- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

FORT WORTH, Texas Saying "At heart, I will always be a cowgirl," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame yesterday as hundreds watched opening ceremonies celebrating the new $21 million hall and museum.
Justice O'Connor said she was "thrilled" to be with the several dozen former inductees present and called the new museum "sensational."
Turning to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison who both mentioned how honored the museum backers were to include the first woman on the nation's high court Justice O'Connor said, "It's wonderful, Governor, to be the first woman on the Supreme Court, but it will be even better when we get the second cowgirl on the Supreme Court."
Justice O'Connor eulogized the women who helped settle and tame the West, from Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who guided Lewis and Clark from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean in 1806, to those who came as "wives and homesteaders, ranchers, miners, soldiers and missionaries.
"Some," she added, "came as stable women, as teachers, as adventurers and sometimes as ladies of the night."
She talked about growing up on a ranch, for a time without electricity or running water, with skunks nesting under the screened-in porch and a bobcat for a pet.
"As a child," Justice O'Connor said: "I grew up hoping to be a cattle rancher myself one day. I rode on roundups and helped do all the things that one does on the ranch. It was indeed my first experience with all-male colleagues.
"My career, in time, took a different turn, becoming the first cowgirl to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and I now find myself riding herd on lower-court judges instead of cattle."
Justice O'Connor became the 154th honoree in the hall.
Established in 1975 in Hereford, Texas, the popular attraction soon grew faster than the small town could handle. And when founder Margaret C. Formby realized it needed to be in a larger spot, 32 cities inquired.
"I told my board of directors that we had outgrown Hereford," said Mrs. Formby, 72, here for the festivities as an honored lifetime member. "I said we've outgrown our building, outgrown out staff, and we've definitely outgrown our bank account."
The choice was whittled down to Fort Worth and two other Texas cities, but Fort Worth's "can-do" attitude, its cadre of philanthropy-driven supporters and its drive for cultural excellence won out, Mrs. Formby said. The hall moved here in 1994.
The new 33,000-square-foot museum is within walking distance of the city's famed Kimbell Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Amon Carter Museum.
Speakers yesterday said the museum is to honor not only those women who were the heroines of the American West but also those who continue to live "with the grit and determination of the American cowgirl."
Memorabilia is everywhere, from Dale Evans' silver saddle and Annie Oakley's gun (both never displayed elsewhere) to Western paintings, saddles, boots, movies, books and slide shows in all, artifacts commemorating more than 400 remarkable women of the West.
From rodeo circuit stars of yesteryear to current cutting-horse champions and early female settlers to those women who photographed, sang or wrote about them, they all have a place here.
Last night, many of those who donated $500 or more were invited to a gala and this morning, more than 1,400 female riders were expected to parade through the city's Cultural District.
One scheduled rider is 100-year-old Connie Reeves of Kerrville, Texas, who has taught more than 30,000 girls to ride. She is in her 67th summer teaching at the Hill Country's Camp Waldemar.
Mrs. Reeves and her late husband raised livestock on nearly 10,000 acres near Junction, Texas, for more than 40 years. Her motto, often heard around the hall of fame, is "Always saddle your own horse."
"And I will be doing just that tomorrow morning," she said yesterday.
Four more women will be inducted in November. Justice O'Connor could not attend that ceremony, she informed local leaders, because court will be in session.

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