Earlier this month, on March 8, we celebrated International Women’s Day. It’s said to be especially significant this year because of the sheer number of women who have decided to run for United States President.
Among those who have thrown their hats in the ring are: U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, along with U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
Another milestone for women this year is the unprecedented number who were sworn into Congress. In the U.S. House, more than 100 women took office, including firebrands like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Sharice Davids and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Of course, not everybody is excited about the new women in Congress and those running for President. I know this because my email gets clogged weekly with political memes. The message is that these women are all a big mistake.
For Warren, there are graphics where she wears a colorful headdress and she’s dismissed as Cochise or Pocahontas.
For Omar, there’s a turban and a graphic of the twin towers coming down behind her in a mass of smoke and flame.
For Ocasio-Cortez, there are 100 jokes questioning her intelligence and she is pictured saying goofy things like: “Yes, we can land on the sun. We just have to go at night.”
I’ll leave it to someone else to defend these ladies and to explain why women, in particular, seem to be targets for this low level of political discourse.
Instead, I am going to switch gears and recognize some women who have endured a bit of enmity in their own fields of endeavor. I’m talking about cowgirl poets of the American West.
I became acquainted with them when I found photographer Kevin Martini-Fuller hanging up his show in the May Gallery at Webster University. His show, “Portraits of the American Gathering,” is on exhibit through Friday, March 29.
Martini-Fuller has been shooting photo portraits at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada, since 1986. There are far more cowboy poets in his collection, but I am most intrigued by the cowgirls, including Linda Hussa, Teresa Jordan and Georgie Sicking.
If you cannot make it to the gallery, check out: portraitsofthegathering.org. There you will find poet portraits as well as a selection of fine western verse.
My favorite is Georgie Sicking. Born in 1921, she was on the payroll of the Green Cattle Company by age 16 at a time when women were scarcely seen — much less allowed to ride — with the cowboy crew. She worked ranches in Nevada and California and was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Her poetry is partly a protest to being dismissed as just someone’s “housewife,” when she notes that she has done her share of mending fences, moving cattle and tending to bulls. Sicking, who logged more than 100,000 miles on horseback, concludes her complaint:
“I’ve been a rancher’s daughter / I’ve been a rancher’s spouse / But never was I ever / Married to a house.”
Women At The Arch
The Gateway Arch National Park continues its special Saturday programs that spotlight women of achievement in Missouri and the West in honor of Women’s History Month.
• “Cult of True Womanhood” is the topic for Saturday, March 23, 1 to 3:30 p.m. Ranger Karen Stoeber will recall the women who made the journey West in the early 1800s. Her program highlights several women who stepped out of their expected roles in order to survive during a tough and often dangerous era.
• “Virginia Minor’s Quest” is the topic for Saturday, March 30, 1 to 3:30 p.m. In 1874, the courageous St. Louis suffragist Virginia Minor took her case, Minor v. Happersett, to the U.S. Supreme Court, contending the 14th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Ranger Kathy Bommarito will describe Minor’s role in U.S. history and take part in hands-on activities unique to the time period.