Texas History 101

Outstanding Texas cowgirls have been around for a long time—blazing the way for future generations.

June 2002By Comments

p>It seems only fitting, after its beginnings in the basement of the Deaf Smith County Library in Hereford, that the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame would have among its inductees so many who hail from Texas. Some of these outstanding women have been honored for their extensive histories on the rodeo circuit, some for their impeccable agricultural business sense, and some for embodying the true meaning of Western living. While their contributions are vast and varied, all of the following National Cowgirl Hall of Fame honorees learned how to be trailblazing cowgirls and upstanding Western women right here in Texas.

Jeanette “Jackie” Katherine Worthington (inducted1975). Standing at only four feet eight inches, Jackie Worthington never let her small stature stand in the way of her big ambitions. She won the Girl’s Rodeo Association (GRA) title of World Champion All-Around Cowgirl six times during her career, and she then went on to become the director and president of the GRA (now the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association). In addition to her all-around titles, Worthington also took home seventeen other championship titles, including six wins as the World Champion Cutting Horse Rider.

Jewel Frost Duncan (inducted 1976). In the thirties Jewel Duncan was a calf roper when roping contests for women were not sanctioned rodeo events. But her love of roping superceded these limitations, and Duncan went on to become the first woman to calf rope in the West of the Pecos Rodeo.

Tad Lucas (inducted 1978). Tad Lucas, who began her career in rodeo at the tender age of fourteen, took the sport by storm, competing at Madison Square Garden and winning championship and all-around titles a record number eight years in a row (she was a full-time cowgirl from 1922—1942). Seemingly unstoppable, Lucas dazzled judges as a steer and bronc rider, a trick rider, and a relay racer, and she was awarded more titles and trophies in those disciplines than any other cowgirl of her generation.

Dora Jane Rhoads Waldrop (inducted 1979). Dora Waldrop won hundreds of trophies and ribbons in pole bending and barrel racing during her competitive peak. But even out of the saddle, her focus was always on her love of equestrian sport. While recovering from an injury, Waldrop turned to writing and published a number of articles about horsemanship. Waldrop was eventually barred from competition at the age of 77 despite the fact that she had walked away with the All-Around High Point Plaque from the Texas Quarter Horse Association the year before.

Goldia Bays “Fields” Malone (inducted 1981). During her career as a trick rider with the Malone Wild West Show, Goldia Malone (performing under the name Goldia Fields), became the only woman ever to ride Funeral Wagon, the legendary bull whose name says it all.

Elba Reine Skepper Hafley Shelton (inducted 1983). Elba Shelton preferred to ride her horses “slick” (without the traditional and inhibitive “hobbled” stirrups women riders used). She credited her great success to this fact as she went on to win several titles in relay racing, trick riding, and roping, regularly beating out her male competitors along the way.

Mary Ann “Molly” Dyer Goodnight (inducted 1991). The National Cowgirl Hall of Fame named Goodnight a Western Heritage Honoree for her unyielding humanitarian efforts in the Palo Duro Canyon area in the 1800’s. As the first white woman to live in the region, she dedicated her time to improving the quality of life for all residents of West Texas by creating, among many other things, a wildlife haven to save the American Buffalo from extinction.

Cynthia Ann Parker (inducted 1998). When Cynthia Parker was nine-years-old, Comanche Indians attacked the fort she lived in. Parker, one of a handful of settlers captured that day, was adopted by her captors, and after living with them for many years, she married Chief Peta Nacona and gave birth to the legendary Comanche chief Quanah Parker. Twenty-four years after her initial capture, Parker was recaptured, but she was never able to readjust to white culture. The Cowgirl Hall of Fame honored Parker for her steadfast dedication to preserving her adopted family’s Native culture and her refusal to abandon it after she was retaken by white settlers in her adulthood.

Mollie Taylor Stevenson, Sr., and Mollie Taylor Stevenson, Jr. (inducted 2001). Mollie Taylor Stevenson, Sr., and Mollie Taylor Stevenson, Jr., who live on the family-owned Taylor-Stevenson Ranch, one of the oldest black-owned ranches in the United States, have dedicated their lives to their land and their family legacy. Mollie Senior fought tirelessly after her husband’s death, in 1929, to preserve the land and oil rights on her property. During segregation, she opened her ranch to African American children in the area to provide them with an education in agricultural living, a sense of community, and a place to play. Mollie Junior has honored her family name by founding the American Cowboy Museum in 1987. The museum’s goal is to honor African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and women who have contributed significantly to Western culture but who have gone unnoticed by more traditional cultural entities. Still in operation today, the 150-year-old Taylor-Stevenson Ranch is presided over by Mollie Senior, who lives with five of her six children on the land they have all worked so diligently to preserve.

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