Tough Women of the Old West & the Men Who Done Them Wrong

Men call women “the weaker sex” but these women proved them wrong – dead wrong!


You’ve heard the story of “Frankie and Johnny.” Eleanor’s story is much the same.

Frankie and Johnny were lovers

Oh Lordy how they did love

Swore to be true to each other

True as the stars above

He was her man but he was doing her wrong

Eleanor was a gambler who owned an elegant saloon in Nevada City during the California gold rush. A striking woman, despite a small mustache, she strolled through town dressed in the finest fashions. Her saloon, that served not whiskey, but champagne, made her wealthy enough and she bought a ranch.

Then Eleanor’s trouble started when she fell for a conman named Jack. She trusted him with all she had, because he was her man and, “He wouldn’t do me wrong.”

But Jack McKnight was a bad, bad man. He stole her money and sold her ranch. If wicked Jack had only known what retribution would come his way if he made his sweet Eleanor mad, he might have lived.

But Eleanor rode out to find him knowing, like Frankie, what she’d do.

“I’m taking my man to the graveyard

but I ain’t gonna bring him back

Lord he was my man and he’s done me wrong.”

Eleanor tracked Jack down with a shotgun in her hand.

“Rooty toot toot, three times she shot, right through that hardwood door

Shot her man, cause he was doing her wrong”

With debts and her money gone, Eleanor went back to gambling, but her luck had run out along with the gold. She fell into prostitution and became known as Madam Mustache, because, under her frilly bonnet, her face was marked by the mustache that had sprouted a thick new growth. Her fortunes continued downhill until she took her own life.

This story has no moral, this story has no end.

This story just goes to show that there ain’t no good in men.

He was her man, and he done her wrong.


Mary Fields was a rough, tough, hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, gun-toting woman, but she always delivered her mail.

As good with her fists as she was with a gun, Mary didn’t take anything from anybody, and broke her fair share of men’s noses.

Born a slave, after emancipation, Mary went to work doing general gardening and handiwork for a convent school. She was a hard worker, the kind every boss craves – that is until she got into a gunfight behind the school. After she shot the other guy, she was fired.

When she was 63 years old, Mary found her true calling and began the career she’s known for – delivering the mail by stagecoach in the Montana Territory, the second women mail carrier ever employed by the postal service.

That work ethic again – she never missed a day of work and she got the mail through on time – no matter what men or beasts she had to fight to get it done. Mary embodied  the “neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow,” motto, even when it meant getting down from the stagecoach and trudging through snow and ice in snowshoes, she delivered her mail.

She retired in Cascade, Montana, but kept on working, babysitting and running a laundry service at home. People of the town loved her. They closed the schools on her birthday and the mayor exempted her from the Montana law against women in saloons.


Sarah Jane Newman, Skull Sally, was a notorious gun-slinging, bullwhip-wielding horse-trader, who often dressed as a man and could outfight most of them.

She was born in 1817 in Austin, Texas Territory where her folks were some of the first settlers. Native Americans already living there weren’t happy with the invasion. They fought to rid themselves of the settlers and Sally’s folks fought back. Her mother, Rachel Newman, is said to have cut the toes off of a man who was trying to break into her house.

Few men could match the girl who grew up fighting. She became known to shoot, ride, drink, and cuss as well as any man. Fearless, she dressed as a man and rode out, all alone, on the dangerous treks to Mexico to bring back horses. Some said the horses she brought back were stolen, but nobody knows for sure.

Afraid of no man, she threatened a grisly freighter who owed her money, “If you don’t pay me right now you son-of-a-bitch, I’ll chop the Goddam front wheels off every Goddam wagon you’ve got.”

She was paid.

Sally didn’t always dress in men’s clothes. Sally loved men and could dress in frills and lace to attract them. She married five of them – but Sally’s husbands didn’t stick around. They ran away, died, or disappeared. Nobody knows for sure if Sally killed a couple of them, as some believed but were afraid to ask.

When they told her the body of her fourth husband had been found she said, “I don’t give a damn about the body, but I sure would like to have the $40 in that money belt around it.”

Weaker sex? No, a sex as tough, as capable, and as scary as any man.


Some sources:

February 28, 2020