"Always saddle your own horse. Always know what you're doing. And go in the direction you are heading." Connie Reeves
Living on a farm, I know something about cows. But all I know about cowgirls came from movie stereotypes. There's much more to know.
These women defied convention by training horses, riding, enduring hard physical labor, and constantly proving themselves capable well before women commonly wore pants. Or had the right to vote. It may be no coincidence that western states and territories passed women's suffrage laws long before the Nineteenth Amendment granted that same right in the rest of the county.
There are plenty of stereotype-busting examples to inspire our daughters, like Connie Reeves, who paved the way for women everywhere she went. Although she was one of the first women to study law at the University of Texas, when tuition money came up short during the Depression she took a job teaching high school. There she started a girl's drill team, one of the first in the state (and now a passion in Texas). Then she began teaching horseback riding. Over the years this horsewoman taught riding along with her own brand of confidence to an estimated 36,000 children.
The documentary American Cowgirl shows 101-year-old Ms. Reeves riding, assisting at a girl's summer camp, and trying to keep herself from cussing on camera. As she said, "There's nothing as expressive as profanity." The woman described as America's oldest cowgirl said, "My life's not important to very many people. But what I have done may be something that will motivate someone else. I hope so." Less than a year after being filmed, she was thrown from her favorite horse, a 28-year-old named Dr. Pepper, and died of cardiac arrest. Her spirited example lives on.
To learn about other inspiring cowgirls, check out:
Cowgirls: Women of the Wild West
Cowgirls: Stories of Trick Riders, Sharp Shooters, and Untamed Women
Cowgirls: Women of the American West
Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest
The Cowgirl Way: Hats Off to America's Women of the West
Born to Be a Cowgirl: A Spirited Ride Through the Old West
About Laura Grace Weldon
Laura Grace Weldon is a writer, editor, conflict resolution educator, and marginally useful farm wench. She is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives with her family on Bit of Earth Farm. Check out life on the farm at http://bitofearthfarm.wordpress.com/ and keep up with Laura's relentless optimism at http://lauragraceweldon.com/blog-2/
Posted by: Laura Grace Weldon