Where else would you find the National Cowgirl Museum other than in the heart of Texas? The museum is located in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, alongside the Will Rogers Memorial Center and the new western-oriented wing of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History – together known as the Western Heritage Center. TNCM is a shrine to the women of the west who were “born under an open sky” and those who “forged an identity that pushed frontiers forward.”
The museum celebrates women who exemplify three traits that they believe helped formed, and continue to shape, the American West: courage, resilience, and independence. The museum is home to an enormous bank of cowgirl paraphernalia including clothing exhibits, a cowgirl Hall of Fame, a collection of over 5,000 artifacts and 6,000 photographs and education on everything cowgirl both on site at the museum or offsite taught by Hall of Fame Honorees.
TNCM and Hall of Fame is the only museum of its kind in the world to honor women of the west. Originally founded in Hereford, Texas in 1975, the museum picked up and moved to Fort Worth in 1994. In 2002 TNCM opened a new building that covers 33,000 square feet and 1.5 acres.
Women inducted into the Hall of Fame account for a wide range including: a bronco rider, rancher (Henrietta Chamberlain King), author (Laura Ingalls Wilder), sharpshooter (Annie Oakley), artist (Georgia O’Keeffe) and more — in total, almost 200 women have been inducted since it first opened. The Hall of Fame was created to preserve these women’s impact and to encourage an appreciation for their ideals amongst women today.
Currently, the museum is celebrating Sandra Day O’Connor, who became a Hall of Fame Honoree in 2002, with an exhibit titled The Cowgirl Who Became a Justice: Sandra Day O’Connor, on view through March 25.
O’Connor may have been born in El Paso to rancher Harry Alfred Day and Ada Mae Wilkey, but she spent her youth growing up on her family’s cattle ranch in Arizona. At eight years old O’Connor already knew how to mount a horse and handle a shotgun. O’Connor’s experiences are documented in a book she co-wrote with her brother, H. Alan Day, Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American West. It details their childhood experiences while living on their cattle ranch near Duncan, Arizona.
O’Connor eventually left the ranch for an Ivy League education, attending Stanford Law School, and later became Arizona’s assistant attorney general. O’Connor continued to climb the political ranks in Arizona: Arizona Senate, Superior Court Judge, and Arizona Court of Appeals. And in 1981 President Reagan nominated O’Connor as the 102nd Supreme Court justice. That made O’Connor the first female member of the US Supreme Court and the perfect candidate for the cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Her exhibit falls on the 30th anniversary of her appointment to the US Supreme Court and will highlight her connections between life on the ranch and life on the bench.
National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame
Hours: Tue – Sat, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sun, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.; Closed Mondays, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day
Adults (13+) $10.00; Seniors (60+) $8.00; Children 3-12 $8.00; Children 2 and under free with paid adult