Lena Nelson Dooley: Strong Women Behind the Cattle Barons

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We hear a lot about the Cattle Barons, the men who made their fortune raising the beef that people back East and west in California loved. Behind many of the men were strong women who helped forge the economy right along with them. I’ll introduce you to a few:

Aubony Stuart – Along with her husband Granville, they had an unlikely, but nearly-perfect marriage during the time when Indian-white hostility was at its peak. A full-blooded Shoshone, Aubony settled easily into her mixed marriage. She and Granville had nine children and later they adopted and raised two children of his dead brother James.

Eula Kendrick – She lived and dressed stylishly even on the frontier. A friend once commented that “her trim, erect figure sets off to perfection frocks which are always the last word in smartness and elegance.” But she wasn’t just a pretty face and fashion plate. She kept her husband’s books before she shared his retirement at the Sheridan, Wyoming, home they called Trail’s End.

Elizabeth Iliff – Sold Singer sewing machines when her husband John met her trudging along a country road. She was the perfect wife for a wild-west-christmas1cattleman, handling every crisis as it arose. When he died at 48, her first thought was to telegraph his ranch foreman to double the guard on the herds before rustlers could move in.
Nellie Wibaux – had a flair that matched the one of her husband Pierre. Even though their first home was a log cabin with a sod roof, for Thanksgiving they prepared turkey, plum pudding, and mince pie. She hovered over the stove in an evening gown. He drank champagne with a flour sack over his stiff shirt and swallow-tailed coat.

Agusta Kohrs – ran the domestic half of her husband Conrad’s domain in decisive Teutonic style. She started by firing the cook and taking over his duties. Later, with the staff trained to her satisfaction, she made tours to Europe and annual visits to New York’s Metropolitan Opera, which she attended the last time in 1942 (the year I was born) at the age of 93.

Mary Ann Goodnight – We know about the Goodnight cattle trail, but we don’t often hear about his wife. She was as tough and patient as her husband. She waited until age 31 to marry, when Charlie had established his Colorado spread. Later she helped him get through his financial crash. lake-tahoeEventually, she presided over their Palo Dura spread, where she was the only white woman for hundreds of miles around.

I’ve taken this information from the Time-Life The Old West series, The Cowboys. Photographs of these women show many of them to be quite lovely.

The old West was hard on many women, but it also proved to be an avenue to wealth and a better way of life, even though it took a lot of work.

Lena Nelson Dooley

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Releasing in September:

Wild West Christmas (with Kathleen Y’Barbo, Vickie McDonough, and Darlene Franklin)

Christmas Love at Lake Tahoe (with Jeanie Smith Cash, Jean Kincaid, and Jeri Odell)

I will give away a free copy of each book drawn from the list of today’s comments.  Click on the covers to purchase on Amazon

Guest Blogger
Updated: August 24, 2009 — 3:21 pm

27 Comments

  1. Hi Lena, thanks for the opportunity to meet these great women. I always feel like such a big spoiled baby when I learn about our foremothers.

    Lake Tahoe is one of my most favorite places. I look forward to your book!

    Thanks for visiting the Junction today!

  2. Lena, I enjoyed your look at these strong women who stood behind their rugged men. Their stories are amazing and inspirational.

    I saw the title Christmas Love at Lake Tahoe and immediately added the book to my Wish List. We live an hour from that gorgeous setting and visit often.

  3. Hi Lena, Welcome to Petticoats & Pistols. Thanks for the glimpses of the women behind the men. These ladies were tough, smart and hardworking. Plus they brought civility and beauty to a rough life. Really enjoyed the blog!

  4. It was interesting to learn about the woman who offered support and encouragement to these successful driven men. It sounds like they were some “tough” ladies! Very independent, intelligent and also driven!

  5. Thannks for coming to Petticoats & Pistols, Lena. I love this information. I can’t imagine the strength it took to survive in the rugged west.

    I’m such a wimp. 🙂

  6. How come I never learned about them in history classes?

  7. Very interesting. There’s alot you think about like this but don’t know anything about. I’ve never won anything but I’m leaving my comment here in hopes. Wild West Christmas and Christmas Love at Lake Tahoe both look very good.

  8. Lena, thanks for joining us in the Corral today. It seems obvious that there were strong women in our past – but we certainly don’t hear about them often enough. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I like learning about the women, because I come from a long line of strong-willed women. Thanks for dropping by.

  10. Love hearing about the women! (I never would have survived back then.) Looking forward to your books.

  11. Hey, Lena!
    You sure do get around. You’re one busy “mama”! If you’re not blogging, you’re doing public speaking and/or are highly involved in various organizations. When do you find time to write?
    Thanks for an interesting and informative blog. I always learn something new from you!

  12. Thanks Lena for giving us a look at the awesome women. Alot of people do not know about this, including myself, so it amazes me when I read something like this. Wonderful post

    Walk in peace and harmony,

    Melinda

  13. Hi Lena, thanks for stopping by the P&P and introducing us to these strong women. I didn’t realise that singer sewing machines had been out that many years. I knew they had been around a lot of years but not back then.

  14. Hi Lena,

    Welcome to P&P! We’re so glad to have you here and hope you’ll come back again sometime.

    What interesting women you came up with. It’s really true that behind every successful man is a strong woman. When a couple combines their strengths they can do most anything and accomplish every goal they set for themselves. I can only imagine how strong your heroines are. Your books look amazing. You have some great covers.

  15. Was very refreshing to read about the women of the west. We so often forget how much they contributed to our world. I don’t think that I would have survived!

  16. I agree with everyone else, thank you for introducing these women to us… so much is not widely known!

  17. That is really interesting information. Always enjoy reading about strong women.

  18. I’ve always heard of, and believed in, the old
    saying about looking behind a successful man for
    the strong woman upholding him! Thanks for the
    visit today!

    Pat Cochran

  19. Thanks, Lena !!!!! I so enjoy reading about the women in times gone by.

  20. Hi Lena! Thanks for giving those hard-working women of the old west credit for their achievements. It’s funny how all we ever hear about is what the men did.

    Deidre

  21. Welcome,I love those stories,an I love Christmas stories an your new book sounds so good,again thanks for the great post!

  22. I enjoyed hearing about these strong women who stood beside their men.

  23. Avatar

    I have that Time-Life series and it is very good. The women in history were often overlooked or ignored. It is good to see that some of their stories have been preserved for those of us who came after.
    The anthology format is a good one to sample stories and authors. I’ll be looking for them.
    Good luck with the releases.

  24. Thanks for being our guest in Wildflower Junction, Lena! Ya’ll come back now.

  25. Westerns, Christmas and Romance. How can you go wrong.

  26. Love this, Lena. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Thank you, everyone, for stopping by and reading my blog. Yes, there were singer sewing machines way back then. I did a lot of research about for Minnesota Brothers.

    Congratulations to Deidre and Vickie. Your books are on the way. I’ve just packaged them up.

    And I’d love to come back sometime.

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