Today, the Catholic Church honors Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart. In the “Blessed Among Us” feature in Give Us This Day, Robert Ellsberg tells us that Mother Joseph, born Esther Pariseau in Quebec in 1823, established hospitals, academies, schools for Native American children, and orphanages in an area that encompassed Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and southern British Columbia. She died on this day in 1902, and is widely recognized for her contributions in settling the Northwest.
Ellsberg adds, “In recent years, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. What?! There’s a National Cowgirl Hall of Fame?! When I was growing up, I wanted to be a cowgirl. Note that I grew up in an urban area of Massachusetts. I did not know any cowgirls, and although I had seen a few horses, I had never been on a ranch. Looking back, I think it was Dale Evans who inspired me – a very domesticated cowgirl, I might add. I often played the role of cowgirl, wearing fringed skirt and vest, hat, boots and spurs, and carrying a cap gun and holster.
So how do you get into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas? The museum and hall of fame “honors women of the American West who have displayed extraordinary courage and pioneering fortitude.” I found Mother Joseph’s name among the more than 230 names listed on the museum’s website. More than ever, I want to be a cowgirl – a woman who displays “courage and pioneering fortitude.”
As I scrolled through the names, I recognized only 10 names: Willa Cather, Patsy Cline, Dale Evans, Laura Gilpin, Wilma Mankiller, Georgia O’Keefe, Sacagawea, Laura Ingalls Wilder, surprisingly, Sandra Day O’Connor, and now, Mother Joseph Pariseau. I plan to return to the site to get acquainted with some of the other 220 women.
As I was reading, I found myself singing “Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” made famous by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. From the song’s lyrics, written by Ed and Patsy Bruce, I might agree. However, after reading the biographies of Mother Joseph and the other courageous women of pioneering fortitude, I am now singing, “Mommas, help your babies grow up to be cowgirls.”