Did frontier women own saloons, like Gunsmoke’s Miss Kitty did?

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Susan Mims
Barnesville, Georgia

Women worked the saloons, dancing or serving drinks or luring male customers upstairs. But female owners or part owners were rare.

I do know of one, Matilda Bignon, or Big Minnie, as she was known. Standing six feet tall and weighing 230 pounds, she cut quite a figure in her tights. She and her husband, Joe, owned the Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona, during the 1880s. She acted as host, appeared on stage and also worked as the bouncer.

Born in England on March 31, 1852, she died on August 4, 1900, and was buried in Pearce, Arizona. Her stone features the gates of Heaven opening to greet her. Wishful thinking?

If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu

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