HEAR HER Roar
Oklahoma Today|July/August 2020
DESPITE THEIR DEPICTION IN MANY WESTERN FILMS AS MERE HELPMATES FOR MEN, OKLAHOMA’S WOMEN OF THE WEST HAVE GUIDED OUR HISTORY FROM ITS VERY BEGINNINGS.
JEANETTA CALHOUN MISH

THE SCENE: A spunky blonde woman, worn by sun and struggle, watches for her man returning from hunting, from town, or from the west forty. Her children tugging at her skirts, she stares into the setting sun, shading her eyes with her hand at her brow or in the shadow of her sunbonnet. Without a doubt, this is a stereotype—but where, when, and how did it arise?

Scholars of Western literature and film note three common representations of the Western woman: the pioneer mother, the victim, and the bad woman. Oklahomans are familiar with the pioneer mother—there’s a statue of her in Ponca City. The bad woman can be exemplified by Oklahoma’s many female outlaws like Belle Starr or Cattle Annie and Little Britches. But I can’t name any Oklahoma woman, past or present, whose primary attribute is victimhood.

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