#Lookback: Women in Dude Ranching

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and presented
by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

At the height of their popularity, in the years between the Great Depression and the Second World War, dude ranches pumped an estimated $12 million into Wyoming’s economy. The name ‘dude ranch’ was loosely applied to any ranch which supplied room and board for overnight guests, but that changed with the establishment of the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) in 1926. The Dude Ranchers’ Association set strict rules regarding what constituted a dude ranch, and in the opinion of the organization, they were ranches which “did not accept walk-in traffic, provided accommodations on the American plan*, and created a family-like ranch atmosphere”. Integral to creating that family-like atmosphere were women.

The wives of dude ranchers had their work cut out for them. In addition to their regular duties in helping to run a working ranch, they were also tasked with creating a “home” in a hotel and a “family” from a group of strangers of varying ages and backgrounds. In fact, the Dude Ranchers’ Association published a magazine, The Dude Rancher, which contained a monthly column titled “Home Management Department”. In 1933, Mrs. Ralph Allen, author of the “Home Management Department” wrote: “To we dude ranch women, what a business! This business of being a good housewife, a good manager, a good businesswoman, a good hostess, all in one.”

Countless women shouldered these responsibilities, including, Marion Moore, nee Laidlaw, of Minneapolis. Marion married Charles Moore, owner of the CM Ranch located just east of Dubois, on May 20, 1927. After their marriage, Marion helped her husband transform the CM Ranch from a western retreat for the sons of affluent eastern families into a successful family-oriented ranching experience. In addition to hiring staff, arranging cabins, extensively marketing the CM Ranch, and other behind-the-scenes jobs, she wrangled cattle, branded horses, and showed the ranch’s many guests how to fish, start campfires, and horseback ride. Marion’s daily life as co-owner of a dude ranch differed widely from those of women visiting or working on the ranch. However, it nevertheless reflects the many ways in which the dude ranch experience was shaped by women.

*The ‘American plan’ refers to a system of room-and-board where a meal or meal plan was provided to guests.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

August 29th, 2-4 Riverton Museum “Treasure Hunt: How to use a Map and Compass”

              Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

August 29th, Pioneer Museum “Ed Young Apple Orchard Virtual Trek”

              Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

September 12th, 8-3 Riverton Museum “Uranium District Adventure Trek”

              Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum are seeing significantly decreased visitation this summer as a result of Covid-19. As a result, the self-generated revenue we rely so heavily on to make ends meet is not keeping pace. We are counting on private donations to continue to maintain successful and engaging museums during this time. We urge you to make a tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support. 

Photo: Marion Moore: CM Ranch

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