International Women’s Day is March 8th this year. One aspect of this day is the celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. In honour of this day, we’re going to profile a few women with ties to Alberta and its history.
We’ll begin with Flores LaDue, the FLOTCS.
Flores LaDue was born Grace Maud Bensell in the early 1880s. She was the only daughter of a Minnesota lawyer and judge. When her mother died, Flores was sent to live with her grandparents. Her grandfather was a government agent on a Sioux reservation in Minnesota and this is where she spent much of her childhood. She returned to live with her father when she was 12, but she was reportedly too headstrong for society life. At the age of 15, she ran away from home to become a trick roper with a travelling Wild West Show. It was then that she assumed her stage name “Flores LaDue”.
In 1906, Flores met Guy Weadick when the two crossed paths on the Wild West Show tour circuit. They were married five weeks later. Flores was 23 and Guy was 21. The couple went on to tour Canada and the U.S. for years as part of the Wild West shows.
In 1912, they arrived in Calgary with the dream of hosting their own stampede. Guy succeeded in procuring financing for the event that saw 80,000 people arrive for the parade alone (this was more than double Calgary’s population at the time!). Although Guy tends to get the majority of the credit for the creation of the stampede, Flores undoubtedly played a significant role in its creation and success. Indeed, a letter written by Guy following Flores’ death acknowledges as much. After dying of heart failure in 1952, Flores was buried in the High River cemetery with an epitaph that reads: A true partner.
She made a name for herself as more than just the wife of the father of the Calgary Stampede, as evidenced by this 1916 article in the Pittsburgh Press. Flores is shown hanging from her saddle while twirling her lasso. There is no mention of Guy in this article, even though they had been married for a decade at the time of its run. Flores was a renowned roper. It’s said she was less than five feet tall but could lasso five galloping horses at one time. She was the undefeated World Champion Lady Fancy Roper when she retired and has been inducted into The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.
If you want to learn more about Flores LaDue, here are links to some of the references used in preparing this profile:
The First Stampede of Flores LaDue: The True Love Story of Florence and Guy Weadick and the Beginning of the Calgary Stampede. By Wendy Bryden. Touchstone Publishing, 2011.
A video showing Flores’ saddle: http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2252493492