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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Museum, hall of fame honor cowgirls’ contributions

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame provides hands-on exhibits for young children, as this one where children can sit astride horses and pose for pictures in front of a horse barn and stall.  Photo by Gary Collins/The Collegian
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame provides hands-on exhibits for young children, as this one where children can sit astride horses and pose for pictures in front of a horse barn and stall. Photo by Gary Collins/The Collegian

By Sharon Murra-Kapon/south news editor

(Third in a five-part series on Fort Worth’s Western heritage.)

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame provides hands-on exhibits for young children, as this one where children can sit astride horses and pose for pictures in front of a horse barn and stall.  Photo by Gary Collins/The Collegian
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame provides hands-on exhibits for young children, as this one where children can sit astride horses and pose for pictures in front of a horse barn and stall. Photo by Gary Collins/The Collegian

Cowgirls have many faces, ages, styles and talents, despite the stereotypical female who lives on a farm, knows how to ride horses, takes care of cattle and wears jeans, boots and a hat.

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, honors women who carry the cowgirl spirit within them, even if they did not wear the attire.

The museum showcases women who are self-confident, courageous and unwilling to take no for an answer when fighting to succeed.

Many of these cowgirls did not excel in horse riding or cattle breeding; some did not live in the West. Yet today, their names are in the Hall of Fame.

Whether in the past or present time, these women are building America’s culture and leaving a legacy to follow.

Young and old, historic and modern, rodeo stars and artists, ranch women and mothers, these cowgirls’ stories are told through their images from a lined face of a pioneer woman to the intense gaze of artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

They are ordinary women that accomplished extraordinary things.

THE MUSEUM

A display with a campfire and an ornate wagon depict the chuck wagon used by cattlemen who drove their herds from their ranches to the stockyards in Fort Worth to sell to the local meat packing houses.  Photo by Gary Collins/The Collegian
A display with a campfire and an ornate wagon depict the chuck wagon used by cattlemen who drove their herds from their ranches to the stockyards in Fort Worth to sell to the local meat packing houses. Photo by Gary Collins/The Collegian

The Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame started in 1975 in the basement of the Deaf Smith County Library in Hereford. After 19 years, the museum moved to Fort Worth in a downtown shop as plans for the new building were put in place.

Four years later, the same construction team that created several of the state-of-the-art buildings in Fort Worth, including the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, broke the ground for what is now The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

The building resembles the nearby Will Rogers Memorial Center. In addition, it has a large painted mural, bas relief-sculptured panels and a series of hand-carved panels that portray the cowgirls’ story. Thematic messages such as “East Meets West” and “Saddle Your Own Horse” represent stories in the museum.

Western themes are found throughout, including native flowers, horse heads and a wild rose motif.

The museum’s interior is designed to provide a good circulation path for patrons. There are three gallery areas, a multi-purpose theater, hands-on children’s areas, research library, catering area and gift shop.

HALL OF FAME

The rotunda on the first floor houses the Hall of Fame. Upon entering the light-filled space, visitors are drawn into the cowgirl story through 12 large, glass-tiled murals depicting many slowly changing images that shift between cowgirl portraits and cowgirls at work.

The “Spirit Trail” is a soft, glowing ribbon of etched glass stars that feature medallions for the cowgirl honorees. On each of the ends and to the sides of the exhibit’s entrance are two large touch screens where the visitors can learn more about the lives of the honorees.

This is the only museum in the world dedicated to honoring women who have displayed extraordinary courage and pioneer spirit in their trail-blazing efforts.

2006 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES

Minnie Lou Bradley was the first woman to earn a degree in animal husbandry from Oklahoma State University. She was the only female member of the university’s Intercollegiate Livestock Judging Team and paved the way for young girls to enter into the arena of livestock breeding and management programs. Bradley also was the first female president of the American Angus Association and was recognized for her efforts to improve beef cattle. She has collaborated with the Ranch Management Program at Texas Christian University for the past 46 years, helping young men and women learn the ranching industry.

Rose Cambra Freitas represents the best of the Hawaiian cowgirl or paniolo culture through sharing knowledge of western lifestyle with people of all ages. Freitas was recognized among the Maui’s 100 most influential people in the past 100 years. Subsequently, she co-founded the Maui All Girls and Junior Boys and Girls Association, Hawaii’s only incorporated non-profit organization of its kind. She and her husband offer their private arena for horse shows and clinics in horsemanship.

Sharon Camarillo had her career highlight in 1995 when she was one of the few select women to coannounce the prestigious Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Camarillo is a talented barrel racer and horsemanship clinician. She competed four times in the National Finals Rodeo. In addition to her teaching horsemanship and barrel racing throughout the year, she also wrote The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing, an industry-leading book on barrel racing.

Bonnie McCarroll (1897- 1929) 
made rodeo history in 1922 when she won the cowgirl bronc-riding championship at Cheyenne Frontier Days and in the first Madison Square Garden Rodeo, the two most prestigious rodeos in the nation. McCarroll’s fans included royalty and political figures from all over the world. She was killed during the 1929 Pendleton Round-Up, an event that brought change in the structure of women’s rodeo forever.

Esther Hobart Morris (1814- 1902) became the United States first female justice of the peace in 1870. Her influence aided in the right for women to vote in Wyoming in 1869. Although she achieved her local goal of vote equality, it would not be fully realized in the rest of the United States for another 51 years. She is honored as a true pioneer and as woman’s suffrage leader in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

DISTINGUISHED PIONEEERS
Currently, 181 women have been honored in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. These include pioneers, artists, writers, humanitarians, entertainers, educators, businesswomen, ranchers and rodeo cowgirls.

The famous names include Sacajawea, principal guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition; painter Georgia O’Keeffe; potter Maria Martinez; writer Laura Ingalls Wilder; sharpshooter Annie Oakley; Enid Justin, the creator of the multi-million dollar Nocona Boot Company; Hollywood icon Dale Evans and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“ All these women set themselves apart from the crowd and distinguished themselves as true pioneers,” Patricia Riley, executive director of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, said.

Docent/volunteer guide Kay McGrann said what she most admires from the museum is that it gives recognition to those women with the “cowgirl spirit and not only saddlers, women who exemplified extraordinary spirits of determination and willingness to be all they can and more.”

More about the museum’s exhibits and hours of operation can be found on its official Web site: www.cowgirl.net.

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