I’ve been thinking about our upcoming change in government and this weekend’s Women’s March on Washington and cities across the country with thousands gathering to shine a light on women’s rights/human rights. Growing up I don’t recall learning about the suffragist movement, and I was a tad too young to remember the ERA and NOW marches of the 70s. But these past few years, as I have been reading about and learning about so many sporty girls not on my radar, I’m continually amazed to learn about trailblazers who have paved the way for girls and women to have the opportunities available today; some of these women are well-known and others deserve more recognition.
A big lasso of thanks goes to Heather Lang, author of the picture book THE ORIGINAL COWGIRL about a trailblazing cowgirl -- and no, it was not Annie Oakley. This fearless young Oklahoman, Lucille Mulhall, has the title of our country’s first cowgirl. She defied traditional activities like cooking and sewing, opting instead to train horses and herd cattle. It turns out this teenager had natural talent and drive for roping cattle. Fortunately, her father Colonel Mulhall recognized that quality and upon her return from boarding school, presented her with a sixteen hand chestnut horse named Governor. She also performed roping tricks for Teddy Roosevelt with the Congress of Rough Riders and Ropers.
Now here’s a fascinating story this is covered in this book and also the Oklahoma Historical Society, Teddy Roosevelt met her and “legend has it he told her if she could rope a wolf, he would invite her to his inaugural parade. She came back three hours later dragging a dead wolf behind her.”
And I found this blog reference by noted cowboy author Jim Olson: “Legend has it that during the visit, Roosevelt went riding with Lucille and they spotted a grey wolf. This whetted Roosevelt’s appetite for a hunt. The wolf eluded them that day but Roosevelt told Lucille if she could catch the wolf, he would invite her to his inaugural parade. Some claim she later roped the wolf, then killed it, others say she shot it at five-hundred yards. But by all accounts, she sent the pelt to Roosevelt who displayed it in the White House after he and McKinley won the election. Lucille and family attended the inauguration, and Roosevelt reportedly gave her a saddle and an 1873 Winchester.”
Lucille went on to travel the country with a wild west show, Mulhall’s Congress of Rough Riders and Ropers, performing tricks and showcasing her shooting prowess. Here's one of my favorite lines from Lang’s book: “I felt sorry for the girls who have to attend so many teas and be indoors so much.” My sentiments, too!
Societal change can take decades and certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s important to give all girls, like Lucille, opportunities to pursue their dreams and develop their talents. I know many sporty girls and women will be marching this weekend to honor and protect our rights, our safety, our health, and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.