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.)
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.
Another 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.
The 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?