Introducing 2010 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductee… Alice Greenough (1902 - 1995)
Alice Greenough busted broncs and busted ranks in the macho world of rodeo. She was the first woman to be inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1975 at Hereford, Texas and she was named to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1983. She was hands down the first rodeo queen.
Alice was born at her family’s horse and cattle ranch in 1902 at Red Lodge, Montana. Greenough learned to ride horses from her father Ben Greenough, whose philosophy, she was fond of telling reporters, was: “If you can’t ride ‘em walk.” Ben was known in the Red Lodge area as Pack Saddle Ben as he guided seasonal sportsmen into the Bear Tooth Mountains to hunt and fish. The Greenough’s kept horses at their rock littered base camp. Alice’s sister Marge reflected that Ben expected all his kids to ride the wildest of horses and that they rode very well as they weren’t sure that they could get bucked off on those rocks and live.
She first began riding bucking horses in a public venue at the Forsyth rodeo, on a dare by a handful of the rodeo cowboys participating. “These cowboys decided I ought to ride a bucking horse, so they brought over a gray bronc and saddled him and turned me loose in front of the grandstand,” Greenough wrote in a personal essay. “I didn’t buck off.” That was the beginning of Greenough’s lifelong wild ride that would take her to rodeos at Madison Square Garden’s, to Boston and on to trick riding around the world. She would go on to perform by riding exhibition and in rodeos in 46 states, Canada, Mexico, Spain, France and England.
Alice Greenough won the Word Champion Saddle Bronc rider title in 1933, 1935, 1936 and 1941. During this time the event was called “Saddle Back riding” rather than Saddle Bronc riding a more modern term. “Alice won titles in America and Australia, and was invited to Europe to ride steers there—she thought, said Coy Huffman, a close friend of Greenough’s. When she arrived in Spain she found the word toro meant bull, but Alice kept her contract and rode the bull.”
Alice married Ray Cahill and two children were born to this marriage. Some years later she married Joe Orr and together Joe and Alice operated their own rodeo business. Her work in the business featured the invention of the first women’s barrel racing event.
Greenough’s skills as a horsewoman gained her an international following that included royalty, the friendship of American heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey, and well-known socialites which included Cornelius Vanderbilt. She entered Hollywood when she performed trick riding in numerous western movies including a 1937 film “The Californians.” She later did stunt work for the television series “Little House on the Prairie.
Alice Greenough was further honored as “Best Woman Athlete by Birth State-Montana” as reported by Sports Illustrated and CNN. She was also named as one of Montana’s 100 most influential persons. Both of these honors included the whole of the 20th century.
Greenough established the Carbon County Museum at Red Lodge in 1959 to house the collection of her world renowned rodeo family. The museum houses the Greenough and Linderman rodeo collections. Alice Greenough’s siblings Turk and Marge were also Bronc Riders. Turk won three Saddle Bronc riding championships in the 1930s and was one of a very few who rode the notorious broncs “Midnight and Five Minutes to Midnight.” Marge also won a Saddle Bronc championship and was a bull rider. Four of the Greenough Siblings which included Alice, Turk, Marge and Bill were known as “The Riding Greenough’s though all the Greenough children were experts at riding. Alice Greenough’s great-nephew Deb Greenough was a professional rodeo bareback riding champion and her nephew, Chuck Henson was inducted into the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1995. Deb is a descendant of Bill while Chuck is a descendant of Marge.
Alice Greenough died in August of 1995 at the age of 93. She is credited with clearing a path for other women to become professional horse trainers and rodeo competitors.