Before anyone had even heard the term "cowgirl," there was Lucille Mulhall. The Oklahoma native practically came out of the womb on a saddle ready to rope a steer. She loved working on her family's 160-acre ranch in Oklahoma and riding around on horses all day long, which helped her grow into a pioneer for other women who were passionate about the rodeo.
Mulhall was born in St. Louis in 1885, but her parents Zack and Agnes Mulhall moved to the Oklahoma territory when she was four years old. Their ranch expanded and by the time she was 13, Mulhall was already roping steer around the ranch. She was happiest when she was riding around on a horse, which is how her skills became so impressive.
Pretty soon, Mulhall was entertaining people with her horse tricks. She found herself performing for the future president, Teddy Roosevelt, during a "Cowboy Performance" in Oklahoma City. Roosevelt was incredibly impressed with Mulhall throughout the competition. As the story goes, Roosevelt was invited back to the Mulhall ranch. He allegedly went riding with Mulhall when they spotted a wolf. Roosevelt told her if she could catch it, she would score herself an invitation to his inaugural parade. He also told Zack that his daughter had a bright future and needed to become a real performer.
Mulhall caught the wolf and sent the pelt to Roosevelt. Her father followed Roosevelt's advice and started his own wild west show: "Mulhall's Congress of Rough Riders and Ropers." Tom Mix and Will Rogers actually got their start in the show, but Mulhall was the shining star. She traveled all over the United States performing for large audiences -- even at Madison Square Garden in New York. By 1916, she started her own rodeo, "Lucille Mulhall's Big Round-Up," which helped pave the way for other cowgirls.
Mulhall's performances slowed down when audiences preferred to get a taste of the old west in films instead of wild west shows, but she continued making appearances in Oklahoma and Texas through the '30s. She passed away in an automobile accident in 1940, but she successfully made her mark on history. Not only is she known as the "original cowgirl," but she helped pave the way for other girls who enjoyed lassos and riding horses. She was posthumously inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and the Rodeo Hall of Fame.
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