Sunday, November 1, 2015

Cowboy Girls & Their Hats

Cowboy Girls in back row
with Will Rogers
Ever heard of cowboy girls before? The first half of the 20th Century, they didn’t call themselves cowgirls. They insisted on the term cowboy girl. You can usually spot the era of a cowboy girl by the hat she wore. 

Cowboy girls participated in the famous Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show. In 1906 women’s hats were wide brimmed, just like the fancy ones from Paris. Split skirts were acceptable in the show and gals who had the nerve to wear pants were considered real daredevils. 

Cowboy girl hats got even bigger in the 1920s. By then they were active in
rodeos. Not just racing around barrels, but riding bucking stock as well. Fake cowboy girl models wore costumes. The pose, the bare forearms, the make-up, and especially the huge, floppy hats gave them away. Just like today, you could go into a photography studio and dress up in an old-time looking photo. Gals that never got bucked off in their lives could, for a few moments, pretend to be cowboy girls, like the gal in the poem below.

Multi-tasking cowboy girls during WWII or right after, would wear the hat, ride the saddle, and carry a babe in their arms. In some parts of the West, this phenomenon continued into the early 1950s. She and little Buster rode down to meet the mailman to see if hubby sent her a letter from Europe or the Pacific or even Korea.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s, cowboy girl hats were changing and by 1960 small hats worked well on barrel racers. Today cowboy girls wear the same hat as the cowboys. If she is a professional barrel racer like the legendary Charmayne James, she’ll wear a black, beaver-felt, Resistol hat. My husband
Barrel Racer Charmayne James
with her horse, Scamper
Stephen and I watched Charmayne win several national championships and have an autographed photo of her on the bunkhouse wall. 

The Cowboy Girl
Stephen Bly

She wants to be a cowboy girl,
and sit in the saddle tall
Wearin’ chaps and floppy wide-brimmed hat
when she gathers them cows in the fall.

She wants to perch by an open range fire
sippin’ coffee from a cup of tin
Swappin’ stories with the boys about the roundups they’ve seen
and all of the places where they’ve been.

She wants to bend over the coals ‘til the iron is red
and the burnt cowhide begins to smell
Settle them down on the bedground at night
and listen for the cookie’s bell.

Cowboy Girl Wanna-Be
She wants to stretch her blankets on level ground
right under the full moon’s stare
Then go someplace to find a hot shower
and slowly wash her hair.

She wants to settle down between clean white sheets
and maybe get a teddy bear hug
And dream of ridin’ the range far and wide
in a land without snake or bug.

Oh, she wants to be a cowboy girl
with a whoop and a ty-yii-yea!
But she’s hopin’ that her mascara don’t run
and she ain’t havin’ a bad hair day!



Janet Chester Bly
Janet Chester Bly has authored 32 nonfiction and fiction books, 20 she co-authored with Christy Award winning western author Stephen Bly. Stuart Brannon's Final Shot, Stephen’s last novel, was completed by Janet and their three sons--Russell, Michael, and Aaron--and was a Selah Award Finalist. Janet resides at 4200 ft. elev. on the Idaho Nez Perce Indian Reservation. 
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-- Stephen Bly


  1. I really enjoyed the poem about Cowgirls and the post on how the cowgirl's hat changed. sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com