Fascinating Women on the American Frontier

Women such as lady gambler, Lottie Deno, last week roamed the American frontier and wrote her name in the history books. In fact, there were many, many colorful and adventurous women like her. Courageous women blazed a lot of trails.


I was recently reading about an army wife named Annie Blanche Sokalski in 1867. Her husband was a captain and that was all he wanted to be. Annie certainly attracted attention wherever she went and she had no trouble taking care of herself because she was never without her twin pistols and she was a sure-shot marksman. However, most of the attention came from her manner of dress. She wore a wolf skin riding habit with wolf tails hanging from the bottom of her skirt and sweeping the ground. She donned a fur hat from which floated another cluster of wolf tails. Annie owned thirteen dogs – the exact number of stripes in the American flag. General Sherman saw her galloping across the parade ground at Fort Kearney and cried, “What the devil of a creature is that? Wild woman, Pawnee, Sioux, or what?” (I wish I had a photo of her, but I couldn’t find one.)


Margaret Heffernan Borland


Then in 1873, there was Margaret Heffernan Borland, a forty-nine-year-old widow, who drove a huge herd of cattle up the Chisholm Trail from Victoria, Texas to Wichita, Kansas. She only had her children and a few hired drovers to help. At the end of the trail, she checked into a hotel and died. Men were quick to say she had trail driving fever (as though that was a real disease,) but most believe she contracted meningitis. Margaret accomplished something few other women did. She suffered greatly during her life and buried three husbands and all but three of her seven children.




Molly b'DamAnother very interesting woman was an Irish prostitute named Molly b’Dam. She was exceptionally beautiful with golden blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. She married a man who forced her into selling her body. At 24, she left him and ran to the mining camps of Murray, Idaho where she knew she could make have good luck. She certainly did that and also fed the poor and nursed the sick. In 1886 after the town was stricken with smallpox and no one would lend a hand to sick and dying, Molly called a town meeting and delivered a tongue lashing which brought the citizens to life. She led the way in clearing out the hotels and filling them with the sick. Molly worked tirelessly, barely eating or taking time to change her clothes. Soon the processions to the cemetery stopped. But the monumental effort had taken its toll. Molly came down with consumption and two months later died. News of her death spread through the mountains. Thousands came to pay their respects. On the day of her funeral, every blind on every window was drawn. Every August in Murray, they have a two-day celebration to honor Molly, a woman with a heart of pure gold.



sophie-herzogThe last one I’m going to mention here is Dr. Sofie Herzog. She made tongues wag by cropping her hair short, riding astride a horse, and wearing a man’s hat. This notable woman made her home in Brazoria, Texas and became quite adept at removing bullets. She sometimes used a special technique where she elevated the patient and let gravity pull the bullet out. Only two gunshot patients died in her career. When she’d collected 24 slugs, she had a necklace made of them and wore it constantly throughout her life for good luck. Word of her skill traveled fast and caught the attention of the railroad. In 1906 they appointed her chief surgeon. She died of a stroke in 1925 and they buried her with the lucky bullet necklace.



Okay, what do you think of these very interesting women? My mother would fit on this list even though her name wasn’t written in history. She had courage and daring and, like these women, didn’t let anything stand in her way. Who do you consider remarkable?


Fascinating Women on the American Frontier — 7 Comments

  1. What a very interesting article, but then again you alway have truly exceptional ones. Like you, I think my mom is one of my heroes, she is strong, supportive, and all knowing when it comes to anything we need. Whether it’s treatment, advise, or just a lift me up. It’s funny all of my friends, my brothers friends, & even my Mom’s friends and their children have at one time or another called upon my mom for help or advise. She never judges, but always tells it like it is and when you leave from visiting… You truly have the answer or remedy you need to go forward. Not that she gives you the answer outright, no way, but she gives you enough courage & wisdom to figure it out yourself.

    • Hi Tonya……So happy to see you. I’m glad you enjoyed my article. These women sure made a difference. Your mom sounds amazing and very wise. Not every mother can help a child find his/her own way and not try to do it for them. A lot of moms just take over and the child learns nothing. I’d like to meet her one day. Who knows? I might get a chance.

      Thank you for coming! Have a great week.

      Hugs and more hugs!

  2. Wow! And we think we have it tough today when we can’t meet deadlines or get through the stacks of documents demanding our attention! These women are among many who were tougher than leather and harder than steel because they had drive and determination to prove their worth in a man’s world. Great article. I think Molly is my favorite out of these.

    • Hi Jan……Molly is my favorite too. The others are very interesting but Molly seems special. She truly had a big heart and always helped people. But it might be a toss up if you add Lottie Deno in with these. I really think those who lived in so called “sin” were absolutely the toughest women. That kind of life ruined a lot of women but Molly and Lottie didn’t let it. They did whatever needed to be doing and helped so many people. I admire that.

      Still, Margaret Borland had a backbone of pure steel. Not many women would’ve driven 2,000 head of cattle all that way with only kids to help plus a few hired hands. That takes guts.

      Love you, sister!

  3. Linda, I think my mother was a remarkable woman. She gave us drive and ambition while raising us on her own. We were little girls, as in tiny and small built. My sister had asthma and was sick much of her young life. Mom didn’t allow us to make excuses for what we couldn’t do and she made sure that no matter what we wanted to do, we finished it. She told us, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t”. And that meant, ANYTHING. We struggled to make $55/mo rent, then…now my sister is a CIO and I’m a certified IT Project Manager Professional. My mother is my hero!

    • Hi Sandy……Thanks for coming. I’m glad to see you. Yes, your mother had such remarkable strength and she instilled that in you and your sister. Such a great story. You rose from nothing and accomplished so much. I wish kids were taught these days to work hard and find a way to do the things they want. Anything is possible if you want it badly enough.

      Lots of love and hugs!

  4. Running late this week, its been busy and haven’t been on line much. I will have to say when it comes to me, if I set my head to something I don’t let much get in my way.