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Giddy-Up!

Cowgirl Hall of Fame honors women with “cowgirl spirit”

By Janie Norez | March 1 , 2007
Cowgirl "Kitty Canutt," champion lady rider of the world, on Winnemucca. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Cowgirl "Kitty Canutt," champion lady rider of the world, on Winnemucca. (Photo: Library of Congress)

The only museum in the world dedicated to honoring women of the American West is the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.

Margaret C. Formby opened the museum in 1975 when she realized that women and all their accomplishments were being overlooked. It began in the basement of the Deaf Smith County Library in the small town of Hereford, in the Texas panhandle.

The National Cowgirl Museum moved to Fort Worth in 2002. It is beautifully designed with a fountain of sparkling water in front. It now includes a Hall of Fame with 176 inductees so far. Five women were inducted in 2006.

The museum's purpose is to honor and document the lives of women who have proven they are true cowgirls. Women honored include everyone from sharp shooter Annie Oakley, to country singer Reba McEntire, to Jessie the toy cowgirl from Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 2.

The museum is a great place to visit and learn about a variety of women, including writers, artists, teachers, and entertainers who show the cowgirl spirit. One of the special features is an exhibit of moving tiles in the middle of the main hall. When you walk around this exhibit, it looks like a motion picture. Each tile changes and shows faces of women honored. The tiles also picture cowgirls in action.

The newest exhibit at the Cowgirl Museum honors Hawaiian cowgirls. That right! Hawaii—like Texas—has cowgirls! Hawaii has been raising cattle since 1793. In fact, the biggest ranch in the world is Parker Ranch, which is located in Hawaii.

Rose Freitas was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of fame last fall as a paniolo, or Hawaiian cowgirl. The 74-year-old Freitas began the All-Girls and Junior Boys and Girls Rodeo in Hawaii in 1974. She spent 40 years as a rancher and champion barrel racer.

"She's just a great promoter of the cowgirl spirit and western lifestyle," said museum curator Tricia Taylor Dixon. She added that Freitas' lifetime of achievements demonstrates the pioneering spirit of a cowgirl.

Meeting the new inductees is the most exciting part of working at the museum said the museum’s educational director, Alison Tanner.

Tanner said she is also excited about Cowgirl U., which holds workshops on such things like how to shape a palm leaf hat, working with gear and tack, roping and caring for horses, trail rides, and chuck-wagon cooking.

Some of the younger visitors to the museum were excited about the exhibits they visited.

“My favorite thing was the exhibit on Annie Oakley,” said Shady D., a sixth grader from Haltom City. “She proved you can be a girly girl and a cowgirl at the same time.” Annie Oakley was a sharp shooter who won lots of awards for her skills with a gun. She was also known for traveling from show to show with her lacy tablecloths and fancy teacups.

“There are so many things I love about the museum; it’s too hard to pick just one,” Tanner said.

CELEBRATE WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH

For more on the achievements and contributions of women in the United States, check out the Scholastic Kids Press Corps' Women's History Month Special Report.

About the Author

Janie Norez is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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