National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame Acquires Tough By Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is pleased to announce the acquisition of Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West by artist Lynda Lanker. The exhibit was a donation from Lynda Lanker. The gift encompasses 65 of Lanker’s drawings, paintings, works on paper and prints, which document a vanishing way of life that affirmed the role of women, many of them Hall of Fame Honorees, in the economy and ecology of the American West. It also includes primary source material – works of art, a lithograph stone, plates and tools, studies material created while working on the collection and archival materials such as interviews, biographies and photographs.To celebrate the exhibition becoming a part of the Museum’s permanent collection, it will be on exhibit in the Anne W. Marion Gallery Feb. 13 through summer 2021. Included will be objects from the Museum’s permanent collection from some of the women represented. A printable educational activity guide will be available on our website under the “exhibition” tab, to bring to the exhibition. 

We were fortunate to host this exhibition in 2013, and then to have it gifted to us seven years later is humbling,” said Dr. Diana Vela, associate executive director. “It is a fitting gift to the Museum as all of the women depicted in the exhibition personify our mission.”  

For 19 years, Lanker traveled 13 western states sketching, painting, interviewing and photographing iconic women of the West. She has persisted in her commitment to preserve the spirit, heritage and stories of ranch women and cowgirls before even more of their ranches and homes are overtaken by urban and corporate development. Her subtle, thoughtful portraits bring these ranch women to life in the contexts they have chosen. She used a variety of media – pencil, charcoal, oil, egg tempura, lithography and engraving – to capture the spirit of these women and their stories. 

“If you’ve lived in ranch country much, you can tell a ranch woman by the wrinkles,” Lynda Lanker said in her book Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West. “These wrinkles represent a choice, born of devotion to the harsh, seldom responsive land.”

This exhibition presents selected portraits and stories of more than 50 women, including seven Cowgirl Hall of Fame Honorees, who gain their sustenance and livelihood from the land. The seven Honorees featured are Linda Mitchell Davis, Ruby Gobble, Jonnie Jonckowski, Gretchen Sammis, Georgie Sicking, Mollie Taylor Stevenson and Jan Youren.

Accompanying the exhibition is the 132-page coffee table book, which tells the stories of these remarkable women in their own words. The book will be available in The Shop at The Cowgirl. The catalogue includes a forward by Larry McMurtry, an introduction by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and an afterword by Maya Angelou. 

About the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors and celebrates women, past and present, whose lives exemplify the courage, resilience and independence that helped shape the West, and fosters an appreciation of the ideals and spirit of self-reliance they inspire. Established in 1975, the Museum is considered an invaluable national educational resource for its exhibits, research library, rare photograph collection and award-winning distance-learning programs. In 2019, the Museum opened the Kit Moncrief Galleries and It’s Never Just a HorseTM exhibition. Located at 1720 Gendy Street Fort Worth, Texas 76107. Hours of operation are Tuesday – Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults (13+); $7 for seniors (60+); $4 for children (ages 3-12); free for military, first responders and children 3 and under with paid admission. For more news and information visit or call 817.336.4475 and follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. 

About Lynda Lanker
Lynda Lanker, from Eugene, Ore., traveled for 19 years through 13 western states sketching, painting, interviewing and photographing “matriarchs of the West,” women who play the essential roles of hardworking ranchers, mothers, cowgirls, wives and homemakers. She is committed to preserve their pioneering spirit, heritage, and stories before more of their ranches are overtaken by urban and corporate development Visit Lanker website for more information,