Two-Gun Nan

Backward Glance

Nan Jeanne Aspinwall Gable Lambell was the first woman to ride on horseback across America alone. She rode from San Francisco to New York, covering 4496 miles and 180 days in the saddle, all in the name of a bet made with Buffalo Bill, whose Wild West show she performed in with her husband. Her trusty steed for the journey was none other than her own Thorougbred mare, Lady Ellen.

Victorian ideals remained at the start of the 20th century, but a few heroines attempted to blaze new trails and one was Two-Gun Nan. She did so not only in the performance arena as a horsewoman, sharpshooter, stunt rider and roper, but also as a beautiful oriental dancer character the portrayed known as Princess Omene. But even though she was one of the highest paid stars of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, that is not what she was best known for. Her most remarkable feat was entirely real, not staged, and much more difficult and dangerous.

Setting off in 1910 at 31 years of age, Two-Gun Nan became the first woman to ride from the west coast to the east coast of the US alone. She did it wearing pants and split skirts, riding astride the horse not side saddle as was expected of women. When she completed her journey, Two-Gun Nan became an instant legend. Perhaps the Long Riders Guild founding member, Chullaine O’Reilly describes it best when he said this:

“Nan struggled mightily, not only against the elements, the geography, and the constant need to keep her horse healthy, but against the prejudices of the population as well. Thus it was a gruelling physical, mental and emotional challenge, laden with the realisation that if she failed there were those who would mock her, and all women, as being too weak to accomplish what men had been doing for generations. Yet she rode Lady Ellen into New York in terrific shape. This demonstrates that Nan devoted herself to the horse’s welfare, a fact that is reinforced by the knowledge that she shod the mare 14 times herself.”

Talk about the weight of the world on your shoulders globetrotters, but it’s an absolute credit to Nan for completing her journey and looking after her horse so well on the way!

Reference: Horse Talk NZ

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