SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) — An early group of Texas ranch women changed the course of rodeo history in the largely male-dominated sport on February 28, 1948, in San Angelo, Texas.
According to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, 38 women met at the St. Angelus Hotel intending to pave the way for future women in rodeo, having at the time had no association, no generalized rules and no organization to keep the women’s events going. To combat this, the Girls Rodeo Association was born.
As the WPRA celebrates its 75th year in 2023, it is believed that four founding members are still alive, including Betty Barron Dusek, Dixie Reger Mosley, Mitzi Riley and Fay Ann Horton Leach.
The WPRA talked to Dusek, a founding member and the first calf roping director who said, “We were just sick of being cheated and not having rules. We were ready for some organization – honestly, just to make everything better.”
This group of founding women had a long battle ahead of them with their primary goal to give women legitimate, honest opportunities to compete in all-girl rodeos as well as establish an alliance with the Rodeo Cowboys Association to host women’s events with RCA-sanctioned rodeos.
Upon implementing the GRA women’s rules in May 1948, GRA members got to work persuading rodeo committees and producers to put on women’s competitions.
Changing its name in 1982 to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, the GRA held fast to the aims that first inspired it in 1948 to help like-minded women reach their goals.
By 1998, barrel racing was included as an event at the NFR. Women were still not paid the same as all the men’s events at the time, but that was about to change. For the first time, barrel racing, as well as the PRCA’s team roping, was paid out the same amount as all the other events at the NFR in Las Vegas. This was also the year that the Association celebrated 50 years.
Over the last 75 years barrel racing has taken the lead as WPRA’s primary event, but women’s breakaway roping has been fighting to make its way into all PRCA-sanctioned events. Breakaway has since been introduced to 30 PRCA rodeos but is now working towards its contestants receiving equal money. Despite Fort Worth and a handful of other rodeos offering equal money, the vast majority do not and others have yet to add breakaway roping.
In 2022 San Angelo made history at the Cinch Roping Fiesta with the largest prize purses of the event’s 69-year history and the first year the competition presented Women’s Breakaway Roping.
While there are still ways to go for the women of rodeo, what we see today could not have even been imaginable if not for the group of women who fought tooth and nail in the early days of rodeo.