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History of the Museum

“Why not have a museum for cowgirls? We have one for the men.”

- Margaret Formby, 2000 Amarillo Globe-News interview

Combine the passionate vision of a rancher’s daughter with a city’s desire to increase revenues, then add in a few pistols and wild rags. What do you get?

The makings of a National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame had its beginning in 1975 in the Texas Panhandle community of Hereford, TX, about forty miles southwest of Amarillo. Realizing that women of the American West had been largely overlooked for their accomplishments, this visionary group in Hereford, set history straight.

Housed in the basement of the Deaf Smith County Library, its first collections were modest: a few belt buckles, bandannas and some Western artwork. But by the time they were moved to a private home in 1982, artifacts had blossomed into vintage photos, rare books, saddles, costumes and more.

The Museum’s purpose wasn’t just to preserve cowgirl history. It was to share it –  every dusty piece of a dream, every unsung feat, every broken barrier. Hereford residents and visitors soon came to know the colorful stories behind these Western women who lived from the mid-1800s to present day — the pioneers, the artists and writers, the tribal leaders, the entertainers, the social activists, the modern ranchers, the rodeo cowgirls.

But the rest of the world deserved to know their stories, too. In 1993, the board led by Executive Director Margaret Formby began a search for a new site to broaden their Museum’s educational reach. When Fort Worth leaders got wind they were scouting for a new home, they immediately threw their hat in the ring. Their city’s rich western heritage would be a perfect setting for this authentic Western jewel. Thirty-five cities in six states were considered for the Museum’s new home. Fort Worth got the nod.

On June 9, 2002, a glimmer of an idea conceived 27 years earlier became reality. Nested in the heart of Fort Worth’s Cultural District, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame took its place among other museum giants: the Kimbell Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum, the Museum of Science and History, and the Will Rogers Memorial Center.

From a small library basement to a vibrant new 33,000-square-foot facility, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame threw open its doors, poised to show all how Women Shape the West…and Change the World.

Connie Reeves

The Museum opened on June 9, 2002 with a parade and festivities. The photograph above features Honorees Connie Reeves (age 100) and Jan Youren riding in the parade.