Monday, January 10, 2022

Kitty Wilkins – Horse Trader Extraordinaire


By Suzanne Norquist

Imagine a striking, blond-haired, blue-eyed woman running a major business enterprise. She dresses at the height of fashion and commands all aspects of her organization. The newspapers love her and call her a queen, even describing her pearly teeth and full, red lips. She’s well educated and plays her own grand piano.

Now imagine that woman in the late 1800s. Horses are her business. Katherine (Kitty) Wilkins was known as the Horse Queen of Idaho or the Queen of Diamonds. Her ranch used a diamond brand. She wore tailor-made Parisian clothing and rode side-saddle when away from the ranch.

Her family moved out West a few years before her birth in 1857. She grew up in various mining towns and camps as her father started several businesses, including mining, a grocery store, and a hotel. Despite setbacks, he earned enough to provide her with a good education at the Sacred Heart Academy in Ogden, Utah and Notre Dame Convent school in San Jose, California.

She was a gifted rider, and her brothers taught her the necessary skills of shooting pistols and rifles. Education and life experience provided her with the best of both worlds.

By the time she was twenty, her father had started ranching both cattle and horses in Idaho. She learned the business from him. He took her on horse-selling trips east. Soon, she’d developed her own marketing flair. She recognized good horseflesh and took pride in her stock, claiming she would never ship a blemished animal. Eventually, she and her brothers took over the ranch with them managing the cattle and her the horses.

She liked to tell the story of how she started buying horses as a young child. A family friend had given her two twenty-dollar gold pieces as a gift, and her father spent them on a horse for her.

Regardless of her beginning, she became the undisputed queen of the business. On the Diamond Range, all the hands, no matter how rough their edges, respected her. Anyone who didn’t was removed.

She bought stallions from around the world to develop her stock. No native Oregon or Spanish horses for her. Her vast herd required forty men for fall roundup.

Wilkins horses were in demand all over the United States. Her ranch provided most of the horses used by the US in World War I.

Kitty wasn’t particularly interested in women’s rights, but people held her up as an example of what women could do. She also didn’t care for bicycles, not because they were unladylike, but because they competed against horses.

After World War I, when automobiles and machinery replaced horses, Kitty retired to Glenns Ferry, Idaho. She died of a heart attack in 1936 at age seventy-nine.

Her ability to command respect is what I most admire. People let her do the work she loved. And she used the varied aspects of her life experience and education to create an empire. What a fine example for women today.


”Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection

Four historical romances celebrating the arts of sewing and quilting.

Mending Sarah’s Heart by Suzanne Norquist

Rockledge, Colorado, 1884

Sarah seeks a quiet life as a seamstress. She doesn’t need anyone, especially her dead husband’s partner. If only the Emporium of Fashion would stop stealing her customers, and the local hoodlums would leave her sons alone. When she rejects her husband’s share of the mine, his partner Jack seeks to serve her through other means. But will his efforts only push her further away?

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Suzanne Norquist is the author of two novellas, “A Song for Rose” in A Bouquet of Brides Collection and “Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection. Everything fascinates her. She has worked as a chemist, professor, financial analyst, and even earned a doctorate in economics. Research feeds her curiosity, and she shares the adventure with her readers. She lives in New Mexico with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.

She authors a blog entitled, Ponderings of a BBQ Ph.D.



  1. Thanks for posting about this legendary woman.

  2. Glad to do it. I love researching about strong women in history.

  3. Great post! Like you I love researching about strong women in history, and I had not heard of this lady.

  4. Excellent post. I really enjoy reading and also appreciate your work. This concept is a good way to enhance knowledge. Keep sharing this kind of articles, Thank you. Equine Assisted Learning