National Cowgirl Hall of Fame celebrates 40 years |

National Cowgirl Hall of Fame celebrates 40 years

Rhonda Stearns
for Tri-State Livestock News
Georgie Sicking, Kaycee, Wyoming. All photos by Rhonda Hole Photography

Fort Worth, Texas, rocked to the rhythm of cowgirl boots last weekend as more than 50 National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Honorees converged for 40th Anniversary celebrations. Founded in 1975 by Margaret Formby of Hereford, Texas, the museum was moved to Fort Worth in 1992 and into its present home in 2002. A total of 224 Honorees have been inducted, 70 posthumously, and at present 150 are deceased and 74 living. Those women come from Norway, Canada and the United States and 63 were born in the 19th century.

Tri-State Livestock News country has a good representation among them, with Montana’s Alice Greenough Orr inducted in the first class and her sister Margie Greenough Henson and Fanny Sperry Steele, along with Coloradoan’s Karen Womack Vold and Mary Parks in the Class of 1978. Yours truly was inducted in 1977 and this year’s program announced, “Honoree Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns is our earliest inducted cowgirl on record still living.”

Cowgirl, rancher and sculptor Pamela Harr of Montana was inducted in 1981; Wyoming author Margaret “Peg” Coe and Montana cowgirl Gene Krieg Creed in 1982; Colorado jockey Anna Lee Aldred in 1983; pioneer and author Agnes Wright Spring from Wyoming in 1983; and all the Ingalls sisters and their mother with the class of 1984 – Caroline Quiner Ingalls (1839-1924), Mary Ingalls (1865-1928), Grace Ingalls Dow (1877-1924), Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968), Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) and Carrie Ingalls Swanzey (1870-1946). Nebraska’s legendary author Willa Cather was inducted in 1986; fellow writer and Nebraska pioneer Mari Sandoz in 1988; North Dakota rancher and stockwoman Marie Tyler in 1988; Women’s World Champion Trick Roper Joan Wells of Nebraska in 1989 – along with Georgie Sicking who now makes her home at Kaycee, Wyoming; Wyoming’s legendary Elsa Spear Byron and Nebraska’s Ruth Thompson of the famed White Horse Ranch and Montana bull and bronc rider Jonnie Jonckowski in 1991. Rancher, rodeo cowgirl and hatmaker Shiela Kirkpatrick from Montana was inducted in 1992, along with Mabel Strickland Woodward and Nellie Snyder Yost of Nebraska. Trick rider Dorothy Satterfield was from Arizona but living in Cheyenne, Wyoming when she was inducted in 1993; rancher and trick rider Mattie Goff Newcombe of South Dakota joined the ranks in 1994. Colorado barrel racer Marlene Eddleman McRae was inducted with the class of 1995, along with Montana rancher and famed photographer Barbara VanCleve. The class of 2000 included cowgirl/rodeo producer Bobbie Brooks Kramer of Montana; pioneer rancher and photographer Evelyn Cameron represented that state in 2001, and Arlene Kensinger of Wyoming was inducted in 2002. Montana’s own female rodeo pickup-man, horsewoman and rancher Ann Secrest Hanson (now ranching in North Dakota) rode in with the class of 2003 and legendary trick rider Connie Griffith proudly represented Nebraska in 2004. Wyoming suffragette Esther Hobart Morris was honored in 2006 and early rodeo star Prairie Rose Henderson in 2007; cowgirl Kay Whittaker Young was inducted from Oklahoma in 2009 but her roots are deep in Nebraska. Colorado’s amazing Dr. Temple Grandin became one of three honorees with doctorates the class of 2010; early rodeo performer Marie Gibson (1894-1833) represented Montana in 2011 and rancher/historian/movie costumer Cathy A. Smith brought South Dakota to the stage at her induction in 2013.

2015 Honorees inducted last weekend were former U.S. Marine and equestrian trailblazer Patricia E. Kelly of Connecticut; rancher/writer/photographer Jane Pattie of Texas; Canadian-born New Mexico artist Terri Kelly Moyers; and Florida rancher/corporate leader and first female president of the National Cattlemen’s Association Jo Ann Doke Smith of Florida.

“It’s a sisterhood that defies description…a wave we get to ride that encompasses the spirit of every honoree here today and those who’ve passed from our presence and even those yet to be named, and takes us beyond normal everyday existence and into the heart and soul of the West and the love of it we all share.” Rhonda Stearns, National Cowgirl Hall of Fame 40th anniversary speaker

Those four outstanding women shared the anniversary/induction stage with Margie McMullen, Audrey Franz, Hedy Carter and Cheryl McMullen of the high-end Western lifestyle brand Double D Ranch as they received the National Cowgirl Museum’s 2015 Mary Jane Coulter Award. Started in 1989 in a garage in Yoakum, Texas, Double D stands for the late Doug McMullen and his three daughters.

Several cowgirls from the Tri-State Livestock News region took part in the 40th Anniversary event: Cathy A. Smith, Kay Whittaker Young, Arlene Kensinger, Barbara VanCleve, Marlene Eddleman McRae, Shiela Kirkpatrick, Jonnie Jonckowski, Joan Wells, 94-year-young Georgie Sicking, Pamela Harr and myself.

Privileged to assist in opening the tribute to four decades of greatness, this writer told the overflow 900+ luncheon crowd, “An intangible spiritual connection has electrified me each time I’ve met an honoree – those named before me, and those since. It’s a sisterhood that defies description…a wave we get to ride that encompasses the spirit of every honoree here today and those who’ve passed from our presence and even those yet to be named, and takes us beyond normal everyday existence and into the heart and soul of the West and the love of it we all share. That spirit has gifted each of us in unique and personal ways, yet it beats in all our hearts and motivates all our minds with a common power and purpose, and the only thing it could be called is ‘cowgirl.’”

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