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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Women of the Range: Women's Roles in the Texas Beef Cattle Industry. By Elizabeth
Maret. Foreword by Liz Carpenter. (College Station: Texas A&M University
Press, 1993. Pp. xxiv+152. List of illustrations, foreword, preface, introduc-
tion, notes, references, index. ISBN 0-89096-532-3. $32.oo, cloth. ISBN o-
89096-541-2. $12.95, paper.)
In this book, Elizabeth Maret investigates an occupation culturally identified
as masculine and reveals women's vital roles within it. Based on census data, oral
and written surveys, property records, and five years of observation on ranches,
this is a sociological study of women in today's Texas beef cattle industry. Maret
argues that modern developments such as mechanization, the information ex-
plosion, and the sophisiticated use of credit and investments have facilitated
women's increasing involvement in the business. As cattle raising becomes more
specialized, more women enter the field as veterinary doctors, professional auc-
tioneers, certified artificial insemination technicians, public relations represen-
tatives for beef retailers, and programmers of herd management software.
Primarily descriptive, this study raises issues of gender, ethnicity, and class
which should stimulate further research. In a chapter on cattlewomen in Texas
history, Maret alludes to the power of cultural emblems to skew perceptions of
women's roles. She notes that the emergence of the cowboy as a symbol of mas-
culinity has obscured women's contributions in the cattle industry. So, too, the
Victorian ideology of domesticity sometimes left women's farm work and man-
agement unrecognized. One wonders to what degree cultural values blind Tex-
ans to, ranchwomen's roles today, and what this suggests about women's entry
into occupations with a gendered identity.
In the same chapter, Maret finds historical continuity in the pattern of ranch-
ing in family partnerships. Both nineteenth- and twentieth-century ranches often
pooled the labor, income, and assets of primary kinship groups. Nineteenth- and
twentieth-century women ranch owners typically acquired their property
through inheritance. Most striking is Maret's observation that women who inher-
it land tend to bequeath it to female as well as male children. This suggests a
gradual process of cultural and economic entitlement by women in a traditional-
ly male occupation, and invites more focused historical analysis.
Finally, many of the women whom Maret profiles as antecedents of today's cat-
tlewomen had distinctive class and ethnic identities, such as Dofia Rosa Hinojosa
de Balli, the eighteenth-century Spanish owner of some fifty-three thousand
acres in the Rio Grande Valley. The relative wealth of women ranch owners and
their ethnicity, like their patterns of inheritance, remain embedded in Maret's
findings, but not analyzed. While these elements figure minimally in Maret's so-
ciological study, they signal fruitful directions for historians exploring class, eth-
nicity, and gender on the Texas cattle frontier.
Maret is uniquely qualified to write on the contemporary cattle industry; her
five years of participant observation included certification as an artificial insemi-
nation technician and service as a professional auctioneer. Hours of interviews
and side-by-side work with women ranchers add depth and immediacy to her
portrait of modern Texas cattlewomen. Women of the Range combined the hu-



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 2, 2016.

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