The Great Western and the Biggest Leg in Mexico

Illustration by Bob Boze Bell
Illustration by Bob Boze Bell

At six feet two and 200 pounds, red-headed camp follower Sarah Bowman was nicknamed the “Great Western,” after the largest steamship afloat in the 1830s. During the Mexican War, when told U.S. Army regulations required that a woman couldn’t travel with the troops unless she was married to one, she rode a donkey down the line shouting, “Who wants a wife with $15,000 and the biggest leg in Mexico?” Four husbands later, she died in Yuma of a spider bite in 1866; in 1890, her very large bones were removed to the Presidio
of San Francisco in California.

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