Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts


Kayla Churchill 

The Roots and Evolution of American Rodeos

Mistreatment and Downfall of Women in Charlotte Brontė’s Literary Works

Arising from the ranch and cattle culture of the West, rodeos existed as a form of entertainment, business, and a celebration of cowboy solidarity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The end of the frontier days marked the beginning of mass movements West and the creation of a new Western culture. The Spanish settlers taught cowboys and cowgirls in the West basic ranching and horseback riding skills. Once the number of ranches plummeted, cowboys and cowgirls competed in rodeos to supplement their income. As participation in rodeos grew during the 1900s, rodeos prospered as an industry and sport throughout the United States. Rodeos evolved and professionalized due to the establishment of rodeo organizations such as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1936. The dangerous sport became a lifestyle for many cowboys and cowgirls, and grew into a larger form of business for rodeo promoters. The once small, informal rodeos developed into nation-wide events. Although rodeos became popular with both men and women, a vast majority of the competitors at rodeos were men, only a small number of women competed.

The struggles cowgirls face competing in a male dominated sport is similar to the challenges that Charlotte Brontė’s female protagonists confront as they attempt to resist patriarchy. Brontė’s literary works focus on the female’s struggle to gain autonomy in a male-dominated society. Lucy Snowe of Villette and Shirley of Shirley stray from stereotypical roles of females in the nineteenth century, only to realize that they remain subordinate to men. Although Brontė’s heroines strongly desire independence, they succumb to men’s power when they agree to marry because their desire for love is even stronger. The women in Brontė’s novels begin as socially and economically restricted, but once they achieve autonomy, they become independent and successful. However, though they find their place in society and gain control of their lives, they are ultimately manipulated by men to believe that they are inferior and therefore fall back into subservient positions through marriage. In every novel, Brontė’s female protagonists fall into this pattern, thereby revealing the power of patriarchy over even the strongest women.

Major Works Consulted:

Allen, Michael. Rodeo Cowboys in the North American Imagination. Reno: U of Nevada P, 1998.
Brontė, Charlotte. Shirley. New York: Wordsworth Classic, 1998.
---. Villette. New York: Bantam Classic, 1986.
Ordway, Kathryn. Colorado's Rodeo Roots Modern-Day Cowboys.Virginia: Colorado Country Life, 2004.
Photo Credit: “Charlotte Brontė.” Digital image. The Telegraph. Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2016. Charlotte- Bronte-Why- Villette-is-better- than-Jane-Eyre.html.