Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Winter 2008


Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 1, Winter 2008, pp. 77-78.


Copyright 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


It's been almost twenty years since Patricia Limerick debunked myths of the Old West and forced us to look at the role of women, Native Americans, and minorities in the American West. But if the new history brought women to prominence, it was as stoic homemakers in difficult, almost impossible circumstances. We see them walking patiently beside wagon trains, collecting buffalo chips for fuel, hoeing rock-hard ground for a vegetable garden, but never on cattle drives, never on horseback. Men-Anglo men-drove those cattle north. This book demonstrates that many women in the Great Plains, specifically Texas, did indeed work and drive cattle. They weren't all gentle tamers.

In her introduction, Joyce Roach surveys the riding habits of Hispanic, Native American, and Anglo women, emphasizing that women were not just homemakers. They rode, instead of walking-and the view of life on horseback was very different from that on the ground.

Drawing on letters, diaries, and journals, the contributors provide detailed pictures of sixteen women who worked cattle and of the way their lives really were-sometimes joyous, sometimes unhappy. They are a diverse group-some born to the life, others married into it, some successes and some failures. Some lived the cattle life daily; others moved on, either because of success or failure.