Black cowgirls have been active in the rodeo but they’ve gone unnoticed due to racism. Their contributions have been ignored but some people have kept this part of history alive. These women of the Wild West persevered in tough circumstances to get to where they were. In this article, we list the black cowgirls in history who broke the color and gender barrier in rodeo.
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Cheryl White is at the center of one of the most significant events in black cowgirls’ history. At the age of 17, she was the first African American to receive a jockey license. White rode for her father, which is how her career began.
Her first career win came in 1971 at Waterford Park. White had 226 wins in thoroughbred racing and 750 in all career races. In 2011, White was Appaloosa Hall of Fame in 2011.
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Elizabeth Carpenter was born in Virginia into slavery. After the Civil War, Carpenter moved to Kentucky, where she developed an interest in horses. She learned how to care for them and the business of the sport. During her time, having women in the sport was unheard of.
Nonetheless, she worked to become a stable owner and was tough, demanding money from bettors. Carpenter went on to become the only black stable owner in Oklahoma.
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Known as Auntie Rittie, she was born in Mississippi but later moved to Texas after she was bought to work on a ranch. She cleaned and washed in the ranch before she built her reputation as a cowgirl. Henrietta Williams was so good with the cattle and was praised for being ‘tough as any man.’
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Better known as stagecoach Mary, she’s one of the black cowgirls in history who left an indelible mark. She was born in Tennessee and enslaved but got her freedom after the Civil War.
She started working with the groundskeeper at Ursuline Convent of the Sacred Heart in Toledo, Ohio. Due to her prowess in handling horses, she worked as a mail carrier for the United States mail services.
However, she lost the job after an argument but got another to protect mail carriers from thieves.
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Sylvia is one of the most significant black cowgirls in history. She was the first black woman to receive a license to train horses. She began this in 1938 and the African American Heritage Society for Black Equestrians recognized her work.
The history of black cowgirls has been documented albeit briefly. These are some of the women we were able to find. They might not have received widespread acknowledgement but their legacy lives on.
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