Friday, March 17, 2017

Women in Sports: Alice Greenough Orr

Alice Greenough Orr - Rodeo Queen
(March 17, 1902 – August 20, 1995)

Alice Greenough Orr claimed she was "born liberated" and she spent the rest of her life proving it. She grew up on a ranch in Montana where her father often let her work with the wild horses. Her stubbornness came in handy -- he figured if they got tired of trying to kick her off, they'd be tame enough for anyone else. While she was taming horses, she was also honing the skills needed to become an internationally celebrated rodeo star, and earn herself four saddle bronc championships.

Strong-willed as a teenager, she dropped out of school to deliver mail by horseback, covering a 35-mile route on horseback through three winters. Her goal at the time was to become a forest ranger, but when servicemen returned after WWI the government stopped hiring women.

Instead, in 1919 she and her sister Marge answered an ad looking for saddle bronc riders - an event deemed too dangerous for women riders in modern rodeos. After all those years taming wild horses, she easily earned a spot, and began what became her life's work: rodeo. She criss-crossed the US, covering nearly every state. She continued to win championships, her fame grew, and her touring schedule was expanded to include Europe and Australia. While touring Europe in the 1930s, she had tea with the Queen of England, then visited Spain where she rode fighting bulls into arenas before hopping off and leaving them for the matadors.

Back in the US, she continued touring, but broadened her involvement in rodeo organization, and branched out into stunt work in films and television. In 1936, she helped organize the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to help performers negotiate better treatment by tour operators, who sometimes shortchanged them. In the 1940s, she established her own rodeo tour, offering the first women's barrel racing events.

She was the first woman inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and one of the first women inducted into the rodeo division of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Read more about her and other pioneering cowgirls

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