Before the Cowgirls, some women travelled with their families on covered wagons to the west in the 1840s. They came from crowded easter cities to settle in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, and other states. One of the largest migrations in history took place from the 1840s to the end of the American Civil war. After the war, the government announced the Homestead Act of 1860 mandated that 160 acres could be claimed in the west by men and women as long as they were twenty-one and unmarried.
By the 1870s, men outnumbered women; there were 172,00 women over the age of twenty out west, compared to 385,00 men. The black women lived the harsh life of slavery. Wives, widows, mothers, and daughters on farms and ranches helped settle the western planes.
Some of these women learned horse riding, roping cattle, shooting guns, and several other skills that were confined to men. A few women pioneers pretended to be men so they could live like cowboys. Take a look at these historical photographs of western cowgirls from the early 20th century.