Fort Worth, Texas, is known for Longhorns and the cowboys that drove the vast herds north to market. It is also home to the only museum in the world that is dedicated to the often overlooked cowgirls that played an equal role in taming the American West – the “National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.”
The Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame was started in 1975, by the late Margaret Formby in the basement of a library in the Texas Panhandle town of Hereford. When the museum needed a larger venue, 35 cities in six states actually competed for it. The museum’s board ultimately chose Fort Worth, where the leading women of the town raised $21 million in private funds to build a new home for the collection.
The museum opened in Fort Worth in 2002, in a 33,000-square-foot art deco building on the Will Rogers Memorial Complex. The museum and its architect call the exterior style “cowgirl,” featuring wild-rose finials and bas-relief sculpture panels to a Richard Haas mural and hand-carved panels.
The museum celebrates the courage and determination of women — often “ordinary women” who distinguished themselves doing “extraordinary things that needed to get done” — including trailblazing cowgirls like champion rodeo rider Vera McGinnis and sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and artists such as painter Georgia O’Keeffe, writer Laura Ingalls Wilder, and country music star Patsy Cline. Other Hall of Fame inductees include Sacagawea, principal guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition, Enid Justin, who created the multi-million dollar Nocona Boot Company, and barrel racing champion Mary Burger.
“In our museum, we like to tell all stories about all cowgirls,” Madison Ward, Director of Public Engagement at the Museum, explains. “People may just think about the cowgirl that ranches or the cowgirl that rodeos, but we have everything from performers to artists to Sandra Day O’Connor.”
Other highlights at the Cowgirl Museum include the “Into the Arena” gallery, which tells the story of life on a horse, and Arena Style, which showcases the fashion statements rodeo cowgirls have made over the years. Guests to the gallery can also have themselves recorded taking a spin on a mechanical bucking bronco. Not to worry – it bucks slowly but the museum speeds up the video afterward and makes it look like the footage was taken at an old-time rodeo!
The museum also hosts traveling exhibits, two theaters, and an extensive research library with archives. Learn more at the Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame HERE.