A Long-Lived Cowgirl

The oldest member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame dies at 107.

The oldest member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame dies at 107.

Isora Young ropes a calf. Photo courtesy of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on America’s Horse Daily in the spring of 2011, as Isora DeRacy Young was about to celebrate her 106th birthday. Sadly, we’re updating and re-publishing the story after Isora died on May 30, 2012, at age 107. (See her obituary here.) She was the oldest member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and was thought to be the oldest woman in Texas.  

In the July 2011 issue of America’s Horse, three independent, spirited members of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame defined what “cowgirl” means to them, talked about the biggest risks they’ve ever taken and more. 

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame sent us another story, which is a look at another cowgirl hall of famer who has that same strength of character: 

When Isora DeRacy Young saw her first day of life in 1904, it was without the fanfare that she later experienced as an independent woman who developed a national reputation in the rodeo arena, as well as a rancher and business woman. 

Isora of Stephenville, Texas, who celebrated her 107th birthday May 20, 2012, was the oldest living member of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. She may also have been the oldest living woman in Texas following the death of Eunice Sanborn of Jacksonville, Texas, in January 2011, at the age of 114. Isora passed away May 30, 2012, in Fort Worth, with a memorial service to be held June 4.

The Texas Legislature honored Isora with a proclamation May 20, 2011, and flew a flag over the Texas Capital that was later presented to her. 

A more recent photo of Isora Young. Courtesy of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

Isora was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1979 and was honored for her role as a champion calf roper and barrel racer from a time when women in rodeo were very rare. She began competing in the early 1930s and was promoted as one of only two cowgirl calf ropers in the world. She followed the rodeo circuit all across the country and aided in the organization of the Girls Rodeo Association (the precursor to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association) until she retired to ranching. 

“Isora is a great testimony to the resiliency of women raised in the West,” said the museum’s executive director, Pat Riley. “Women of today can learn so much from her life that included fame, a long marriage and the birth of her entrepreneurial spirit.” 

Isora, who lived independently with a cat named Sugar, was profiled in Erath County Living, where she spoke of a life that did not include public school until she was 15 and being named a deputy sheriff in Reeves County, where she carried a pearl-handled revolver while she collected taxes. 

She married I.W. “Dub” Young in 1939, and the two traveled throughout the West competing in rodeos before buying a ranch near Stephenville. After leasing their ranch in 1947, they moved to South Dakota to ranch and continue rodeoing until their retirement from the sport. The couple returned to Erath County, and Isora began an income tax service business. When Dub died in 1976, Isora had 400 customers and moved to Stephenville. 

“I wanted to stay on the ranch, but Dub told me when he was gone, I should move to town,” she told the magazine. “So that’s what I did.” 

She enjoyed a family that includes three granddaughters, six great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren. 

“I’ve sure had fun,” Isora said last year. “I can eat anything I want, and I really like spicy food. I haven’t been sick that much; my hearing and eyesight are not what they used to be, but I can still get around all right. I’ve got wonderful memories, but all my old friends are gone.” 

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors and celebrates women, past and present, whose lives exemplify the courage, resilience and independence that helped shape the American West. The museum fosters an appreciation of the ideals and spirit of self-reliance they inspire. 

Author: holly

Editor, America's Horse magazine

13 thoughts on “A Long-Lived Cowgirl”

  1. Thats outstanding. I work with a lot of young girls, everyone of which love horses, hope they read this article and cowgirl up as you say.

  2. This article is awesome and this woman inspires me to continue to ride and raise my horses! I hope to live as long as she has and continue to have fun and create more memories! God Bless you Isora DeRacy Young!

  3. After I read this article I was absolutely speechless.Makes me hope and pray that someday I can do what she did full-time.Amazing life story ,Mrs. Young.

  4. I have to say she was quite the competitor. What I’d like to say is the competition of life is a much deeper subject. Serving God, raising cattle in the midst of a drought uncompairable to the dirty 30’s and raising our kids to be strong willed in their beliefs,while raising American Quarter horses to ride on our own land. Those are gifts I treasure. That is the American west. I solute those cowgirls and am grateful to be a part of that status. May we all have the strength to endure.

  5. What an inspiration. I have known many such western women and some are also in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Western women have grit and are very independent. We have a self worth and earn it daily. Thanks to leaders like Isora DeRacy Young. I also think the cowgirl up ladies follow their own independent path.

  6. Awesome article! To quote Reba’s song “A Little Want To”. You got to have a little want to…inside of you.. that goes a long long way, theres nothing I can’t do..Attitude..no matter what folks say. This song and Long Live Cowgirls, in my opinion, definately describe Mrs. Young. Great inspiration.

  7. Today my Granny went to be with the Lord, she lived a long 107 years. Isora Young was an inspiration to all who knew her. She will be greatly missed.

  8. I am proud to say that Isora was my friend. She was my neighbor, my advisor, and a delightful friend. She was very spiritual, kind, sincere, funny, compassionate, generous and sometimes mischievious. What a joy to have known her for so many years. She loved God, her family and friends, roping, horses and her cat. She never met a stranger and was very independent. She was always there to listen, inspire and share. I will miss you Isora. I look forward to seeing you again when the final trumpet calls. Rest in Peace.

  9. Wow-I loved reading this article! I was born 75 years to late! She sounds like an amazing women. I would have loved to have spend a day with a women like that! Married at 35 yo age. That’s interesting, back then I’m sure they all married very young. Being 32 yo and a single horse women, its nice to hear there is hope for me yet!

  10. Wow, very inspirational artical. I wish I can be that great of a woman when I’m older. I’m proud to be a cowgirl myself & I love raisin’ & trainin’ my wonderful American Quarter Horses.
    Long Live Cowgirls!

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