National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee Sherri Mell, a special-education instructor and rodeo competitor, was featured in “All-Around Cowgirl” in our May issue. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame inducted four additional members in 2004, as well.
Gail Davis (1926 – 1997), California
During the Golden Age of television, Davis gave girls of the 1950s their first female western heroine when she portrayed the most famous sharpshooter of the West, Annie Oakley, on a popular television series that aired from 1954 through 1957. An accomplished rider, trick-shooter and singer, Davis was praised by Gene Autry as “the perfect western actress.” She appeared in more than 32 feature films and won numerous awards, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Wantha Davis, Texas
A pioneer for female jockeys, Davis won more than 1,000 races from the 1930s through the1950s. Although women were excluded from riding at major U.S. tracks, Davis rode at Quarter Horse meets, county fairs and small bush tracks. She was the first woman to complete at a pari-mutuel track and won a historic exhibition match-race in 1949 against Racing Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Longden. At 39 Davis retired from racing to raise cattle and break colts.
Connie Griffith (1942 – 1998), Nebraska
In high school Griffith was selected as the Nebraska high-school rodeo queen, and during college she became a featured trick rider at every major North American rodeo. She was the only woman to incorporate the Ted Elder Suicide Drag into her performance, and executed the “under the belly” trick more times than any other rider. An accomplished Roman rider, Griffith introduced trick-riding to the Las Vegas strip, performing for 6 straight years in more than 6,000 consecutive shows.
Mary Jo Milner, Texas
Milner won her first National Cutting Horse Association non-pro world championship in 1981 and went on to win an unprecedented six NCHA non-pro world championships – including four consecutive wins in 2000 through 2003. During the past 32 years she’s amassed a career record of championships, reserve championships and top-10 finishes that’s unmatched by any NCHA non-professional rider – male or female. In 1982 Milner helped establish the NCHA Charities Foundation to offer college scholarships to NCHA youth and help NCHA members in times of need.