America’s First Cowgirl: Lucille Mulhall
Lucille Mulhall was already a skilled roper at age 8.
The following is quoted from the book jacket of America’s First Cowgirl Lucille Mulhall, by Beth Day, Published by Julian Messner, Inc., 1955. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 55-9850.
“World’s Champion Roper — America’s Greatest Horsewoman — Queen of the Range — and the only woman who ever roped steers competitively with men — Lucille Mulhall held the top spot in contests and vaudeville for twenty years. Will Rogers, friend and teacher, called her the world’s greatest rider.
“Born in the saddle, Lucille was the spirited daughter of Colonel Zach Mulhall, an Oklahoma ranch owner. Unlike her sisters, she wasn’t interested in dolls and sewing or piano lessons but preferred branding yearlings and roping wolves and jack-rabbits and steers; training her small, sure-footed ponies; practicing the trick riding that was to make her famous all over the country.
“While still in her early teens, Lucille was the top cowboy performer in the West. Extremely feminine, soft spoken, and well educated, she seemed a paradox, for she was so steel-muscled she could beat strong and talented men at their own games. She could have been a society belle, but she loved the rough, dangerous life and cowboying was in her blood. Had she been a man, she would have been content to work on a ranch, but as a woman she was a novelty and the only way she could make use of her singular talents was in show business. The term cowgirl was invented to describe her when she took the East by storm in her first appearance at Madison Square Garden (in 1905).”
“From the time Lucille was booked for New York, the newspapers had been attempting to describe the phenomenon that was Lucille Mulhall. They had struggled with such ridiculous descriptions as ‘Female Conqueror of Beef and Horn’ and ‘Lassoer in Lingerie’ to the simpler, more realistic ‘Cowboy Girl’ and ‘Ranch Queen.’
“Finally one of them managed to coin a word which would describe the life and talents of any girl who could rope and ride and do ranch work alongside men. The word was ‘cowgirl.’ It was invented to describe Lucille, and it has since become a part of our language.”