The phrase “wild woman” conjures up all types of images. For the late 19th and early 20th century West, wild women included lady gamblers, show-time cowgirls, rebellious daughters, “soiled doves” and female outlaws. For the purposes of this blog, wild women are defined as individuals who deviated from their culture’s and their era’s expectations of a “proper” woman. Their lives encompassed unusual escapades and often involved quests for freedom, notoriety or wealth. Due to their exploits, many of them entered the lexicon of western myth and legend. A few are less well-known.
As with “wild” western men, their lives have been romanticized and idealized until truth lies hidden behind myth. As outrageous as they might have been, a closer look often reveals less glamour and more devotion to feminine ideals that one might expect.
A number of them left home and challenged their upbringing. Their reasons were diverse. Perhaps, like many men, they sought wealth or a freer way of life. Many not only left home, but became alien and curious to the very parents who raised them.
Today, Americans are still fascinated with wild women, all of whom possessed one or more engaging characteristics: Some were insubordinate, refusing to meet gender expectation. Others were disobedient, going against family teachings or societal morality; many were courageous, endangering their lives to achieve their goals; some were underdogs who triumphed, or competitors who won against tough odds; and a few broke the law, sometimes following male desperados … sometimes acting on their own.