Celebrate the Women Trailblazers in Western Sports on Women’s Equality Day

By: Rebecca Norberg

In 1973, the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” This date was selected to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote. The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts towards full equality.

Today, the PBR would like to highlight the accomplishments of a few women who have been game-changers in our industry.

Jackie Crawford

Nineteen-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Champion Jackie Crawford has always had a love for roping. By the time she graduated with her business degree, she had three consecutive NIRA Southwest Region Champion Breakaway titles under her belt. In 2019, Jackie set the record for the highest-ever payout for a single breakaway roping event at the WCRA Million Dollar Rodeo. During her career, she has played a key role in bringing the sport of breakaway roping to the forefront of rodeo. Off the dirt, she is a wife, a mother, and a successful businesswoman who conducts clinics, trains horses, and provides private lessons at the family training facility in Stephenville, Texas.

Hailey Kinsel

In 2017, Hailey became a force to be reckoned with. Not only did she win The American, but she became the college champion for Texas A&M and made her first trip to Vegas for the NFR, where she set an arena record and earnings record. The following year, she won the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, entered the NFR in first place, and won her first world title. In 2019, she started the season with a win at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, and continued her run at RodeoHouston and the Calgary Stampede. At the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo, she was the only defending champion to claim another gold medal, set an arena record and became the only contestant to win three gold medals from the Days of ’47. She closed out the season with her second World Championship at the NFR, and became the first WPRA barrel racer to win back-to-back titles since 2005. In just three years, Hailey has amassed almost $1 million dollars in winnings.

Valeria Howard-Cunningham

Valeria is the CEO/President and promoter of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. She is the only Black woman to own and promote a touring rodeo circuit. In addition to providing leadership for the BPIR, she works closely with the Bill Pickett Memorial Scholarship fund to ensure financial support to community youth. Off the dirt, Valeria and her husband Ronnie run a business that provides individual and group emotional intelligence, personal development and leadership training for youth and young adults.

Tiffany Davis

Tiffany started breeding bulls in high school and is now one half of Davis Rodeo Ranch Livestock, which produces quality bucking bulls, including the 2008 ABBI American Heritage bull Superfreak. Winner of the inaugural Sharon Shoulders Award, which recognizes the contributions of women to the sport of bull riding, Tiffany is a jack of all trades when it comes to their business. Each year, Tiffany and her husband Jerome host the Jerome Davis Invitational at their arena in Archdale, North Carolina. In addition to the PBR-sanctioned event, the Davises host a Christian Junior Rodeo that draws as many as 500 youth from a dozen or more states.

LeAnn Hart

LeAnn is one half of the stock contracting duo behind Hart Cattle Company, which she runs with her husband J.W. But she wears many other hats, also serving as an inspirational speaker, pastor, singer, songwriter and worship leader. She also runs the LeAnn Hart Ministries podcast, where she discusses faith, marriage and being a woman in a male dominated industry. A foster mother and the 2016 winner of the Sharon Shoulders Award, LeAnn frequently sings the national anthem at PBR events before flanking bulls.


1894: Annie Oakley helped create the iconic image of a cowgirl when she appeared in a Western film shot by Thomas Edison.

1903: Women began competing at Cheyenne Frontier Days, but were mostly promoted as sweethearts or queens of the rodeo.

1908: Lucille Mulhall was dubbed the first “cowgirl” when she displayed her roping skills at Madison Square Garden.

Early 20th century: Prairie Rose Henderson, bronco buster Mabel Strickland, bucking horse champion Bertha Blankett, and other cowgirls achieved celebrity.

1918: Women competed at the first indoor rodeo at the Fort Worth Coliseum.

1920: Women were participating in rodeos as relay racers, trick riders, and rough stock riders.

1928: One third of all rodeos featured women’s competitive events.

1929: Cheyenne Frontier Days removes women’s events due to the death of Bonnie McCarroll at the Pendleton Round-up. After this, rodeo promoters began reducing the amount of women’s competitive participation and shifted their role to serving as rodeo queens.

1931: Rodeo women were now promotional figureheads rather than athletes.

1942: Fay Kirkwood staged what was billed as an all-girl rodeo in Bonham, Texas, but was more of an exhibition than competition. Around this same time, Vaughn Kreig produced an all-girl rodeo with eight of its 19 events as contests. Neither rodeo featured queens.

1948: The Girls Rodeo Association was formed which boasted 74 members and produced a rodeo in its first year.

1981: The GRA becomes the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and worked with the PRCA to make women’s barrel racing a standard event in most PRCA rodeos.

1995: Polly Reich became the first woman to compete against men in professional bull riding.

1998: For the first time ever, the barrel racing event paid out the same amount as all of the men’s events at the NFR.

2000s: Kaila Mussell becomes the first woman to compete as a saddle bronc rider in the PRCA.

2012: Maggie Parker becomes the first woman bull rider in PRCA history to earn a check in a bull riding competition with a 70-point ride at the Bennington Rodeo in Kansas.

2013: Sherry Cervi placed in all 10 go-rounds, including three victories, setting a WPRA record for most money won at the NFR as well as an NFR average record.

2018: Lauren Ehrlich becomes the first woman to cover a bull for 8 seconds at the New Jersey Cowtown Rodeo.

2019: Jackie Crawford sets the record for highest payout on a single breakaway roping event at the WCRA One Day Million Dollar Rodeo.

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