Cow Boys and Cattle Men: Class and Masculinities on the Texas Frontier, 1865-1900

By Jacqueline M. Moore | Go to book overview

5
Men and Women

The relationships that cowboys and cattlemen established with women affected their concept of their own masculinity but also reflected class differences. Although cattlemen spent much time in the company of their wives and daughters, most cowboys had only episodic contact with women. But both shared prevailing Victorian attitudes about respectable women as innocent and in need of protection. The degree to which men could protect women, moreover, was a traditional marker of manhood. To the cattlemen, women could only enhance their masculine image. As a prominent member of society, the cattleman could add to the community with his choice of a wife. He sought first of all a helpmeet who could serve as hostess and survive among the cowboys. He proved his role as provider by ensuring that he met her every need, including frequently building a second house for her in town so that she might find more feminine pleasures and a social life such as she was accustomed to. The production of children, especially sons, also reinforced the cattleman's masculinity and could ensure his business legacy. Women thus gave his business success a larger purpose, and in his role as head of the household he took on all the trappings of respectable masculinity.

In contrast, outside of the South Texas ranches where vaqueros generally lived with their wives and families on the ranch, the cowboy had few opportunities to play family protector and provider. In addition, the women he could associate with were not the sort that society deemed worthy of protection. Not surprisingly, cowboys' attitudes toward women reflected a sense of ambivalence. They rejected the moral world in which good women lived but placed the women in it on a pedestal. They reveled in the freedom they felt in the company of prostitutes but also did not really value these relationships. Thus, the cowboy played at chivalry with the “bad” women he had access to and idolized the “good” women he could not possess. Associating respectable women with family and childhood, they created sentimental attachments in the off-seasons, and performed

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Cow Boys and Cattle Men: Class and Masculinities on the Texas Frontier, 1865-1900
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction: The West, the Man, and the Myth 1
  • Part I - Doing the Job 17
  • 1: Of Men and Cattle 19
  • 2: From Boys to Men 43
  • 3: At Work 68
  • Part II - Having Fun 107
  • 4: A Society of Men 109
  • 5: Men and Women 141
  • 6: In Town 168
  • Epilogue: The Cowboy Becomes Myth 204
  • Notes 217
  • Index 263
  • About the Author 269
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