Decades ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich first penned the now-ubiquitous phrase, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Boy, isn’t that the truth. A quick internet query of the term ‘famous cowgirls’ will yield you a whole slew of sepia-toned images of gals with a few rap sheets and wanted posters to their name – your Belle Starrs, your Laura Bullions, and your Pearl Harts – many of whom were just doing what the boys were doing, but better. Some weren’t so much outlaws as outliers; women who dared demand a seat at the table or a spot in the arena where they were just as skilled, if not more so, than their male counterparts – the Annie Oakleys, the Lucille Mulhalls, and the Prairie Rose Hendersons.
Ulrich’s words unintentionally unified a genre – or rather, a generation – of women who were simply sick of the status quo, of boys’ club mentalities, and of not rocking the boat just because they were lucky to be in it in the first place. You know, us “loud women”.
But here’s the rub: seldom isn’t never. Sometimes game-changers and foundation-shakers come in the form of benevolence, brains, and beauty, like every Miss Rodeo America who becomes a role model for the way of life, every female who’s the first in their field, every philanthropist who advocates for the advancement of the industry.
That’s the thing about cowgirls – we’re not all good, and we’re not all bad. But we’re all a little bit unforgettable. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you’re ranch-raised, a queen of the rodeo arena, or have never stepped foot off the city streets, as long as you’ve got a barrier-breaking spirit and a wild mustang soul, you can count yourself a cowgirl.
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