Eugénie Baccot

Documentary Photographer

Diane: All Around Cowgirl

In the main room, the walls feature a complete cowboy outfit: stirrups and straps of all sorts. From her living room, Diane, with her long salt and peppered braid dangling across her back and cowboy hat never very far from reach, can observe the vast land handed down to her from four generations of Bohna before her. The neighbouring ranch is none other than that of the heir of the authentic Dalton brothers. Far from John Wayne's image of the Wild West, and of that glamorous cowgirl languorously riding a mechanical bull in her pink skirt and boots, the life of a female rancher is far more exciting. Up at 5am and in bed at 9pm, Diane manages over 1,500 beef cattle over 3,700 hectares on a daily basis.

Like many cowgirls, Diane is a worthy heir to a long legacy of female ranchers. In the great history of the Western conquest, the wild lands, from Wyoming to California, were populated mainly by men. The women who roamed with them along the trails of the Wild West wee, very often, prostitutes. What changed this situation was the Farm Ownership Act, introduced by Lincoln in 1862: in order to snatch the land from the native peoples, the State ceded 65 hectares for each man and woman who had occupied the land for more than five years. It was revolutionary at a time when women had neither the right to vote nor the right to own anything. The offer took off like a bomb, and at the beginning of the 20th century, 30,000 to 40,000 women had purchased land on their behalf. Among them, historical figures like Cattle Kate, Caroline Lockhart or Lucille Mulhall whose destinies as entrepreneurs would go on to force a national feminist reflection.

(trans. of text by) Anne-Laure Pineau // freelance journalist //