HSU Ex-Cowgirls History
Cowgirls, Then and Now - 1925-1974
By Laura F. McBeth Thaxton
Many of the HSU ex-students have fond memories of the high stepping, rope twirling, Cowgirl organization associated at Hardin-Simmons from 1925 until 1974.
Miss Willie Rae McDonald graduated from Simmons College in 1922, and became a faculty member in 1925. She realized the importance of having an organization that could perform at athletic events. In chapel, she announced that girls interested in forming a pep squad were to meet in the gym. Forty or fifty girls responded and the organization was officially named "The Cowgirls."
The girls began their training, learning to follow whistle commands given by their drum major and practicing their yells. The first uniforms chosen were a purple skirt, gold flannel button-up jacket, purple headband and tan oxfords with purple ties. Members were lectured about their behavior, which was to be exemplary whether they were in or out of uniform. Rules were drawn up and enforced, such as no smoking, no drinking, no gum chewing, and no bad language. Girls were to be loyal to the school and to the teams. They were to be friends and respect each other. Miss McDonald wanted the Cowgirls to be a very elite group in every way.
After the first year, Glenna Fay Grant, who taught physical education, became the sponsor and leader. Boots, a purple scarf, and a large cowboy hat were added to the uniform. Judge C.M. Caldwell, a trustee of Simmons College for many years who was always generous to the Cowgirls, donated boots for all the girls.
The Cowgirls performed at all football games as a cheering squad and did short routines at halftime. Miss Grant introduced the "Cowgirl Stomp." This was a routine performed to the tune of The Old Gray Mare and became an instant hit everywhere the Cowgirls performed. Routines always ended with the formation of a large "SU," while the girls kneeled and raised their hats in a salute. Cowgirls attended basketball games and other sports activities, as well.
In 1928, an Old Confederate Reunion was held in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Cowgirls and the Cowboy Band were asked to attend. On the train trip to Little Rock, the train stopped in Weatherford, Fort Worth, and Texarkana for the girls and the band to perform short parades, which always drew crowds and large media coverage.
Dottie Shaw Parker, president of the Cowgirls in 1942 remembers: "Fox Studios in Hollywood wanted to feature the Cowgirls in their Movietone News. The girls practiced all summer long, and when the filming crew arrived, the Cowboy Band played while every girl twirled her rope. Some twirled small ropes while others twirled large ones jumping in and out of their loop. We then marched behind the Cowboy Band. This film short was shown all over the United States."
These Cowgirls served their school for forty-nine years, when changing times caused the Cowgirls to cancel plans for spring rush. Ex-Cowgirls and other individuals, including members of the University administration, tried in vain to revive interest in the organization, but it was disbanded shortly before its 50th birthday.
Cowgirl alumni have always been proud of their identity and the Ex-Cowgirls organization was began on November 11, 1930, with Glenna Fay Grant, now retired, as the first president. After the active Cowgirls disbanded, the Ex-Cowgirls organization became even stronger. Today they still enjoy getting together, remembering the fun times, and talking about what Cowgirls meant to them. A group of fifteen Ex-Cowgirls still perform the "Cowgirl Stomp" for freshmen orientation each year, and any other time they are asked to perform. Ex-Cowgirl members are still "loyal to the school and to the teams. They respect and are friends with each other." Miss McDonald, who always wanted the Cowgirls to be a very elite group in every way, would be so pleased.
This is a short synopsis of A History of The Hardin-Simmons University Cowgirls, 1925 to 1974, by Laura F. McBeth Thaxton. Laura graduated from HSU in 1951 and was a member of Cowgirls her junior and senior years.