It’s Up To You: A warrior woman takes on the everyday challenges and trusts her own judgement. She values her independence and also builds a network of support.
In my exploration of images, I found a wide range of vintage photos of “cowgirls”. Many are women who became famous as part of a “Wild West Show”, such as Annie Oakley or Calamity Jane. Later on, a number of women became known and were photographed for their skills as rodeo performers. The fashion of these cowgirls was flashy and showy. In Hollywood, Westerns were a very popular genre starting in the silent film era. All of these images and women’s accomplishments are amazing and I love their flair as they overcame the barriers that women faced in those arenas. They have become part of the great romanticization of the West that lives in our minds.
The image of this young woman stood out to me for her comfortable style as though she is ready for just another day in the western landscape. Her look and stance show a sense of confidence that can grow out of facing daily challenges that require preparation and problem solving on the spot. As someone who migrated from the east coast to the West and having put down roots here, living in the west has shaped me in so many ways. Early on I was more nomadic, I moved often but stayed in the shadow of the Mountains; northern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northern British Columbia, and even a short time in the Yukon, before landing in Montana over 45 years ago. I try to imagine what it was like for women who travelled west from a very Victorian life in the east, with all its confinements and expectations. I know for me it was very liberating- not easy, but liberating. I had so many opportunities to challenge myself physically and mentally. I chose to live off grid to raise my children and I can relate to some of the day-to-day hardships of those who traveled west as well as the exhilaration of living close to the land.
To learn more about some extraordinary women of the west:
Not just a Housewife: The Changing Roles of Women in the West, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Rebels, Renegades, and Radicals: Ladies of the West, Pagan, A., New York Public Library
5 fearless 19th-centruy women of color who conquered the Wild West, Southern Styles & Steeds.