Rural California, between Merced County and Yosemite Park, up to the buttresses of the Sierra Nevada, is a tough landscape, a place of baking hot summers and icy winters. This is cowboy country. But here being a cowboy isn’t necessarily a man’s job. For many years now this work has also been done by women who, in spite of people’s prejudices on the subject, are used to driving vast herds of cattle over thousands of acres, and spending endless days in the saddle. They are also used to grounding calfs with a lasso, managing a team of cowboys and balancing the books of the ranch, which are increasingly under threat from climate change.
Today Californian cowgirls manage millions of acres of pasture land. It is more than a craft, it is an art handed down from mother to daughter. And it has roots that go back to the start of the last century. In an age in which women couldn’t vote but they could ride horses, these women inspired the feminist movement in the United States.