Title: A Talk with Cody | Buffalo Bill Believes that Women Should Be Athletes

Periodical: Topeka Weekly Capital

Date: January 4, 1894

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Buffalo Bill Believes That Women Should Be Athletes.

Americans as Fad Worshippers—Colonel Cody Wants Women to Have More Liberty and Insists That the Fair Ones Have More Pluck Than Men.

"The American woman is lovely, but, with all due respect to her loveliness, I think I would rather see her a little more robust, with a broader chest—a chest that would give me proof of a pair of sound lungs underneath. I have a strong belief that horseback riding, after the fashion of her English sisters, would be as good for her as anything."

This was Colonel Cody's ("Buffalo Bill") answer to the question of a New York Recorder reporter as to how the American women compared with her English sister in regard to vigor, health and vitality. Colonel Cody was in excellent spirits and perfectly willing to talk about the fair sex, to back them up in what he believed their rights, and to deal gently with their shortcomings. He looked very handsome as he sunk in a crimson plush chair in the parlor of the Hoffman house. He wore a black diagonal suit, a high standing collar and black satin scarf; pinned across the front of the latter was a huge gold pin, in which was inserted a miniature buffalo's head made of tiny diamonds. The eyes were two rubies. His cuff buttons were round pieces of gold with the buffalo's head inserted in diamonds. From his watch chain hung a horse shoe about two inches long, with seven nails, represented by alternate diamonds and rubies. His silky hair, which usually hangs on his shoulders, was twisted up in a tight little knot on the back of his head, and had I not seen this as I retreated from the room I should never have known but that his hair was closely cropped after the fashion of the other members of his sex.


"Yes, yes," said the showman from the wild west. "I would like to see the American woman ride horseback more than they do. The western women used to be pretty good at that sort of thing, but I am sorry to say that they are not now doing so well. The trouble with the whole American race is they are too much inclined to be caught by the fads and hobbies. Now the bicycling fad has come on and has carried them right off their feet."

"Do you disapprove of bicycling for women?" I asked.

"No, I do not say that I disapprove of it. I only say that I would much rather see a woman ride a horse. It is so much more dignified. When I was in England I would often go to 'meets' where old ladies of 70 would ride for dear life after a brush, and it seems to me that there is more in such a ride as that than there can be in wheeling about. But then I have never tried the bicycle, and it is too popular for me to say anything against. I have never been on one, and the first lessons on a bicycle for a woman must be rather severe. I should term them her black and blue lesson."

"What do you think of the bloomer costume for women, Mr. Cody?"

"The bloomer costume! What's that—some new style women are riding bicycles with? I don't believe I have seen them at all. What are they like?"

I described as nearly as I could the new cycling costumes which are beginning to appear in the city. This amused Mr. Cody very much.

"Why, how strange!" he said, "I have never seen them, but just let me know when a girl is going to be out on a bicycle in a bloomer costume, and I will walk four blocks to see her—indeed I will. Now let me tell you about a suit that I introduced in England for the purpose of persuading women to ride astride. It has become very popular—so much so that many of the fashionable women of the first hunts of England have adopted it. Now, I do not know just where to begin. It is rather hard for me to describe a women's dress, even if I did design it. Well, first there are a pair of trousers; they are made very wide at the bottom and the outside is embroidered in rich silks of the same color as the material. These are very much like Spanish trousers, only that the Spanish trousers are of bright colors and embroidered with gold and beads, such as the girls wear who ride in my show. Then there is a tight fitting vest, with a coat that clings to the figure without being tight. It is opened down the back and front, and hooks on either side of the knee, so that when the wearer rides fast or it is blown by the wind it keeps its place. There is nothing at all mannish looking about this costume. Even when the wearer dismounts, the coat gives the appearance of a knee skirt, and the trousers, which hang below, are so wide and pretty that even the most fastidious could not call them immodest. These suits are usually relieved by a high collar and white necktie. They have really been a great success in England.


"Perhaps you have read of the young lady who was going to start from San Francisco and run a race with the cowboys to my show in Chicago? I do not know what happened to prevent her I am sorry that anything did. She was going to ride astride in one of these costumes and I really believe she would have won. The bets would have gone very high on her, I should have bet on her every time. She was one of those wiry little women, and I was awfully sorry that she didn't run. When a woman takes hold of anything like this I have always bet on her coming out ahead of the men. She would have more pluck. A woman always has more pluck, when it comes to endurance, than a man. I believe she would die rather than give in once she has set out to do a thing. In comparison to her strength, a woman has twice the endurance of a man. She has something more than endurance. I think it must be her will power. This forces her to go through with a thing when men drop it.

"I guess, perhaps, I can give you a better idea of what I think a woman should do and what I think she is capable of doing if I tell you how I trained my little girl. You know I had a boy and all my hopes were centered in him. I had made up my mind that he should ride and shoot, throw the lasso and hunt. But before any of my hopes were realized the child died. When my daughter was born I was sorry it was not a boy. I said, 'I want a boy, and you'll have to be my boy, little girl.' And she was. I taught her to ride, to shoot, and throw the lasso; she could drive a four-in-hand as well as any man and was a capital huntress. When quite a young girl she would get on her horse—a horse that few men could ride—and go leaping over the country, taking everything before her. Another day she would go out and bring back a half a dozen wild turkeys or an antelope, which she had shot with her own rifle. She was very clever as a sportswoman; her shot was as true as mine. This shows that a woman as well as a man can do anything she is taught. When people tell me that women can't do this and they can't do that I know that it is only because they have never been taught how. A very few years ago women in offices were not to be heard of, now people are getting more sensible. I like to see a woman independent, but I don't think she should let her independence carry her away. For instance, I should not like my wife to set up a little store on the corner out here; but still, if a woman has some nice occupation which is artistic and one which won't make her unwomanly or unfit to make a nice domesticated home, I do not see why she should not continue her work right straight along"

"From the way you speak, Colonel Cody," I interrupted, "I should judge that you were an advocate of woman's rights"

"Well, I guess I am," said the colonel. "I never gave the thing much thought, but I say give women their own way; they have a right to it and we men should let them have everything they want as far as it is in our power. The world would be a blank without them. Why should we not give them a chance? I'll just tell you this: The women in the world make life worth living, and if there were no women in the world they would all be in heaven. I would rather be a lackey in that heaven of women than I would be the Prince of Wales of England or Grover Cleveland, or even Ward McAllister, here."