Bucking Horse Suffragettes

March 30, 2010

Shirley Morris

As guest curator for a recently opened exhibit, “Tall in the Saddle: the Pendleton Round-Up at 100,” I worked with dozens of people across the Northwest. Sometimes the project intersected with the creative work of others. Among them was fine artist Shirley Morris of Bend, Oregon, who’s making a documentary that I’m eager to see. It’s about the cowgirls who starred in rodeos early in the last century. Not only did Shirley tailor an excerpt of her film for the exhibit, she also helped lead me to artifacts — personal items that belonged to one of the most famous cowgirls, Bertha Blancett.

The cowgirls, America’s first professional female athletes, performed around the world to huge audiences. They were tough and often glamorous. These “bucking horse suffragettes” represented new freedoms that women claimed for themselves even before winning the right to vote in 1920. Shirley’s film, Oh, You Cowgirl!, will illuminate the lives of women who in her words “left a legacy so steeped in American lore, you wonder, ‘Could it be true?’ ”

I’ll be among the first to buy the DVD. Here’s the trailer:

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