The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is the only museum in the world dedicated to honoring and celebrating women, past and present, whose lives exemplify the courage, resilience, and independence that helped shape the American West, and fosters an appreciation of the ideals and spirit of self-reliance they inspire. It is the legacy of legends.
The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to preserve the history and highlight the impact of Western women living roughly from the mid-1800s to the present: the artists and writers, champions and competitive performers, entertainers, ranchers (stewards of land and livestock), trailblazers and pioneers. Today, there are over 200 extraordinary women who have been inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame since 1975.
About the 2011 Inductees
Sarah “Sally” Buxkemper
Sarah “Sally” Buxkemper’s passion for agriculture is evident through her work in refining cattle pedigrees. Working in a male-dominated field, Buxkemper’s career has been anything but mediocre. She aided in the development of a new breed of cattle, the Simbrah, combining Simmental with Brahman, which is resistant to the ailments of its ancestors. She was one of the few women (preceded by Honoree Minnie Lou Bradley) to graduate with an Animal Husbandry degree from Oklahoma State University, and was the first woman to be trained by the American Breeders Service to administer artificial insemination. Buxkemper lives in Ballinger, Texas where she maintains the RX Ranch, managing cattle and continuing her life-long goal to improve her herd and sell product world-wide.
In the spirited world of reined cow horses, Sandy Collier is a respected competitor. Her career and love of horses began on the East Coast as an English rider; this evolved into her current passion and career. Collier is the first and only woman to win the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) World Champion Snaffle Bit Futurity. A strong athlete, she won the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Jr. Cow Horse World Championship, the NRCHA Hackamore Classic Champion, and received the Western Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Monty Roberts of the Join-Up organization. Collier is an international clinician, co-author of the book, Reining Essentials, and has published several articles and DVDs on horse training.
Mary Lou LeCompte, Ph.D.
Mary Lou LeCompte, Ph.D., is recognized as the leading scholar on rodeo cowgirls. She wrote the book, Cowgirls of the Rodeo: Pioneer Professional Athletes, now in its second printing, in which more than 600 interviews were conducted with female rodeo competitors. Additionally, LeCompte has published several articles, contributed to books, and has been awarded many research grants for her efforts. She helped edit and contributed to The Handbook of Texas to ensure that the cowgirls and the sport of rodeo were appropriately recognized. After composing her foundational book, she donated her archive of research material to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. This historian taught at the University of Texas at Austin for 36 years and has dedicated her career to preserving and recovering cowgirl history.
Anna Mebus Martin
Anna Martin was the first female bank founder and president in the United States. An immigrant from Germany at 15, and widowed at 36, Martin owned a town store, and opened the first bank in Mason County, TX while operating a 60,000 acre cattle ranch. In the initial two years of the store’s operation, she was the first provider of barbed wire in the region, which changed the face of the cattle industry, and built a customer base encompassing over a dozen nearby towns. Purchases could be made on credit and nearly anything was accepted as payment. Martin began to receive a commission by selling livestock for ranchers and they entrusted her with their earnings. After gaining the confidence of the community and understanding the fundamentals of banking through her work experience, Martin and her sons founded Commercial Bank in Mason, Texas in 1901. Martin’s business foresight and acumen makes her an entrepreneurial legend, paralleled only by her notable ranching efforts.
Golden Era Cowgirls
In 1917, Marie Gibson entered her first rodeo competition at the Great Northern Montana Stampede; there she met her future husband, Tom Gibson, a Canadian bronc rider. Marie competed in rodeos from 1917 to 1933, participating all over Canada and in every major rodeo in the United States. In 1924, she won first place in Ladies Bronc Riding at Cheyenne Frontier Days. She continued to win or place in rodeos throughout her career. In 1927 she won her first World Championship in Ladies Bronc Riding at Madison Square Garden and won her second World Championship in 1931.
In 1914, at age 16, Fox Hastings ran away from home in California and began her career bronc and trick riding for the Irwin Brother’s Wild West Show. By 1924, she was known as the first female bulldogger with her first competition at the Fort Worth Rodeo. A multi-talented arena cowgirl, Hastings trick rode, bulldogged, and rode saddle bronc. In addition to the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West and the Irwin Brothers Wild West shows, she bulldogged in more than a dozen other rodeos. She was a courageous competitor. At the Kansas City Roundup, after a short run, she and her horse became entangled after a fall. Her horse fell on her twice after trying to regain its stability. After being carried away, she remarkably got back on a different horse and completed her ride to near perfection.
Mary Emma Manning Lillie “May Lillie”
Mary Emma Manning was considered to possess an untamed will, and married the famous Wild West showman and performer, Pawnee Bill, in 1886 who was nine years her senior. For her wedding gift she received a pony and a Marlin .22 target rifle. In 1888, they launched Pawnee Bill’s Historic Wild West show which later became the Pawnee Bill’s Historical Wild West Indian Museum and Encampment Show. May Lillie starred as a sharpshooter and expert “lady rider.” This Wild West show business, which she co-owned with her husband, at its peak employed 645 people, 400 horses and steers, a herd of twenty buffalo, elephants, and carriages. Lillie managed the ranch that held the buffalo. Under her direction the ranch thrived and she worked hard to promote the conservation of buffalo in the United States.
Pauline Nesbitt, born Jane Slovensky in 1907, was raised on a Wisconsin farm where she first fell in love with horses. She began her rodeo career at age 17 as a bronc rider, but after seeing Tad Lucas perform in San Antonio, she made the switch and added trick rider to her list of abilities. Pauline had a successful career; she was a regular working for Gene Autry at Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden, and competed at Cheyenne, Fort Worth, Kerrville, Tulsa, and Denver. In 1938 Nesbitt won World Champion Trick and Fancy Rider. Nesbitt made all of her own costumes and took up modeling. She, along with Tad Lucas, Polly Mills, and Iva Del Draksler modeled in western clothing for the 1941 Sears and Roebuck catalog. Pauline bought a small ranch where she lived, ran cattle, and continued ranching until the 1980’s.
About the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors and celebrates women, past and present, whose lives exemplify the courage, resilience, and independence that helped shape the American West, and fosters an appreciation of the ideals and spirit of self-reliance they inspire. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., admission is $10 for adults ages 13 and up and $8 for children ages 3 to 12 and senior citizens. Group rates and docent tours are available. For more information please call (817) 336-4475 or (800) 476-FAME, or visit www.cowgirl.net.