Bertha Kaepernik Blancett (1883-1979) pioneered the start of female participants in rodeo. In 1904 Bertha rode a horse from Sterling, Colorado to Cheyenne, Wyoming to put on an exhibition in riding bucking horses, making her the first woman to ride broncs at the acclaimed Cheyenne Frontier Days. The first Calgary Stampede in 1912 showcased Bertha’s and other cowgirls’ talents. By 1920 rodeos regularly featured three main ladies events – bronc riding, relay racing and trick riding. In the bronc riding, ladies had to ride for 8 seconds, vs. the 10 seconds required for men, use two reins instead of one, and ride one-handed like the men.

In 1909, Bertha met and married world champion bulldogger Adelbert “Del” Blancett. As an accomplished horsewoman, she began hazing for Del in the bulldogging, which at the time, was not a job usually considered suited for a woman.

While traveling with Del, she won at rodeos all over the county. At Pendleton alone, she won the bucking horse championships in 1912 and 1914. In fact, 1914 was the year that she came up just twelve points short of winning the Pendleton All-Around Championship. Bertha’s performance spooked the cowboys so badly that they had the rodeo committee change the rules and had the lady’s events separated from the men’s. Bertha also won the world’s championship ladies relay in 1911, 1912, and 1913 and the world championship Roman race in Spokane, Washington in 1918.

After Del’s death in 1918, Bertha lost her competitive fire and retired from the rodeo circuit. However a few years later her love for the sport caused her to return as a pick-up rider. Again this is remarkable in that the cowboys had enough confidence in a woman to trust her to perform this difficult and dangerous job that requires great horsemanship as well as considerable strength. Bertha passed away in 1979 at the age of 96.

In 1999 Bertha was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.