In the 1930s, Eleanor McClintock Williams was a champion trick and bronc rider, traveling in Wild West shows and performing on the high trapeze for Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.
She was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1986 because of her contributions to rodeo and Western life.
Williams, the daughter of wealthy artists, spent her childhood in Pittsburgh. She met her first husband, a rodeo cowboy named Walter McClintock, after watching him compete at Madison Square Garden in 1928.
They eloped two weeks later and joined a Wild West show heading for Chile. The show had a short run because the manager ran off with the gate money. They had to return to the U.S. on a Japanese cargo ship.
The couple had dreams of owning a ranch and in the 1930s they bought 300 acres in New Mexico, for $2 an acre.
They established their ranch headquarters and named their spread the Rising Sun Ranch. The ranch served as a dude ranch for a number of years and in the 1940s was re-named the Williams Ranch.
Her marriage to McClintock ended after six years in 1934. They had one child together.
Williams refused to rely on her wealthy parents and paid off the ranch without their help.
In 1938 she wrote in a letter. “This year has been a nightmare of financial worry,” she wrote. “I finally got desperate this spring and took a job on a big Wild West show that opened in Chicago in April, riding bucking horses. The show is headed by Col. Tim McCoy, who made a minor name for himself in moving pictures and whom I worked under on the Ringling Show.”
By the mid-1930s, women’s relay racing was gone from most rodeos. Trick riding had become a contract event for entertainment instead of competition.
The Madison Square Garden Rodeo was the first to cut women’s bronc riding, and financial problems during the Great Depression made it hard for the event to continue in smaller rodeos throughout the country. Bronc riding for women has never returned to the traditional rodeo circuit.
In 1940, Eleanor married Frank Williams. They raised a family of four and ranched together until their deaths in the 1970s.
Eleanor went on to run for the New Mexico Senate, became a published author and a recognized artist.
Alice Adams Holden is best known for once riding 27 broncs in one day, she was billed as the girl who could ride anything on four feet. Riding since the age of five, she had a rodeo career that spanned 30 years, competing in bronc riding championships in the U.S. and Cuba. After her riding days were done she served in administrative roles for rodeos until leaving to run a ranch with her husband. She later became an accomplished organist and worked for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
Bonnie Gray, was born in Kettle Fells, Washington, in 1891. She graduated from Moscow Idaho University with a degree in music, and taught music in Kettle Fells for a short time. Bonnie, having grown up around horses, quickly decided to focus on rodeo and trick riding. She married Donald Harris and celebrated by having her horse, King Tut, jump over a car with people inside. This trick was very popular and they performed it often.
Throughout her career she participated in rodeos and shows across the United States and several international countries including, Mexico, Canada, England, and Germany. She is considered to be the first woman ever to attempt, and succeed, riding a horse at full gallop while under the horse’s belly. Bonnie was also a pioneer in the western film industry by being one of the first women stunt and double riders. She often took the place of western stars such as Tim McCoy, Tom Mix, and Ken Maynard. Gray died in 1985.
Bernice Walsh McLaughlin won the Canadian Rodeo Champion High Jump contest in 1911, setting a new record. According to the book, Buried Treasures: Famous and Unusual Gravesites in New Mexico History, she cleared 6’2” on a borrowed cowpony named Smokey.
She was a natural horsewoman, winning numerous jumping contests and relay races. Raised doing ranch work, she and her husband homesteaded in New Mexico. After he died, Bernice managed to keep the ranch and increase its size and success, despite challenges to her citizenship status.
She was a devoted horse woman to the very end. At 93, Bernice asked that her son-in-law drive his stagecoach by her hospital window so she could see the horses before he drove them in a local parade. A book has been written on her life entitled, Prairie Trails of Miz Mac by Rhonda Coy Sedgwick.
Lucille Mulhall began a show of rodeo skill—running, roping, and tying steers— that put her competition to shame. Lucille was the best known Western performer of her era and was the first American “cowgirl” long before the term was widely used. She learned to ride and rope on her family’s Oklahoma ranch, and began her career performing in her father’s Wild West show and later becoming one of the first and most accomplished riding and roping champions. Competing with, and frequently beating, male competitors in steer roping events, Lucille helped make women an integral part of rodeo.
Lucy herself was mean with a lasso and a crack shot, able to rope eight men riding abreast, rope, throw, and tie a steer in twenty-eight and a half seconds, and shoot a coyote from 500 yards, earning her not only the respect of her rodeo peers but necessitating the creation of a new title, which she proudly carried: First Champion Lady Steer Roper of the World.
Tickled by the girl’s feisty spirit, President Roosevelt approached young Lucy after the show, telling her with a wink and a pat that if she could lasso a wolf he’d invite her to his inaugural parade. The fourteen-year-old girl nodded, mounted and disappeared in the wild stretch of Oklahoma prairie, returning three hours later, dead wolf in tow.
Fern Sawyer was an all-around champion cowgirl. Growing up her father insisted she perform as well as the men if she was to help with the ranch work. She applied this same philosophy to her rodeo career, competing in men’s events in rodeos because she found women’s events too "infrequent and uninspiring." Her proudest moment was her performance at the 1945 Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo where she claimed first place against a large field of men, becoming the first woman to win the National Cutting Horse championship title.
What was Alice Greenough Orr's contribution to women's rodeo?
During the golden age of rodeo Alice Greenough Orr rode saddle broncs and occasionally rode bulls.
She grew up working on a ranch in Arizona. Her rodeo life began with Jack King’s Wild West Show where she not only rode rough stock, she also did trick riding. She became an international rodeo star, performing in 46 states, Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, England, and Australia and winning four World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider titles. Her sister also rode with her and they formed the “Riding Greenoughs,” which was their own rodeo business and featured the first women’s barrel racing events.
On May 2nd in 1904 the 30th Kentucky Derby was held. The race was won by an American Thoroughbred named Elwood, the first winning horse in the history of the Kentucky Derby to be bred
and owned by a woman. With the 142nd Kentucky Derby being held this Saturday, we thought we ought to take this opportunity to celebrate the important role women have played in Derby history.
So, place your bets and grab a mint julep! It's going to be a great race! http://bit.ly/1WXTJTE #TriviaTuesday
Mattie participated in bronc riding, trick riding and relay racing during her rodeo career. The first rodeo Mattie participated in was at Sioux Falls, SD, in 1921. Her trick riding skills were self-taught. She perfected her tricks and the speed at which she performed them. Mattie was soon nicknamed "the fastest trick rider on the fastest horse around."
In her career, which spanned over a decade, Mattie had three main horses - Bob, Pal and Buster. She performed such tricks as the Roman Stand, Under the Neck, Under the Belly, Slick Saddle Stand, Back Drag, Spin the Horn, and many others. The most dangerous was the Back Drag. This stunt required Mattie to place a foot in a loop on either side of the saddle, bend over backwards laying over the rear of the horse until her hands touched the ground, and then pulling herself into an upright position unassisted. This trick is so dangerous, because you don't have your hands in control of the horse. In addition, if the horse's hooves would come too high, they could hit you in the head. Luckily, Mattie was never hurt while performing at a rodeo in any of her three events.
Mattie retired from her rodeo career in the late 1930's, but not before earning the title of All-Around Cowgirl and World Champion Trick Rider several times. After marrying, Mattie turned her attentions to her ranch in South Dakota.
She was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in September 1961 as a Charter Member and into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in September 1989. The Casey Tibbs Foundation honored Mattie at their Tribute Dinner in 1991. Mattie was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Fort Worth, TX, in November 1994.