From shaping the law to breaking the law during perilous times, these fascinating female outlaws left lasting impressions that still linger in the American ethos today.
Picture this: billowing dust, whinnying horses in the backdrop, a rosy sunset, and gritty determination. During a time when men made their mark on history for bravery, exploration, and relentless pioneering spirit, it would be easy to overlook one vital fact: the women of the Wild West were as brave, determined, and tenacious as any man.
From shaping the law to breaking the law during perilous times, these fascinating female outlaws left lasting impressions that still linger in the American ethos today. Join us as we revisit ten trailblazing women of the Wild West whose indomitable spirits made them famous far beyond their lifetimes.
Annie Oakley: “Little Sure Shot”
Baker's Art Gallery, Columbus, Ohio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Annie Oakley, or "Little Sure Shot," as many called her, is one of the most famous Wild West women who stunned theater audiences with her sharpshooting abilities and renowned marksmanship. Born in 1860, it's no question why people are still talking about this legendary western icon. Even though she was raised in poverty, Oakley had such talent that she left her mark on history unlike any other female outlaws could dream of achieving. Writing her name in the books of Wild West lore, Annie Oakley solidified the role of women in the Wild West not just as homemakers or saloon girls but skilled cowgirls with plenty of bravado to spare.
See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Pearl Hart, together with her male companion Joe Boot, became infamous as one of the female outlaws in the Wild West. Hart and Boot had a daring plan to rob passengers on a stagecoach outside Florence, Arizona. Although they were initially successful, they were captured shortly after the robbery. However, their story lived on, giving them fame and making Pearl Hart one of the most well-known woman outlaws.
DeYoung Photography Studio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Etta Place was one of the early Wild West women — an outlaw who gained fame for her associations with Wild Bunch leaders such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. She rode with the Wild Bunch on many of their robberies across the West, becoming a memorable figure of the time. In some accounts, she was even considered to be Butch Cassidy's romantic partner. While her real identity is still a mystery, Etta Place remains an iconic Wild West figure —a woman who acted outside society's expectations by becoming part of the notorious Wild Bunch Gang and outwitting law enforcement.
Poker Alice: Enchanting Poker Face
website sangres.com, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Poker Alice was one of Wild West's best-known female poker players. With her poker skills and savvy business sense, she quickly became one of the most successful female outlaws in history. Striding through saloons wearing the latest in western fashion trends, Poker Alice was a force to be reckoned with, becoming a household name during her prosperous years. Whether because of her steely determination to become one of the first female outlaws, or simply due to her impressive poker-playing abilities, Poker Alice remains a frontier figure that will never be forgotten.
National Portrait Gallery, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
When you think of Wild West women, Carrie Nation isn't usually the first to come to mind. But don't be fooled; she was a powerful force that shaped modern American culture. Nation, who spent her earlier years as a school teacher in Missouri, is well known for her fierce temper and dedication to the cause of temperance. She is often remembered for marching into saloons with a hatchet in hand and shouting, “Glory to God and down with saloons!” while destroying any alcohol present. She was known in many states as one of the most famous female outlaws, but her ultimate goal was to establish a prohibition to abolish alcohol consumption in America altogether.
The National Police Gazette, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Belle Starr is one of the famous cowgirls with many questions surrounding her involvement in criminal activity. Although she became famous for her participation in and affiliation with the James-Younger Gang, it is believed that she never actually committed any crimes. Some say that she simply liked being around “bad boys.” But whatever the truth, Belle Starr soon became known as “The Bandit Queen.” After a stint in jail for horse theft in 1886, Belle continued to live an unconventional life until her mysterious death on horseback in 1889.
Pearl de Vere
Pearl de Vere may not have been from Cripple Creek initially, but that didn't stop her from making a name for herself as one of the famous female outlaws of the wild west. Shortly after arriving in town, she opened the Old Homestead— an establishment whose reputation for providing some of the finest female companionship around quickly spread. Pearl was known for her lavish lifestyle, spending habits, and parties alongside her romantic partner–a lifestyle that unfortunately caught up to her in the end.
Josephine Sarah (Marcus) Earp
See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Josephine Sarah Earp is one of the many famous cowgirls who left their hometowns to explore the Wild West. Born in New York in 1861, Josephine left home when she was just a teen, eventually meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Wyatt Earp. Wyatt Earp is a wildly famous cowboy and left a legacy in American West history. He is remembered by many as one of the most influential figures of the 19th century, well-known for his involvement in the legendary 1881 gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. The shootout has since become an iconic moment in Old West culture and is cemented into Western lore.
Laura Bullion: “The Thorny Rose”
Pinkerton's National Detective Agency, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Laura Bullion was a member of the Wild Bunch Gang led by Billy The Kid and Butch Cassidy. She is remembered as one of the few female outlaws — a formidable gambler, train robber, and prostitute. Bullion’s legacy has been immortalized in films, books, and reports throughout American history as part of the women of the Wild West — sometimes called “femme bandits” due to their unique blend of femininity and independence in an otherwise male-dominated outlaw culture.
Be Inspired by the Famous Women of the Wild West
Do you feel empowered and inspired by the famous women of the Wild West like Belle Starr and Annie Oakley? Channel your inner western woman with cowgirl boots from Tecovas. With quality materials like genuine leather or exotic ostrich, our boot designs have a classic western heart and a modern soul Whether you choose a short boot for a subtle yet daring style or taller boots for extra protection against the elements, our cowgirl boots make it easy to show off the beauty, attitude, and strength that embodies the life of famous Wild West women.
more from our stories
How Our Friends Are Spending the Holidays
What’s Cooking This Holiday Season?
15 Perfect Gifts for Cowboys & Western Lovers
Elevate Your Style: A Guide to Styling Men's Cowboy Boots
How to Rock Western Chic: A Guide to Styling Women's Cowboy Boots
Everything You Need to Nail the Farmcore Aesthetic
Stay And Finish: The Women of Alderspring Ranch
A Convo with Designer Kristopher Brock
Our Story: Western Goods for New Frontiers
The Journey of painting the West Texas sky
Our Friends and Heroes, The Austin Gamblers