MAUDE BARNETT (1900-1969)
Inducted in 1997
Kittitas Valley rodeo star Maude Barnett ranks alongside the cowgirl greats of the pre-WWII golden age of North American women’s rodeo. Maude Barnett was born September 2, 1900 in Omak, WA, where her father, George Smith, was a pioneer homesteader. It was there that she learned the riding skills that would make her a famed Northwest cowgirl competitor. After marrying, she moved to the Kittitas Valley where she and her husband Arville raised two boys and ranched in the Fairview area from 1926 to 1936. All four of the Barnetts were excellent horsemen (one son rode broncs and, later, raced thoroughbreds at Longacres). During this time Maude built a reputation as a top hand and horse racer.
Maude Barnett was a skilled and savvy relay racer who, astride local horses, won many 1920s and 1930s titles in Ellensburg and beyond. She rode to first-place finishes in Calgary, Pendleton, Cheyenne, Omak, and on the Canadian rodeo circuit. Some of her most famous Ellensburg finishes came close behind legendary cowgirls Tad Lucas, Mabel Strickland, Ollie Osborn, and Vera McGinnis (while Maude always rode her own local mounts, these cowgirls rode their sponsors’ expensive pedigreed race horses). In the early days of the Ellensburg Rodeo, Barnett was also a featured trick rider, mounting a blindfolded bronc and galloping past the south grandstand to huge crowd ovations.
Barnett was a saddle bronc rider during the pre-WWII years when women still rode broncs and bulls in Turtle- and RCA-sanctioned competition and exhibition events. Maude rode buckaroo-style, with one arm in the air and her stirrups un-hobbled. She won the cowgirls’ saddle bronc event in Ellensburg in 1925. Her neighbor Henry Schnebly recalls that, in over a dozen rodeos, he never once saw her thrown. She rode broncs professionally for fifteen years, quitting only as she approached forty years of age.
Neighbors and friends such as Schnebly also remember Barnett as a spirited woman who ran her motor cars as hard as her horses–Maude drove a Stutz Bearcat and Pierce Arrow down country roads at extremely high rates of speed. And Maude Barnett was a stickler for fair play. Once, during an Ellensburg Rodeo relay race, an unsportsmanlike opponent hit her horse in the mouth with his whip, and Maude reportedly retaliated by whipping him soundly with her riding crop all the way to the finish line!
After retiring from rodeo, Maude Barnett made her living in the restaurant business; she was owner and manager of Ellensburg’s popular “Mabel’s Cafe.” She died in Omak, WA, on August 11, 1969.