Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Born to be a cowgirl: A Spirited ride through the old West

Born to be a cowgirl: A Spirited ride through the old West

Candace Savage
For ages 8 to 12
Tricycle Press, 2004   ISBN: 978-1582460208

It was the mid 1800’s and the cities and towns in the East were beginning to get awfully crowded. For some the West offered new opportunities to live in a place full of wide open places where there was lots of land to rear cows and horses. Moving West was never easy for the journey was long and hard. And when you got to your destination you had a new life to build. Here, on the ranges, the rules were very different. Girls and young women had more freedom to do as they wished and many of them grew to love riding horses and working on the ranges with their fathers and brothers. They learned how to break and train horses, to round up cows, and to live on a frontier ranch.

These are the stories of some the “cowgirls” who loved horses and the outdoor life. There was Fannie Sperry who grew up on a ranch in Montana and there was Agnes Morley who raced her horses across ranch lands in New Mexico. These girls and others like them did not use the citified ladies side saddle. Instead they road astride their horses on a western saddle. They wore split skirts, breeches, or pants which gave them the freedom to do as they pleased. Often the cowgirls were ridiculed or condemned for their dress and their behavior but they didn’t care.

Of course it was very hard for a cowgirl to get work doing what she loved because such work was not considered to be suitable for the fair sex, and yet women found ways to get around this stricture. They worked on family ranches, on ranches that they had inherited, or on ranches that they bought for themselves. No matter how they did it, they worked hard and they loved what they did.

In this interesting book readers will find out that women as well as men took part in the rough and tumble life on horseback on western ranches. They will discover how these women snubbed convention and how they made lives for themselves in remote places, proving to all who cared to see, that women could be ranchers just as well as men. Wonderful annotated photographs from the 1800’s and 1900’s fill the book giving readers a sense of what these special girls and women were like. Some of the names will be familiar such as Calamity Jane and Sam Houston, and many will be the names of strangers. Whoever they were, the stories of these girls and women will inspire and uplift readers of all ages.