Don't forget that I am having a drawing for an autographed copy of the book, as well as extra goodies from me!! All you have to do to be entered in the drawing is leave a comment and tell us what your #1 most favorite, can't-do-without cowgirl piece of clothing is! The deadline is this Saturday, May 30th, at midnight. Make sure that if your comment doesn't link back to your blog, or if you don't have a blog, leave an email address or way to contact you, or at least check back Sunday to see if you're a winner then email me with your contact information. Okay, let's get started!
“Lassoer in Lingerie”
By: Heidi Thomas
In the 1880s and ‘90s, Annie Oakley toured with Buffalo Bill as an expert marksman. She could shoot the head off a running quail when she was twelve years old, and once knocked the ashes off a cigarette Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was holding in his mouth, and became the most famous woman performer to ever appear in a Wild West show.
She did all of this while wearing dresses.
Cowgirls accomplished great feats while wearing skirts. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been to keep all the extra material out of the way while practicing expert marksmanship, bronc riding, and steer roping.
At the turn of the 20th Century, enterprising equestrian women, such as rodeo star Fanny Sperry Steel, wore divided skirts that enabled them to ride astride but preserved the “look of a skirt.” This ingenious garment was actually a culotte with a movable front panel that buttoned either to the left, for a skirt effect or to the right for a pants effect.
In 1904, Lucille Mulhall (pictured above), known as the first woman to be called “Cowgirl,” lassoed and tied three steers in three minutes and 36 seconds—several seconds better than the best cowboys. While she was performing, she wore what the other woman rodeo riders of her era wore: a long, split riding skirt, blouse, silk scarf and large felt cowboy hat. It apparently didn’t cramp her style. A New York newspaper reporter described her as a “lassoer in lingerie.”
Nowadays, a cowgirl can wear pretty much anything she wants, but in the 1800s a woman wearing her brother’s pants or even a split skirt might have been arrested for indecent exposure. British-born Montana photographer Evelyn Cameron rode into Miles City one day, wearing a split riding skirt she had made. Incensed townswomen gathered with the sheriff and threatened her with jail unless she left town immediately.
In the early 1900s, Prairie Rose Henderson was a popular performer who created a bit of a stir by being one of the first to wear bloomers to ride. Despite the “racy” look (showing quite a bit of leg), it was still feminine and had to have been more comfortable and probably safer than voluminous skirts while riding broncs. She wowed the crowds with her handmade fancy costumes, which were often decorated with beads, feathers, and sequins.
Rodeo rider Vera McGinnis was the first woman to wear pants in the rodeo arena. What a scandal! Oh, the gossip! But she swore she would never trade being a rodeo cowgirl for any other profession. She started rodeo riding in 1912 with her corset on, but after the first relay tossed it for good.
My grandmother was a cowgirl through and through. She loved nothing more than riding the range with my grandpa, and I always thought she was more at home on the back of a horse than behind a mop.
She was probably more comfortable in Levis and Stetson, but I also have pictures of her posing in a flapper style dress as well as in boots, jeans, and a tall cowboy hat!
Life in rodeo was not all glamour. It was hard, dirty work. Like my grandmother, many women riders were small, weighing maybe 110 pounds or less. But they had to lift their own 20-pound saddles, (especially the relay riders who changed saddles during a relay race), and care for their own horses. These petite women pitted themselves against a half-ton of raging muscle and bone when they rode or wrestled. What courage!
But these women were feminine, too. A New York newspaper wrote of Lucille Mulhall: “only ninety pounds, can break a bronc, lasso and brand a steer, and shoot a coyote at 500 yards. She can also play Chopin, quote Browning, and make mayonnaise.” That describes most of those women from my grandmother’s era.
Thank you for following my first virtual book tour. It’s been a fun journey. Please leave a comment, and if you read my book, please let me know what you think of it!
Okay folks, PG here again....that's all she wrote- for now!! It's a wonderful book, and the first in a series, so more great adventures are on their way! Thanks for stopping by and I hope your cowgirl dreams come true!