Newly updated for their sixth season, FAMOUS & INFAMOUS WOMEN OF THE WEST: The Cody Monologues will be presented at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West for the first time! Written and directed by local playwright, Bethany Sandvik, this award-winning play features many of the powerful and persuasive women who helped make Cody what it is today!
This updated version of the play features conversations between such historical figures as the controversial author, Caroline Lockhart and her nemesis Doctor Francis Lane, Cody’s favorite red light district dames, Cassie Waters and Etta Feeley; and Wild West performer, Orilla Downing and Buffalo Bill Museum founder, Mary Jester Allen. A visit from the eccentric artist Olive Fell rounds out the show which has been a favorite of locals and Cody visitors alike for six years!
Join us for the Thursday evening performance for light appetizers, adult beverages and the chance to talk with the cast and playwright!
Caroline Lockhart (1871 - 1962) was born in Eagle Point, IL and grew up on a ranch in Kansas. She attended Bethany College in Topeka and the Moravian Seminary in Bethlehem, PA. A failed actress, she became a reporter for the Boston Post and later for the Philadelphia Bulletin. She also authored several short stories. In 1904, Lockhart moved to Cody after a writing assignment and settled here. She started writing novels, some of which were based on life in Cody. In 1918-1919, she lived in Denver and worked as a reporter for The Denver Post. In 1919, her novel “The Fighting Shepherdess,” loosely based on the life of sheepherder Lucy Morrison Moore, was made into a movie starring Lenore J. Coffee, Anita Stewart and William Farnham. Her novel, “The Man from the Bitter Roots” was also adapted into a film. From 1920 to 1925, Lockhart owned the newspaper the Park County Enterprise and renamed it the Cody Enterprise in 1921. From 1920 to 1926, she served as President of the Cody Stampede Board. In 1926, she bought a ranch in Dryhead, MT which is now part of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. She lived there until 1950, still wintering in Cody. The Caroline Lockhart Ranch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cassie Waters (1875 -1955) arrived in Cody in 1904 with her engineer husband who was hired to work on building the Shoshone Dam. When her husband died unexpectedly, Cassie went to Etta Feeley’s “White House” on Prostitute Row for a job. Eventually, she took over the “Green House” next door. In the mid 1920’s, the City asked her to move her operation. Cassie bought a cabin on the West strip of Cody and opened Cassie’s Supper Club. Over the years, she added on to the structure including a dance floor and several cabins. Cassie brought her “girls” with her and ran the restaurant, bar, and the “Hurdy Gurdy” house. Cassie was usually found working behind the bar, even after letting her girls go and becoming “respectable.” Cassie later adopted two children, Arlan & Orchid. Cassie was remembered fondly by the Cody community who often spoke of her kindness and generosity. She spent her later years living between Cody and California. Cassie’s Supper Club remains a Cody hot spot.
Etta Feeley (1870 - 1960) was born Alice Edwards in Illinois. She lived with her father and mother in Colorado as a child. When her father abandoned them, Alice was sent to live with her grandparents while her mother moved to Denver to find work. Alice was eventually sent to live with her father in Oregon, but quickly left. She held several jobs at restaurants and theaters and married many times, although not always legally. It was during one of these relationships that she changed her name to Etta Feeley. After marrying Tom Leach at the turn of the century, Etta announced her arrival into Cody with the following advertisement in the Park County Enterprise: “You are respectfully invited to attend the opening of my new residence in Cody, Wyoming. November 1, 1902 - Miss Etta Feeley.” The announcement was for all men, married or otherwise. The “houses of ill repute” of Cody closed in the 1930s, although Etta retired years before that, moving to the country and using the name Alice Leach. Her husband, Tom left her at this time taking their life savings of $50,000 with him.
Frances Lane (1873 - 1938) was born in Ohio, the daughter of renowned architect, Philander Lane and Matilda Lane. She attended the University of Chicago and graduated from Herring Medical College in 1900. Lane moved to Cody two years later and served as a contract physician to the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation on the Shoshone Irrigation Project. Although she had many friends, her feud with author Caroline Lockhart resulted in Dr. Lane's unflattering portrayal as the title character in Lockhart's novel, “The Lady Doc.” However, despite the book, Frances Lane went on to become a prominent member of Cody and Wyoming Society. She served as the Wyoming Chairman for the National Women’s Party in their campaign for the right for women to vote. Was a member of the Cody Club and the Sheridan chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was also instrumental in getting an appropriation from Andrew Carnegie to build the Park County Library. Lane was a charter member of the Cody Golf Club, served on the school board and was one of the founders of Christ Episcopal Church in Cody. There are monuments to her at both the church and the Park County Library. She died of influenza in 1938.
Orilla (Russell) Downing Hollister (1884 - 1972) was born in Denver, CO. In 1855, her family moved to Lander, WY where her grandmother owned and operated a store. Her family moved the family to Cody in 1897. However, Orilla was sent back to Lander to finish her schooling. She returned to Cody in 1900 and eventually married Gail Downing, a local cowboy. In 1908 the couple joined “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” for the season. Gail had toured with the show the season prior. Orilla was one of a handful of cowgirls featured in the show. She and Gail had three children and later divorced. Orilla’s father served as the first Clerk of the Court for Park County. Orilla was her father’s deputy in 1921, and after his death in 1922, was appointed to the office of Clerk of the District court. She served for the next 42 years until she retired in 1964. Orilla married Dwight Hollister in 1947 who proceeded her in death. Orilla Hollister died of pneumonia in 1972.
Mary Jester Allen (1875 - 1960) was the niece of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and served as director of the William Cody Museum for over 34 years until her death in August of 1960. Born outside of Philadelphia, she was the daughter of Laura Ella/Helen Cody and Alexander Calhoun Jester. She was possibly the first female press agent in America, promoting “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” for four years in America and abroad. Mary married Robert Bruce Allen in 1901 but divorced after only a few years of marriage. The couple had one daughter, Helen Cody Allen, who would one day become a promoter and writer for the Metropolitan Opera in New York (when not assisting her mother with the Museum in Cody). Mary used many of her New York connections to secure funding for the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney sculpture The Scout and for the creation of the Buffalo Bill Museum. In conjunction with founding the Museum, Allen initiated the International Cody Family Association, primarily to attain relics for the Museum, but also to instill a sense of community with the extended family of Col. William F. Cody. The first Buffalo Bill Museum was a log structure at the edge of Cody and was to be “an exact replica in design” of Buffalo Bill’s TE Ranch house. Today, that structure houses the Cody Chamber of Commerce and the Cody Art League. The Museum was dedicated on July 4, 1927. Allen lived in a small apartment at the back of the Museum for most of her years as curator for the Buffalo Bill Museum.
Estelle (Peck) Ishigo (1899 – 1990) was an American artist born in Oakland, California. She was the daughter of a concert singer and a portrait and landscape artist. Throughout her childhood, she was surrounded by music and art. At the age of four, she showed promising talent in both painting and singing, and started learning the violin by the time she was twelve. She attended Otis Art Institute, where she met San Franciscan Nisei, Arthur Ishigo; they married in 1928. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Estelle and Arthur both lost their jobs, and Arthur was subsequently ordered to an “internment” camp. Estelle decided to follow him and they were both later assigned to Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming. During their time at Heart Mountain, Estelle used her artwork to document their lives. After the war and their release from confinement, Arthur and Estelle lived in poverty for many years. Following Arthur's death in 1957, fellow Heart Mountain inmates helped Ishigo republish her 1972 book Lone Heart Mountain. Estelle Ishigo died on February 25, 1990, in Los Angeles, California.
Lorna Kooi Simpson (1900 - 1995) was born in Chicago, IL to Mary Helen Kooi and Peter Kooi. The family moved to Wyoming in 1904 where her father founded the town of Kooi, WY. Lorna studied art, music, history and sculpture and briefly attended the University of Illinois. Her love of travel led her to many historical and archaeological sites over the years. On June 29, 1929, Lorna married Milward L. Simpson, a lawyer in Cody. They had two sons, Peter and Alan early in their marriage. Lorna played the organ and piano, sang and conducted the choir at Christ Episcopal Church where she also served as the assistant organist. She was a talented artist and sculptor, and a member of the Cody Country Art League. Simpson was a charter member of the “Gray Ladies” at the W.R. Coe Hospital (West Park Hospital), and served as one of the Presidents of the Red Cross Chapter in Cody, in charge of Civil Defense. In 1940, she was appointed to the Cody Planning and Zoning Commission. She and Milward were co-owners of the KODI radio station, and she served as acting editor of The Cody Enterprise during WWII. In 1954, Milward was elected Governor of Wyoming. Lorna served as the First Lady of Wyoming from 1954 to 1958 and oversaw the remodeling and restoration of the old Governor’s Mansion in Cheyenne. She also supported various youth organizations during her tenure as First Lady. In 1962, the couple moved to Washington D.C. after Milward was elected to the U. S. Senate. Lorna acted as Representative of several national and international women’s committees while in D.C. Mrs. Simpson was also instrumental in the refurbishment of the Senate Chapel in the United States Capitol. Upon Milward's retirement from the Senate in 1966, the couple returned to Cody. Milward died in 1993, Lorna in 1995. Throughout her life, Lorna Simpson emphasized the importance of home, family and community service.
Florence Olive Fell (1902 - 1980) was born near Big Timber, Montana. A Wyoming painter, etcher, muralist, and sculptor, she spent her early childhood in wilderness areas and later moved to Cody, where she attended Cody High School. A member of the Art Students League of New York, Fell also briefly attended the University of Wyoming and the Art Institute of Chicago. While attending art school, Olive met and became a close friend of Georgia O'Keefe. Fell’s print “For Minds to Know” was recognized by the Society of American Etchers as one of the best prints of 1934 and her “Home on the Range was part of the Society’s traveling show. As an artist, her specialty was animals. Her creations of "Little Cub Bear" on cards and novelties were sold to tourists in national parks and resorts as well as in her Cody store, The Pine Needle Bear Gift Shop. Olive did poster and postcard art for Yellowstone National Park during the 1940's and 50's. For many years, Olive Fell resided on the North Fork of Shoshone Canyon, just west of Cody at her Four Bear Ranch. In the 1970’s, she sold the ranch but remained on the property until her death in 1980.