Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Women Who Became Cowgirls

     At the turn of the twentieth century it wasn't uncommon for women to run away from their homes in the city and run off with the many circuses, wild west shows and carnivals that traveled the country by wagon and train. Some had real athletic talent and a penchant for performing before a large crowd and eventually would become a star, boasting her own headlined act.

Prairie Rose became a star with Barnum and Bailey as a rosin back rider and later would head up all the cowgirl acts with her own featuring her riding skills aboard a "wild bucking broncho."

“Display No. 12.

Roping and riding the wildest and most untamable horses procurable anywhere, introducing the world’s greatest subduer of the outlaw equine, Prairie Rose, Beyond cavil the greatest and most intrepid female rider in the known world.”

She would go on to ride in rodeos and wild west shows from coast to coast.

Some women would follow in the Prairie Rose's footsteps and join traveling shows as they came through their cities and towns. Some of these women just wanted a change, a new freedom that was not available to women of that time.  Women who were wives in a pre arranged marriage, like another of the Prairie Rose characters. Other women found the courage to escape from the mundane existence from life on the plains with no neighbors around for miles. They would leave with no promise of any kind of future other than it had to be better than the present they found themselves running from. Some women escaped abusive husbands who took the ruling of a judge regarding the old saying, "Rule of Thumb" stating it was fine and acceptable to hit your wife, your property, to keep her in line so long as you beat her with a stick no thicker than your thumb.

And then there were those women, who found themselves leaving behind quite respectable lives as school teachers in search of a community that offered greater individual freedoms and possible monetary rewards if they were talented enough. Women school teachers were severely restricted in their appearance and behavior. Take a look at the rules of behavior for a school teacher in 1915.

     You can bet I would have joined these women in their quest for greater freedoms. Who knows? I might have even rode a wild, man eating, pitching, snorting bronc myself once or twice. Or at least until I broke my neck, whichever came first.

Thanks to Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum for the great graphic Rules for Teachers.

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