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Portrait of Jonnie Jonckowski by Lynda Lanker. Photo: National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

Fort Worth Exhibition Tells The Stories Of Women’s Role In The American West


by Gila Espinoza 22 Mar 2021 6:00 AM

Yes, March is formally designated National Women’s History Month, a time set aside to celebrate contributions made by women. But at The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, they like to point out that they celebrate women every week of the year.

Photo: National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth’s Cultural District is the only museum in the world dedicated to honoring women of the West, and from around the world, who have displayed extraordinary courage and pioneer spirit in their trailblazing efforts.

“Women past and present, whose lives exemplify the courage, resilience, and independence that helped shape the West,” said Dr. Diana Vela, associate executive director at the museum. “And women from all different backgrounds – ranchers, cowgirls, competitors, artists, and entertainers.”

“Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West.” Feb. 13-Summer, 2021. 1720 Gendy Street, Fort Worth. Details.

Last month, the exhibition “Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West” opened at the museum. The exhibition was donated by the Oregon-based artist Lynda Lanker.

Lanker spent 19 years traveling to 13 Western states to sketch, paint, interview and photograph iconic women of the West including seven women who are Cowgirl Hall of Fame honorees.

Portrait of Heidi Redd by Lynda Lanker, Photo: National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

Vela thinks this portrait of rancher Heidi Redd is representative of all of these women in the gallery. “Women who are continuing on with their work, just doing the things that they need to be done. And they’re completely unaware of how others view them and how others view their work.”

For the 50 plus portraits on view, Lanker used a variety of media to capture the spirit of the women and their stories.

I think that when people come into the museum, they really enjoy seeing these pictures and hearing these stories because it reminds them of our roots and where we came from and also provides a space to kind of honor those people who are continuing to do this work.”

Portrait of Jan Youren, Lynda Lanker. Photo: National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

“Determination is the one word that can sum up every one of these women. In their life choices, in their continued task of carrying on with the ranch, and carrying on with the responsibilities that sometimes are not only just the ranch but then also taking care of their families. I think determination would be a common thread among every one of these women and including our Hall of Fame honorees.”

Portrait of Jenna Johnson by Lynda Lanker. Photo: National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

“These works document a vanishing way of life and the museum is eager to share them so everyone can learn about these incredible women.”

For the safety of visitors and staff, the museum is still requiring face masks are encourage social distancing. You can follow The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Got a tip? Email Gila Espinoza at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter @espinoza_kera.

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