Before name-brand products like Tide and floor wax painted the ideal picture of the happy housewife of the early 1900’s, women saddled their horses or loaded their guns and left their mark in Western history. From Belle Starr ‘Queen of the Bandits’ to renegades and loyal lovers, these lovely ladies of the West embraced the wild side whole heartedly. Stay at home, feed the kids and tend to household chores? I think not!
To Western history, Belle Starr is synonymous with women outlaws. She always carried two guns, was certainly rough around the edges and definitely had her share of bad company. However horse theft and harbouring other fellow outlaws hardly seems to fit the job description as Queen of the Bandits. To each their own!
THE #1 WOMEN IN THE WEST
Notoriety comes with a price and these ladies show us that coming first isn’t always something to brag about.
Leading a life of poverty, Pearl Hart robbed a stagecoach, becoming the first woman to do so. She also got caught, which meant she became the first female prisoner. Desperate situations call for desperate measures.
Cattle Kate was the first woman to be hung in the state of Wyoming. Unfortunately the only crime she ever committed was not fulfilling the ideal image of feminine Victorian grace.
The story of Cattle Annie & Little Britches shows us that the influence of the opposite sex isn’t something new. Meeting members of an outlaw gang only fuelled and ignited a love for the outlaw lifestyle. Passion for crime or a crime of passion?
THE WOMEN OF THE WILD BUNCH
Although these ladies were affiliated with one of the West’s most notorious outlaw gang, the Wild Bunch, they weren’t quite what you would call femme fatales, seducing their lovers into bank and train robberies. On the contrary, the women of the Wild Bunch gang were themselves seduced into the life of the outlaw. Some, like Etta Place, would stand happily beside their man and others, Laura Bullion and Annie Rogers would lend a helping hand. Guilty by association or selling your soul to the devil?
THE WOMEN OF TRUE INDEPENDANCE
Whether it’s Calamity Jane wearing men’s clothing while chewing tobacco or smoking cigars and swearing profusely or Annie Oakley knocking off the ashes of a cigarette with her sharpshooting skills and becoming a philanthropist for women’s rights, genuine independence came in various forms in the Old West. Refusing to conform to what would soon become the stars of Tide and Bounce TV commercials, these gals found their identity as they rode into the sunset.
In the Photo
Calamity Jane at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
PHOTO COURTESY SD STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY