Oklahoma has a colorful western heritage, one with deep roots in the American West. More than a century ago, Ponca City’s 101 Ranch, Elk City’s Beutler Brothers Rodeo and Pawnee Bill’s Wild West show put the young state on the proverbial map. Today, the west lives on, even though many of the prairies are now bustling cities.
In 1955, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum was formed. In 2010, contemporary women leaders established the Annie Oakley Society as part of the museum. Today, the society comprises female leaders and philanthropists who, like Oakley herself did, play significant roles in shaping Oklahoma communities and creating new horizons.
The annual Annie Oakley Society Awards Luncheon will take place at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 13 in the Museum’s Sam Noble Special Events Center.
“The American West is not some historic time or place, but rather it is a living, breathing culture that we all continue to experience and to shape today,” says Cathy Keating, Annie Oakley Society National Chair and former Oklahoma First Lady. “The Society is proud of the strides we have made to help recognize the important contributions of women in the West, not only to our history but also to our country today. Our members live every day under Annie Oakley’s famous mantra, ‘Aim High.’”
Oakley was a famous American sharpshooter who played a significant role in shaping the future for women, Keating said. As a 19th century female pioneer, Oakley learned how to combine talent, skill, beauty, femininity and humility, all while acting as an entrepreneur, businesswoman, athlete and wife.
“Our society honors Annie’s memory and the history of all women in the West by recognizing the accomplishments of some of our country’s top women achievers,” Keating says. “The annual luncheon and awards really are the hallmark event of the year.”
This year’s honorees are Donna Shirley and Jo Rowan. Shirley was manager of the Mars Exploration Program and worked for 32 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, before retiring in 1998.
Rowan is chairman of the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management, founder of the Oklahoma City University Dance Program and director and founder of the American Spirit Dance Company. She is also a nationally known master ballet teacher and performer.
“We have been so excited to honor many accomplished women, both from Oklahoma and from around the country, who have contributed in very diverse ways to our nation,” Keating says. “Some past honorees include Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Reba McEntire, Nadia Comaneci and Kristin Chenoweth. Last year’s honoree was U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, the first woman to achieve the high rank of four-star admiral.”
This year’s theme is about aiming high and reaching for the stars, Keating said. Honorees are selected annually by the society’s leadership team, chaired this year by Judy Hatfield.
“Both of our honorees were pioneers of their time and their chosen professions,” Keating says. “They paved the way for young girls today to dream big and know that they can accomplish anything.”
The awards luncheon is open to the public, and both women and men are welcome. Reservations are required by calling 405.478.2250, ext. 233. Seats are priced at $150 per person for non-members. More information about the luncheon and the society can be found at nationalcowboymuseum.org.