We hear a lot about the men of the Old West, about how the American cowboy helped tame the frontier. But the girls have their heroes as well, and you might be surprised at the contributions these gals have made - and continue to make - to the western world...
When we think of the great American West we generally think of the cowboys, outlaws, lawmen, cattlemen, stagecoach drivers, Wells Fargo riders, blacksmiths, soldiers & cavalrymen that permanently painted their places in western history.
But the girls, the gals, the ladies, the cowgirls of the Old West lived a life every bit as colorful, and their roles were every bit as importnat as those of their male counterparts. And just like the boys, the girls have a diverse history of playing a lot of different roles in the West; cowgirls, outlaws, ranchers, stagecoach drivers, blacksmiths, bankers, landowners, businesswomen and horsemen (women).
They cooked, built houses, managed ranches, broke horses, branded cattle, raised children, taught school, operated stores, saloons and hotels. Yet you can count on a single hand the number of historical women that were idolized in literature, Hollywood, and the history books.
Thanks to the efforts of a visionary group led by Margaret C. Formby the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center was born in 1975 in the Texas Panhandle community of Hereford, about 40 miles southwest of Amarillo. Its purpose was to preserve the history and impact of western women living roughly from the mid-1800s to the present -- the pioneers, the artists and writers, the tribal leaders, the entertainers, the social activists, and the modern ranchers and rodeo cowgirls.
Recognizing the increasing interest in the museum and the fact that the available audience for this important program was limited in the Hereford location, the board initiated a search in 1993 for alternative sites that promised greater audience exposure while simultaneously affording the opportunity for an expanded and improved public education program.
The museum was moved to Fort Worth and became an important part of the city's rich western heritage.
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors and documents the lives of women who have distinguished themselves while exemplifying the pioneer spirit of the American West.
Hall of Fame inductees include:
Sacagawea - A Shoshone and the only woman to accompany the 1802-06 Lewis and Clark expedition into the Louisiana Purchase Territories. She acted as interpreter and guide.
Mary Ellen (Dude) Barton - life is characterized by her work on the family ranch and her rodeo successes. Many times competing against men in rodeo events, Dude proved that she could compete on equal terms with anybody and win.
Wanda Harper Bush - like her ancestors, she raises livestock and trains horses. Instrumental in the organization of the GRA, Wanda has been one of its most awarded champions, winning thirty-three World Championships, including three All-Around titles.
Dale Evans - Beginning her career in show business singing for a Memphis radio station, Dale (born Frances Smith) made her way to Chicago where she was 'discovered' by Paramount scouts. She came to Hollywood, working in films with John Wayne, Joe E. Brown and Roy Rogers, whom she married. Together with Roy, she made 27 films, a television series and raised a large family.
There are currently 176 Hall of Fame inductees in all, and a tour of the museum will provide you the background for each one of them.
Located in Fort Worth's cultural district, a museum ticket will also get you into the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History hands-on exhibits, making the experience a bargain for weekenders searching for a little culture to pass the time.
Mondays through Thursdays: 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays: 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sundays: 11:30a.m. - 5:30p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day
Adults - $8.00
$7.00 Children 3-12
$7.00 Children 2 and under - Free with paid adult admission