How many among my teenaged friends at Cody High School had female role models from any time in history? Or from the near past of our own hometown?
Who knew, for example, even the names of Dr. Frances Lane or Caroline Lockhart? Not me, for sure. And not that I’d particularly call Caroline Lockhart’s chaotic life ideal as a role model.
The point is that notable women were notably absent from our history curriculum. That said, I guess we’re lucky we had history classes at all...
Still, thanks to biographies, stories in the Enterprise, and the work of our museums and historical societies, most of us know of the most prominent of our early women. Still, there are many, many more we never hear about.
Most married. Of those, a fair percentage outlived their husbands, then opened small businesses or worked for wages. Others ranched or farmed. A few found jobs working for the city and county. Our history includes women land speculators, professionals, and one banker. In fact, working women thrived here despite the twin handicaps of social disapproval and legal obstacles.
Thinking of Cody women who persisted, were determined, and showed courage under adverse circumstances, my mind turns immediately to Vina Grinder. She was probably the first white woman who lived alone (or the first resident woman at all) in the upper Wapiti Valley. That was long before there was anything like a road up there and when it took the better part of three days to reach from what had yet to become Cody.
Vina arrived in the new Northwest Wyoming Territory with her four brothers but filed independently on large hunks of land under Clocktower Mountain. Despite her ownership of some of the most beautiful acreage in the West, not much is known about her. What is tends to put her in the “character” category. But then, any woman of the 1870s and 1880s who rode, drank whiskey, and shot a gun would be remembered less for her accomplishments and more for her deviations from the norm.
How about Lucylle Moon? Her life story ranks among my favorites. She came to us in 1926 with enough money in her pocket to buy a ranch at the head of Rattlesnake Creek (now Mooncrest Ranch). It came complete with a polo field, which may have been its primary selling point. A year later she married a cowboy, Elmon Hall, doing so on horseback. No one doubts but that Lucylle called the shots in that family, raising one daughter, ranching and farming.
My stepfather, who had little good to say about independent women, made an exception for Lucylle, calling her a “lady with real guts.” She lived until 1993, passing from us with a lifetime of adventure tales surrounding her name.
These and other women helped to shape and form our area, our traditions, and will inform our future – for good or bad.
But, wait. There’s more. In fact, I’ll include a few more stories in my next column.