Written with YJI Senior Correspondent, Mugdha Gurram
FORT WORTH, Texas, U.S.A. – Tough, independent and inspiring women are the rule at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
“The cowgirl – a true American original – comes from a long line of courageous women,” says the narrator of the short film, Spirit of the Cowgirl, which plays in a small theater right inside the museum entrance.
The film, much like the museum itself, impresses upon visitors that despite the popular connotation of a cowgirl – lasso in hand, riding a horse – a true cowgirl is about the spirit of determination. It’s a wonderful introduction and well worth the less than eight minutes.
Outside the theater is a grand rotunda, its dome ceiling filled with a giant spinning mobile of photo stills of legendary cowgirls – such as Annie Oakley – and short repeating videos – including Jessie from Toy Story.
The images remind girls that old style Westerns are not just about cowboys.
An exhibit of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, a popular form of entertainment, stars Oakley, a famous sharpshooter from the turn of the 20th century.
It displays advertisements for the show, as well as Oakley’s “first real gun,” used during her 1887 performance for England’s Queen Victoria. There’s also a more intimate side of the legend on display, through letters she wrote and the furniture and trunks she used.
But the museum is not only historical memorabilia behind polished glass.
Within each main exhibit are opportunities for kids and adults to interact with history in a fun way.
In one room, you can make a short video of yourself on the back of a horse – posing as a rodeo rider. While it’s not a mechanical animal, you can shift in the saddle to simulate movement, and download the results of your embarrassing performance later.
In another, using green screen technology, you can insert yourself into historic photos of Annie Oakley and others and print out copies – or send them off via text or email in a new twist on the Old West.
Holding true to the idea that a cowgirl’s identity comes from her spirit rather than her job, the Hall of Fame features cowgirls of every sort: pioneers, trailblazers, artists, writers, and more. Among the many women included in the Hall of Fame are artist Georgia O’Keefe and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
While the museum displays the varied lifestyles these women had, it also shows that they all shared the same dedication to achieving their goals.
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame preserves sides of history that are rarely talked about anywhere else.
While many historical stories portray women as dainty and weak, the cowgirls here were anything but fragile. Their willingness to break boundaries and stereotypes set them as important role models for girls today.