Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and How the West Was Won (And a Giveaway!) by HEBBY ROMAN

          When my husband and I went to the National Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought I’d find pictures and stories about working cowgirls, rodeo queens, and maybe some famous cowgirl actresses, like Dale Evans. What I didn’t expect was an extensive display of posters and memorabilia from Wild West shows, especially Buffalo Bill’s show. Luckily, we took our camera and got some great pics (those shown here).

Touring the exhibits, I learned many historians believe what we know as our western genre sprang from the late nineteenth century touring companies, calling themselves Wild West shows or rodeos. In particular, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show helped to shape both the substance of an American national identity and the way it was disseminated in our culture. Buffalo Bill brilliantly established the thesis that the true American identity was founded in the West. Thus, the entire western genre owes its continuing popularity to the basics set out in the Wild West Show. Thousands of books, movies, and television shows are the stirring “progeny” of these shows.

Buffalo Bill or William F. Cody was the real thing. Born in a log cabin in Iowa in 1846, Cody grew up in Kansas. Young Cody worked as an ox-team driver, as a messenger for the pony express, and on numerous wagon trains. He prospected for gold and went on trapping expeditions, becoming a good hunter. During the Civil War he served as an army scout and guide. The U.S. Army was Cody’s most important employer in the decade after the Civil War. He worked on short-term contracts as a civilian scout, guiding troops through unmapped terrain, hunting for meat, carrying messages, tracking Native Americans, and participating in military encounters.

After “putting on a show” for several well-heeled Eastern and European sportsmen wanting to hunt buffalo and big game, along with a stint in vaudeville, Cody came up with the idea for the Wild West show. Though based loosely on the traveling venue of circuses of the era, Cody strived for the ultimate “western” realism in his shows. With Nate Salsbury as the general manager, and the show’s publicist, John Burke, who employed innovative techniques such as celebrity endorsements, press kits, publicity stunts, billboards, and product licensing, Buffalo Bill’s show was the most successful Wild West show of its time.


Along with the most famous female entertainer of the era, sharpshooter Annie Oakley (a headliner in Buffalo Bill’s show), Wild West shows employed dozens of female athletes who could rope, trick ride, sharpshoot, wrestle steers, and ride broncs. Cowgirls carved an identity for themselves that allowed them to live in both the male and female spheres. While performing athletic feats, they adhered to those things that made them acceptable as females, such as an ability to cook, sew, and clean. In fact, most of the performers sewed parts of their own costumes, like special beading or western motifs. From these roots, historians believe our concept evolved of what a cowgirl is, just as the western genre was portrayed by the Wild West shows.

Since actresses and show business people of the time were deemed to have “susceptible” morals, most female Wild West show entertainers went to great lengths to portray themselves as “ladies.” This duality for the female performers is most easily observed in their dress and manner.

The challenging environment of being a female entertainer in a Wild West show captured my imagination, and the heroine for “Kurt” sprang to life. But Kurt, the hero, who was the baby in my story, “Zach,” had been born and reared in rural Texas. See how I bring together these two characters to fall in love in my new release from the Cupids & Cowboys series, Book 11, “Kurt.”


Please comment and enter a random drawing for a digital copy of “Kurt,” my new release, along with “Zach,” the previously-related book. If you already have both or either of these books, please feel free to pick any digital book(s) at my Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/Hebby-Roman/e/B001KI1L0O//a?tag=pettpist-20. In addition, the lucky winner will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card.

What do you think the hardest part would be for a cowgirl in a Wild West Show?

Hebby Roman is a New York traditionally published, small-press published, and Indie published #1 Amazon best-selling author of both historical and contemporary romances. Her book, BORDER HEAT, was a Los Angeles Times Book Festival selection. She has been a RONE Finalist four times and in three different categories.

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68 thoughts on “Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and How the West Was Won (And a Giveaway!) by HEBBY ROMAN”

  1. Others possibly viewed them as “unladylike” or oddities. However, that may have also been freeing. Maintaining a decent reputation as a lady would have been important and likely difficult. Living on the road would have been an adventure, but has its challenges. I think it depends on the person what would have been most challenging.

    • K.M., very thoughtful comment on your part. As you say, everyone is different, and what is challenging for one person isn’t for another. I agree with you that it would have been in relation to what kind of person the “lady” was. And, yes, too, in some sense it had to be freeing in a period of time when most people didn’t travel much.

  2. Moving around the country might be fun at first, but I think it would eventually be hard not to stay in a permanent home.

    • Hi, Janice, I love to travel, but I also love to return home after a trip to my familiar surroundings. I couldn’t agree with you more about the traveling.

    • Laura, it’s a great little museum with lots of wonderful exhibits, but I am partial to the Wild West show exhibit. I would strongly urge you to go and see it!

  3. Good morning Hebby- It’s so great to see you here.
    I was very lucky to visit The Bill Cody Museum on Cody Wyoming last August. One of the most impressive museums I have ever seen.
    I think the hardest part of being a woman I. A Wild West Show is having to show how talented women can be, against men who in this era, ruled the world.
    She would have to have a backbone of steel and a heart of fearlessness.
    Congrats on another new book. Love you dearly my sweet friend.

    • Hi, Tonya, I remember the awesome pics you had from the Bill Cody Museum, and I wish I could visit that museum as well.
      I have to agree with you that, the world being the way it was then, as a female performer, you had to maintain a very high standard to compete with the opposite sex.
      Thank you for your kind words!

  4. I think the hardest part would be being able to interact with other women and not be ostracized. There were so many rules attached to women in those days.

    • Dale, I have to agree with you on that one. There were a lot of rules in society with expectations of what constituted a “lady,” and as you point out, probably interacting with other ladies would be a challenge.

  5. What a great article! If you ever find yourself in Oakley, Kansas, be sure to stop at the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center. It was a fascinating Era for sure!

    • Denise, I’m sure the old double standard was alive and well back then. In researching Annie Oakley, I was taken with how hard she had to work to maintain her “stardom.” It was a tricky thing, competing against men.

  6. I think it would be hard for any women to be in a wild west show just because it now something that women were aloud to do back then. A lot of people would look down on her just because she was a women and in the show. Men would like it because she was better at it then they where. It would really be a hard life I would think.

    Congrats on your new books looking forward to reading it.

    • Thank you, Quilt Lady, for your comments and views. I think you’re right; it would be difficult all around. And I do hope you get to read my book!

  7. I LOVED reading this book and yes to keeping the Ladies reputation intact was quite a job for them!! Thanks!

  8. Good morning Hebby! I’m super excited to see you here at P&P!! All these ladies need to read your books, they’d love them! I went to this museum when I was young but now that I’m older I need to go back, I’m sure I’d appreciate it more now.

    I’m not sure what exactly would be the hardest part but among the hardest parts would be not fitting in with the rodeo men because they are in fact women, never to be compared to what the cowboys do at the rodeo. They also wouldn’t fit in with the woman of the time because they would be considered to be odd and unladylike. I’m sure a lot of their own family members shunned them for what they chose to do with their lives. Add to these two things the fact that they are in fact women I’d think from time to time they would miss having a home, their own bed, family and the pleasures of being in your own bed and surrounded by your own things. After choosing this profession I bet some of them didn’t even have a home to return to.

    Loved this & you dear lady! Congrats on your new book!!

    • Sejoc, I’m blushing at your complimentary words and so happy you like my books! I think you raise some excellent points about the difficulty of this kind of life for a woman in the nineteenth century. As a matter of fact, the part about relatives, was actually touched upon in one of the Annie Oakley biographies I read. Also, Annie got so accustomed to moving around with the shows that when she and Frank Butler, her husband, tried to retire and stay put, she had difficulty doing that.
      Thanks again!

  9. Good morning. I think fitting in would be hard. Men would challenge you and women would walk a cross the street from you so they didn’t have to be near you.

  10. Women with skills and are intrepid are always looked at with wonder but with great envy too. I cannot contemplate the difficulties that they would face under this scrutiny.

  11. If I was a cowgirl in a wild west show, I think the hardest part would be that I would be homesick the whole time! I would miss my family, and regret missing out on family milestones at home, like birthdays, funerals, births, and just everyday time with everyone. I doubt the men running the show would be very sympathetic– and I doubt they would give me time off to visit home!

    • Abigail, what a good point you make! It would definitely be tough to be away from your loved ones. In researching the Wild West shows, they would take off the winters, and that was really the only time the performers could go home and be with their relatives and loved ones.

  12. To be able to function within the arena where men are considered strong, brave and the only ones with considerable abilities. Perhaps intimidation and sticking to her guns too.

  13. Welcome, Hebby! We’re thrilled to have you back. Wild West Shows have always stirred my imagination and I can’t imagine the challenges the women faced. Annie Oakley was a very strong woman and reached for what she wanted. I think I read somewhere that her parents both died and left her to care for the younger children and she developed her skills by hunting for food. Wishing you much success, lady. 🙂

    • Linda, as always, your knowledge of western history is awesome! You’re correct her father died when she was young. Her mother did live for a few years more, but she learned her sharpshooting skills hunting for food for her family. She was definitely a scrapper and a very strong woman. It was what made her such a success, I think.
      Thanks so much for dropping by!

  14. oh what a wonderful post today. thanks for sharing your trip with us. this sounds wonderful how young Kurt has his own story now. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  15. A woman in the Wild West had a hard time being taken seriously and respected. Hebby, Thank you for this fabulous post!

  16. I love the photos in your post! I’d like to visit that museum someday. I think the hardest part would have been struggling to be seen as a respectable woman and accepted in society.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, Christy. It is an awesome place. Fort Worth is such a great place for all things western, too. Yes, women with the shows or circuses had a tough line to walk back then.

  17. I’ve been living in the Dallas/Fort Worth since the mid 1970’s. I’ve been to the Kimble, Amon Carter, Dallas Museum of Art, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, etc. But I have yet to make it to the National Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth. After reading your article today, I will rectify that mistake. Thank you for sharing your love of history and the wild west with us.

    • Hi, Rhill, and I’m glad I could share this experience with you, and I hope you’ll get to see the Museum soon! You’re very welcome. I so enjoy talking about history!

  18. Being unique, different and having the strength to pursue your ambition is tough but worse when the men are judging you. Having o one in your circle would be very hard.

  19. Anytime a woman becomes involved in something a little different and unusual they are scorned but with enough perseverance she can succeed.

  20. That’s so interesting! I would one of the harder aspects for the women would’ve been keeping their feminity while being around such a rugged atmosphere as those shows were, and dealing with the men that maybe didn’t think women should be in the show. Thank you for the chance to win!

    • Good afternoon, Megan, and thank you for your comment. I agree with you that it would be a very demanding atmosphere to work in, especially over a century ago. Oh, and you’re welcome!

  21. Oh, Hebby, I’ve been gone all day and am just now able to welcome you back to P&P and give another shoutout to you on the release of KURT! Loved your blog – you are so history savvy!

    I grew up in North Platte, NE, where Buffalo Bill lived on his ranch, a stately green and white home that I’ve visited several times. The grounds are meticulous, and I always love to imagine Buffalo Bill walking about, sitting on his porch, and entertaining in his beautiful home, which was quite the place for the times.

    Wishing you much success, my friend!

    • Pam, what a wonderful post! Thank you so much for all your support! From my research, I knew Buffalo Bill’s permanent address was in Nebraska, but so much of the “famous” part of his life, didn’t happen at his home, so I had to cut some parts out. But I’m so happy that you drew attention to where Buffalo Bill settled during his adult life and where his family was raised. I would love to see his home! What a rich experience for you!
      Thank you so much!

  22. I would think that it would be respect for their abilities as well as being treated as equals. They would work as long and hard (maybe harder) to hone their skills. Thank you for the opportunity.

  23. Probably trying to project and maintain her status as a lady of good morals. I would think some people would put them in the same category as actresses (who were often considered of low morals) and lose women. To be taken seriously as a talented professional was probably what most of them wanted. I would think they might keep their performing persona separate from their off show time and dress in an understated, feminine way.

  24. I think the hardest part would be being treated as an equal and not looked down upon being a woman.

  25. I would like to thank the “cowgirls” of Petticoats & Pistols for hosting me! I enjoyed getting to talk with everyone. And I’ll be announcing the winner of the Giveaway soon!

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