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Riding pretty: Rodeo royalty in the American *West, 1910--1956

Renee M Laegreid, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Originally, the term “rodeo queen” referred to the small group of professional cowgirl athletes who competed at various rodeos throughout the West during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1910, when the town of Pendleton, Oregon, held its first large-scale rodeo, the Pendleton Round-Up, it introduced a new kind of rodeo queen—not a traveling cowgirl performer, but a young middle-class woman from its own town. ^ This dissertation examines the history, evolution, and significance of the community-sponsored rodeo queen, from the introduction of this new phenomenon at the 1910 Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon, to the advent of Miss Rodeo America in 1956. The model for community-sponsored rodeo queens that originated in Pendleton gradually spread to other rodeos throughout the West, providing young women with the opportunity to participate both in rodeo and in their communities. This dissertation argues that women selected to serve as queens embodied the ideals and values of their communities, and the queens and their communities' values proved to be complex and dynamic. As the phenomenon of rodeo queen spread throughout the West, the criteria for each town's rodeo queen was determined according to local norms and standards. Through their choice of queen, each community had the ability to emphasize its own unique character. ^ The Pendleton Round-Up serves as the case study for the dissertation. By focusing on this town's celebration it is possible to explore this study's main theme—connection of queens to community—with the sub-themes of national queen fascination, boosterism, the evolution of rodeo as a spectator sport, and the changing concepts of gender relations in the American West. ^ From 1910–1956, the community-sponsored rodeo queen's role expanded, both in terms of her responsibilities and in terms of the community she represented—local, regional, and national. While each community adapted the rodeo queen phenomenon to suit the characteristics of their own celebration, the main characteristics of the role remained—a symbol of their rodeo, and metaphor for western women. ^

Subject Area

History, United States|Women's Studies

Recommended Citation

Laegreid, Renee M, "Riding pretty: Rodeo royalty in the American *West, 1910--1956" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3055280.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3055280

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