men have to leave for war or long cattle rides. Although records of such input are not as well-documented as men, early photographers such as Evelyn Cameron cited the life of cowgirls in action during the late 19th and early 20th century. In wasn't until 1870 that cowgirls have emerged as their own. This can be dedicated to Wild West Shows where these adult women are skilled performers, exhibiting their riding skills and skillful marksmanship, that amused and charmed people all around the world. 
Notable Cowgirls 
Annie Oakley 

Annie Oakley

One of the earliest and well-known cowgirls in history is Phoebe Anne Oakley Mozee. She had begun her career as a marksman by hunting at a tender age of only nine years old. She and her husband Frank Butler joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1885 where she has coined the name “Watanya Cicilla” meaning “Little Sure Shot” as she was infamous for being a sharp-shooter and exhibition shooter. She soon left her husband in the shade because of her talents and eventually became the star attraction of the show and was earning more than the rest of the crew, except of course, for Buffalo Bill himself. She even performed for Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope Film " The Little Sure Shot of the Wild West" where she showcased her rifle skills shooting at glass balls and sorts. She can be considered as one of the pioneers in showing everyone the wonderful abilities of women not just for being beautiful wives and mothers, but also as a tough marksman and cowgirl. 

Tad Lucas 

Tad Lucas 
Of all the names that can be read and seen on different websites dedicated to cowgirls, one name emerges time and again, Tad Lucas. She was the youngest of 24 siblings and was born in Nebraska. Her full name is Barbara Inez Barnes but because of her being the smallest and fastest among all the children, she was nicknamed "Tadpole" and she eventually adopted the name "Tad" even as she grew older. At the young age of fourteen, she had already joined and won her first steer-riding contest. She also made her part during the first World War by riding bulls along the busy street of Cody to help raise funds for Red Cross. In 1921, she spent 3 months in Mexico as a bronc rider. By the age of twenty, she is already a full pledged cowgirl, planting her name on history as someone who is not only brave for the advocacies she supported, but also for being a skilled trick rider. She eventually got married to her husband Buck Lucas, and they traveled the world contending and performing. In 1967, she became the first woman to ever be included in the National Rodeo Hall of Fame. She died at the age of 88 in 1990 and had left a legacy of strength and will-power for all the generation of cowgirls to come. 
Vera McGinnis 

Vera McGinnis  
Although McGinnis was not born in a barn or was raised with horses, her bold attitude and athletic intelligence made her equal to naturally born cowgirls when she started in rodeo. She was originally born in Missouri but moved to Utah where she worked for Salt Lake City Sight Seeing Company where she became exposed to horses and cowgirls. She started being a rodeo rider but not long had a riding accident that caused her to break some teeth. This did not become a hindrance to her though, in fact, she then signed a contract as a relay race rider and discovered her passion for the field. After she had moved to Canada, McGinnis widened her abilities and learned how to be a trick rider. One of her most famous tricks is the under-the-belly crawl at full speed. Aside from her riding abilities, she is also well known for her fashion sense as she is one of the first cowgirls to wear trousers when everyone wore split skirts. On an unfortunate event, her career abruptly ended while she was competing in the Livermore Rodeo. She was thrown against the rail, resulting to her horse crashing on top of her. She did recover from her injuries but was not able to professionally ride since then because of the injuries she had attained. McGinnis died in October of 1990, living a full life of surreal talents and determination. 
These females above have endured criticism and fall-downs but have emerged more determined and fiercer than before, even when people around them have believed otherwise because of the notion that women are frail and are not capable of such vigorous tasks as a cowgirl. Even Shakespeare was quoted in his play Hamlet saying "Frailty, thy name is Woman". Today, the sentiment is not as common as before. Some can be because of how these cowgirls showed the world their strength and dedication which paved the way for equality and innovation. 


Thank you for reading. Please check out our collection of hand-crafted pieces of jewelry for horse-lovers HERE that can make any women shine more than ever with the beautiful person that she is.  

These stories of persistence, perseverance, and trust in one's abilities are indeed inspiring to all age and gender. Share your thoughts below in the comment box and also don't forget to subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates and more uplifting stories.  

We have one more article especially for International Women's Month. Do stay tuned and watch out for the next blog coming very soon.

Female Equestrians in the Olympics


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