That Give Cowboys a Run for Their Money
7 famous cowgirls that give cowboys are run for their money range from outlaws to The wild west was known for three things, cowboys, outlaws, and lawmen. Somehow cowgirls have slipped through the cracks, but we intend to show you 7 famous cowgirls that could give the cowboys a run for their money.
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7 Famous Cowgirls
The most famous cowgirls are Calamity Jane, Sacajawea, Annie Oakley, Sandra Day O’Connor, Big Nose Kate, Dale Evans, and Belle Starr.
These women made a name for themselves during a time when only men were well-known. Robbing stagecoaches, winning rodeo competitions, and living the dream of the American West. So what made these women so tough and ferocious? Let’s take a closer look.
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What Are Famous Cowgirls?
What are the Female Cowboys Called?
We all know what being a cowboy means, but what does that mean for women? Female cowboys are known as cowgirls, and they have earned every bit of that title. Female cowgirls were outlaws, rodeo stars, and tough cookies. Famous cowgirls in history were women of the American West who were roping, riding broncs, and shooting pistols.
The American Cowgirl contributed to the expansion of America in the West and has a well-deserved place in American history. The American Cowgirl lives on in their contribution to our modern ranches, farms, homesteads, and rodeos. Many attend college and utilize the latest technologies in raising cattle and other livestock. Many are not only rodeo riders but also moms, businesswomen, politicians, ranchers, and farmers among other pursuits.
The term cowboy originated in the state of Texas by way of the Mexican vaquero and the subsequent cattle expansion over the state. Ranch hands and other out-of-work men were recruited to herd the cattle north by way of cattle drives. Being a cowboy required an independent spirit, hard work, and an adventurer who was bold and daring not knowing what the trail might bring.
Cowgirls have those same qualities and women of that time were found tending cattle, shooting pistols, and riding horseback. ‘Cowgirling’ as it was sometimes called was more common than you think in the old west. Men went off to war or took on long cattle drives leaving women alone, to tend and defend. the ranch or farm site. These women would eventually become known as cowgirls, meaning ‘female cowboys’.
Cowgirls who rode in the rodeo were often referred to as sweethearts or queens of the rodeo. Many women were featured in wild west shows for their riding and pistol skills. The term cowgirl was coined in the late 1800s as more women were participating in ranching duties as well as, in the rodeos and wild west shows of that time period.
They stood out, or blended in (on purpose,) rode horses, and were gunslingers. If you thought the legends of cowboys were awesome then wait until you read about how Belle Starr robbed stagecoaches, or how Big Nose Kate set fire to a whole town to break her lover, Doc Holliday, out of jail.
Who Was the First Famous Cowgirl, 7 Famous Cowgirls
The history of cowboys is pretty well-known, but how the first cowgirl came onto the scene, and how she got coined the term “cowgirl” is a little shakey. It’s believed that a woman named Lucille Mulhall was the very first cowgirl.
Lucille Mulhall was born in 1885 in St. Louis, Missouri. The story of how she became known as the first cowgirl is the stuff of legends. The term cowgirl had already been coined, however, she personified it.
She was given the title of “cowgirl” after Teddy Roosevelt saw her riding at her family ranch. It is believed that Teddy told her if she could rope a wolf, she could attend his inaugural parade. She took him up on that offer and came back just hours later dragging a dead wolf behind her!
Although she was the first well-known cowgirl, she didn’t make our complete list, because the next 7 cowgirls will knock your socks off with their courageous, sometimes vile, and outlaw behaviors.
7 Famous Cowgirls
1. Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane is perhaps one of the better-known cowgirls of her time. Born in 1856 near Princeton, Missouri. Jane was a world-famous adventurer and performer. She had been given the name Calamity Jane because it was believed that her parents died when she was just a young girl.
Jane was not your average lady, she liked to wear men’s clothing and would spend a lot of time slapping backs with men. She was adept at riding horses and shooting guns at a very young age. Many details of her life, most of which were never proven to be true, including her being a scout in the army, for General Custer and the wife of lawman Wild Bill Hickok. Source.
Names and aliases: Martha Jane Cannary, Martha Jane Burke
“I figure if a girl wants to be a legend, she should go ahead and be one.”Calamity Jane
Sacajawea is a legendary figure from history. She joined the expedition of Lewis and Clark, with her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, in 1805. She was sold to Toussaint as a slave, but later she became one of his wives. The two joined the expedition of Lewis and Clark as interpreters.
She proved to be valuable to the team because she spoke multiple Native American languages, and was familiar with natural plants and medicine. Sacajawea was a true adventurer and cowgirl, who traveled with the team to the Pacific, speaking to tribes along the way, and helping the expedition to be successful. She was the only woman in a team of 33 men.
Names and aliases: Sakakawea, Sacajawea
“Everything I do is for my people.”Sacagawea
3. Annie Oakley
Anyone who thinks of cowgirls, probably knows the name, Annie Oakley. Many other cowgirls in history were inspired by this legendary cowgirl. She was born in 1860, in Darke County, Ohio. From a young age, Annie proved to be an expert marksman. She accompanied her father while trapping and hunting, and became well-versed in weapons and the wilderness.
She may be best known, for the time she spent in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Apparently, she got the position after another world-famous marksman lost his favorite firearms in a boat that sunk, causing him to lose his perfect aim. She gained the attention of the famous Native American chief, Sitting Bull, who was impressed with her shooting. He later adopted her, and the two became very good friends.
Names and aliases: Little Miss Sure Shot, Phoebe Ann Moses, Watanya Cicilla
“I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him either.”Annie Oakley
4. Sandra Day O’Connor
Sandra Day O’Connor is a name that might be more well-known as a famous Judge and Justice, but before she was the first woman to join the U.S. Supreme Court, she was an expert at shooting and riding horses. She was born in 1930, in El Paso, Tx. At an early age, Sandra learned to shoot and ride.
This made her tough and paved the way for her to be a graduate of Stanford Law School, and later she was nominated by President Reagan as the 102nd Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2002, she was nominated as a Cowgirl Honoree, by the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
“Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.”Sandra Day O’Connor
5. Big Nose Kate
Big Nose Kate may be one of the most famous cowgirls of her time. She was a prostitute named Mary Katherine Horony and went by Kate. Later she changed her name to Big Nose Kate, so as not to be confused with another prostitute in her area named Kate. She was born in 1850 in Budapest, Hungary.
After traveling the world, she ended up in a brothel owned by Bessie Earp, the wife of James Earp. She dated the famous Wyatt Earp, who later dumped her. She then became the lover of the famous cowboy outlaw, Doc Holliday.
It was reported that she once lit a building on fire as a distraction, which almost burned down the entire town, to confront the officer guarding Doc Holliday with a pistol in each hand, breaking him free. Source.
Names and aliases: Mary Katherine Horony-Cummings, Mária Izabella Magdolna Horony
“Doc was close to six feet tall, weight – one hundred and sixty pounds, fair complexion, very pretty mustache, blue-grey eyes, and a fine set of teeth.”Mary Katherine Haroney – “Big Nose Kate”
6. Dale Evans
Dale Evans was born Lucille Wood Smith in 1912, in Uvalde, Texas. She was a famous cowgirl movie star, who started out singing for a Memphis radio station. Later she married famous cowboy singer, Roy Rogers, and the two made over 27 western films. She was called “Queen of the Cowgirls,” alongside her husband who was known as the “King of the Cowboys.”
At the end of her life, she starred in a Christian TV program, A Date with Dale, from 1996 until she died in 2001. She is forever known as the “face” of the cowgirl movement and remains to be one of the most beloved cowgirls of all time. Source.
Names and aliases: Frances Octavia Smith, Lucille Wood Smith, Dale Evans Rogers
“Cowgirls take stands. They speak up. They defend the things they hold dear. A cowgirl might be a rancher, or a barrel racer, or a bull rider, or an actress. But she’s just as likely to be a checker at the local Winn Dixie, a full-time mother, a banker, an attorney, or an astronaut.”Dale Evans
7. Belle Starr
Belle Starr was born Myra Belle Shirley, in 1848, in Washington County, Mo. She became the common-law wife of the famous outlaw, Jim Reed. It is believed that the two robbed stagecoaches together. She called herself a “Bandit Queen” and wore eccentric clothing such as velvet and feathers.
In 1884, she was an accessory in a stagecoach robbery, with Jim Reed. Later she married Sam Starr, who was a Cherokee Native American. The two were notorious for stealing horses and were part of a gang that robbed many ranchers and cowboys.
Names and aliases: Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed Starr
“I regard myself as a woman who has seen much of life.”Belle Starr
In Conclusion, 7 Famous Cowgirls
Cowgirls were an integral part of our western heritage. Many cowgirls grew up with brothers who were cowboys, or on ranches, and basically had many of the same chores. The nature of ranch and farm life required they ride a horse and use a firearm. These skills were needed in the old west oftentimes just to stay alive. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame home to historic cowgirls is located in Fort Worth, Texas. They offer a variety of educational opportunities as well as historically accurate information regarding the influence of cowgirls in the West. Read more here.
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What did cowgirls wear in the wild west?
Cowgirls wore leather, feathers, and other western wear. They wore attire that made riding horses, and ranch work, comfortable for them. They were known to wear cowboy hats and boots. Find out more here.
What female gunslinger was renowned for her deadly aim?
Annie Oakley is the most renowned marksman of her time. She was challenged by a well-known marksman, named Frank Butler, who she beat, and then later married. The two remained married for 50 years.
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