As I read this enjoyable Western, I thought of the FFA (Future Farmer Of America) girls and female athletes who still occasionally suffer the "tomboy", farm/ranch girl stereotype not being compatible with femininity or a prom dress. They have to continually prove that they can be both--career versus housewife--sound familiar? Fifteen-year-old Nettie Brady growing up in Montana during the early 1920s had it worse. Victorian convention and gender prejudice were alive and well particularly in the West. ' "This ain't no place for a girl...you belong in skirts, not trousers." ' [Nettie] ' "Mister, I can ride as good as my brothers. And they're competing today." ' Girls were trained for one career: homemaker. To the horror and anger of her mother, Nettie has the absurd dream of becoming a rodeo cowgirl! As with vaudeville and carnivals, everyone knew only "loose" or bad girls hung around the rodeo circuit. Nettie gets an inkling of rodeo people and its lifestyle by meeting and befriended by famous rodeo cowgirl, Marie Gibson (real person) and her cowboy husband. However, continued hostility by her parents, fate, and circumstances as she grows up and as the years go by delay but fail to defeat her ambition. How can she, a young woman without money, leave home and strike out on her own? She then meets and falls in love with the cowboy. Will she have to surrender her dream for homemaker, church bazaars, and the Ladies Aid Society ? Or, might Jake be that rare kind of man who doesn't expect her to sacrifice her goals and dream just for her husband's sake? Although set in the 1920s Montana, both today's city and rural girl readers will easily identify with Nettie's plight and mother/daughter conflict. According to the author, the novel is based both on the life and experiences of early real cowgirls such as Marie Gibson, Fanny Sperry Steele, Prairie Rose Henderson, and the author's grandmother, "Toots" Olive May Bailey Glasser. The author is a member of "Women Writing The West". Their annual Willa Award winners and nominees are a good resource for books by women and about women. Visit http://www.womenwritingthewest.org/ For those interested in the early cowgirls and rodeo history, your library should include Mary Lou LeCompte's Cowgirls Of The Rodeo (2000), Cowgirls: Women Of The Wild West by Flood (2000), Cowgirls: Women Of The American West by Jordan (1992), Cowgirl Smarts: How To Rope A Kick-Ass Life by Smith (2004), and Gladiola Montana's Grit And Gumption: A Cowgirl's Guide (1999). For fiction, gals might check out Mary E. Trimble's Tenderfoot (2009), Joanne Kennedy's One fine Cowboy ((2010), and the historical novel, Cherokee Rose (1996), by Spur Award winner Judy Alter. It was inspired by the life of Lucille Mulhall for whom President Theodore Roosevelt first coined the term, Cowgirl. Its not just the boys that dream of growing up to be cowboys!
Recommended by: Robert L. Hicks, Arkansas City High School Librarian, Kansas, USA