All-Girl Rodeo

All-girl rodeos, which began in the early 1940s, evolved in response to the removal of professional cowgirl athletes from professional rodeo competition. Since women first began competing in the rodeo arena at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1903, there had never been a large number of professional women riders. Rodeo promoters advertised women riders, often calling them sweethearts or queens of the rodeo. Beginning in the early 1930s, however, cowgirl participation in rodeos as event contestants—cowgirl athletes—became increasingly restricted, and their roles as nonathlete promoters of rodeos was encouraged. Rather than hiring itinerant cowgirl athletes to promote their rodeos, local rodeo directors increasingly sought out young, unmarried local girls, some with rather questionable riding skills, to serve as rodeo queens.

During World War II some of ...

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