Juanita and Ethyle Perry – Alexa
Juanita and Ethyle Perry; two young women who left their family when they were teenagers to find their fortune. And they did.
Not much is known about the Perry twins’ early life. Some say they were born in Oklahoma and raised in Riverhead, Long Island. Others say it was the other way around. Either way, it’s clear the two left home at a young age to make their claim to fame with their talents as expert horsewomen.
In the early nineteen teens, they secured jobs as cowgirl performers for the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West show. In 1916, the Miller Brothers and Buffalo Bill Cody combined their Wild West shows.
Previously, in the early 1890’s Bill Cody employed the Cossack Riders, a group of male equestrians from Georgia and Russia who performed daring feats of horsemanship.
The Perry twins, expert at trick riding and horse handling, became known as the Cossack Girls because they could perform any trick their male counterparts could, and more. The added bonus for the audience was that they were infused with charming star power and were pretty to look at. They had the whole package.
A favorite act they performed consisted of one of them, dressed as a gray-haired old woman driving a team of horses. Before long, the horses spook, rear up and then bolt, the wagon carrying the old woman careening out of control toward a group of townspeople as they leave their Sunday service. Just before the horses reach the townsfolk, the other twin, riding a charging stallion and resplendent in a beaded buckskin ensemble, emerges onto the scene. The rider catches up to the wagon, leaps out of the saddle and onto the back of one of the team, and swerves them out of the path of the churchgoers. The twin driving the wagon regains control and with the help of the rider, brings the team to a quiet stop. Disaster averted!
After a successful run with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the Perry’s joined Barnum and Bailey’s Wild West extravaganza, but then tragedy struck. While performing, Juanita was thrown from her horse and trampled to death. Devastated, Ethyle left her life of performing. In 1921 she married William Cody Bradford, Buffalo Bill Cody’s nephew. She passed away at the age of seventy-three.
Many women graced the stage of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and it was said he paid them a fair wage, often as much as their male counterparts. One of the most famous female performers of the Wild West Show was, of course, the one and only Annie Oakley.
I’ve done years of research on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the famous Miss Oakley, and have written a historical mysteries series featuring Annie as an amateur sleuth. The third full-length novel in the series titled Folly at the Fair, comes out June 2. If you like a rollicking good time with plenty of action and intrigue, you’ll love this series. You can find the books on Amazon.