The Lady Rode Bucking Horses: The Story of Fannie Sperry Steele, Woman of the West Paperback – Jan 1 2005
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From the Back Cover
Born on a Montana homestead in 1887, Fannie knew what she wanted from the age of two, when she declared, "I gonna catch me a white-face horsie." During her long and colorful life, Fannie competed on bucking broncos; raced Thoroughbreds with the Montana Girls relay team; organized a Wild West Show with cowboy husband Bill Steele; performed with the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody; became the first Montana woman to be licensed as a wilderness outfitter; and was named a charter member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame and, later, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
The Lady Rode Bucking Horses is a creative retelling of Fannie's life based on family archives, newspaper articles, and personal interviews. This dramatic narrative presents a fascinating look at the pre-rodeo era and the extraordinary woman who became a world champion.
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Fannie's family had very little money and earned extra cash by selling wild horses, which they captured and trained. By the time she was fourteen, Fannie was riding bucking horses to entertain spectators at local gatherings. Soon she was hired to perform in various traveling Wild West shows, where she participated in bronc riding, relay races, and sharpshooting exhibitions. In 1912 she earned the title "Lady Bucking Horse Champion of the World."
She was such a good rider that men were afraid to compete against her. Apparently male chauvinism was one of the main obstacles faced by dozens of women who competed in these shows, which were the precursors of today's modern rodeos.
For many years Fannie continued to ride broncs, despite pressure to get married and start raising a family. Eventually she did marry a cowboy who operated a Wild West show (unfortunately, the marriage was somewhat tempestuous), and finally they started a dude ranch in western Montana. She lived there until shortly before her death in 1983.
The book is written in such a smooth, interesting way, it's almost like reading a novel. The writer interviewed Fannie repeatedly and had access to her collection of letters, newspaper clippings, etc., which enabled the author to add a multitude of personal details that bring the story alive. The book includes about a dozen photographs: the primitive homestead where Fannie spent her childhood; Fannie on a bronc at the Calgary Stampede, her long dress flapping and her long braids flying out behind; and Fannie in her seventies, confidently riding one of her prized Paint horses.
Surely almost anyone (especially teenage girls) would be fascinated by this tale of a young woman who knew what she wanted to do with her life, and made it happen, in spite of all the people who kept telling her that it was not possible and not wise. This is one of the most inspiring stories I've read in a long time.
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