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The Perfect Blend of Grit and Grace: An examination of cowgirls and their gender roles at the turn of the century

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  1. Introduction
  2. The legend of the cowgirl
  3. Annie: A show woman in show ring
  4. Breaking the proper Victorian image
  5. The first all-American cowgirl icon
  6. Lucille's love for her lariat to give her attention to suitors
  7. Lucille: Looked down upon because of her attire
  8. Conclusion
  9. Works cited

Every little girl at one time or another played cowgirl. Being a cowgirl is always much more fun than being a little lady, which is what all parents want of their daughters. Little ladies that wear white gloves to church, say their ?please? and ?thank you's,? and make sure their dresses are pressed. As much as every little girl wants to be a cowgirl, there were two ladies in the Wild West that did, and became key figures in the Wild West, even though they were women. Miss Lucille Mulhall and Phoebe Ann Moses Butler, known better as Annie Oakley, did more than just turn heads ? they were the beginnings of cowgirls as we know it. Some even say that the word ?cowgirl? was invented just to define these two rompin', stompin' ladies. In a time of Victorian ladies though, these women were not truly accepted as they dared to be athletes, wore pants, and challenged men. This forced the two women to hold a juxtaposition of two strong images: that of the ultra feminine ?prairie flower? and that of the hardened, tough woman who was closely associated with Western men.

[...] At the same time, Pawnee Bill Lillie, a man who had started up his own show inspired by the success of Cody's show, advertised ?beauteous, dashing, daring and laughing Western girls who could outride all the other women in the world? (24). Women never before had been just a visible minority in the industry of Wild West shows, but now cowgirls had won a place in the show business. With this new wave of revolution in the wild west shows, it was clear that women were going to be characters in these popular shows, doing something more than just being rescued. [...]

[...] Despite being a rule breaker in a time of proper Victorian image, she was still showered with affections from the public, the press, and royalty. She received awards from prestigious clubs such as the New York Riding Club that recognized her trick riding skill. Even the Queen of England approved of her and made special arrangements to compliment Annie on her showmanship. The way in which Annie had to present herself was just as tricky and complicated as her shooting stunts. [...]

[...] At the turn of the century, a new theory on women who had non-traditional lives, like the cowgirls (though the study mostly focused on prostitutes), and lead their life with masculine tendencies were assumed to be representative of a kind of primeval female whose sexuality was as virile as male libido (Seitler 2). The founding fathers of this theory were Italian social Darwinists, Cesare Lombroso (sometimes referred to as "the father of criminology") and Giulgielmo Ferrero. Lombroso went on to publish works that supported his theory by demonstrating that a woman's virility corresponded with a more masculine appearance, such as larger frames, huskier voices, and muscular strength. [...]

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