A Compelling Argument

151b-blog

Bethenia Owens-Adair was a woman who knew her mind. She was the first female doctor in the West, and was also a determined lobbyist for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. On one subject, she was adamant, and she made complete sense. Should a woman ride side saddle or astride? Men were arguing—and had argued for a long time—that it was “unladylike” for a woman to throw her legs across the back of a horse. Dr. Montague Tallack went so far as to argue that it was OK for men, because their legs were “long and flat,” while women’s legs were “short and round.” He can be forgiven for getting that anatomy wrong, since women in those days never showed their legs, but always kept them covered with gowns or, while swimming, stockings. Dr. Owens-Adair thought this was foolish. She rebutted Dr. Tallack’s declaration in the Seattle Times in 1904, writing, “Ladies should ride astride….Mr. Tallack has but to visit a first-class circus and watch those beautiful, muscular women riding and performing on the bars to have his little theory [on the length and shape of legs] exploded….Nothing will preserve a woman’s grace…so much as vigorous…exercise, and horse-back riding stands at the head of the list, provided [a woman has] a foot in each stirrup, instead of having the right limb twisted around a horn, and the left foot in a stirrup twelve or fifteen inches above where it ought to be.” In the end, Dr. Owens-Adair won.

Related Posts

  • Western roundup of events where you can experience the Old West! AUCTION Premier Firearms Auction…

  • cattle-brands-blog

    In cattle­crazy W.T., where brands were sacrosanct, it all started with a woman! The first…

  • This Arizona cowgirl grew up on the Lazy B, a cattle ranch near Duncan. Her…