Nowata County resident Pauline Nesbitt thrilled audiences in the 1920’s and 1930’s with her horsemanship and trick riding. She was born Jane Slovensky in 1907 and was raised on a Wisconsin farm. After taking up bronc riding and trick riding she settled on to a ranch west of Nowata. In 1938 Nesbitt won the World Champion Trick and Fancy Rider title.
Visit the Nowata County Historical Society Museum for much more information and photos of Pauline Nesbitt.
The following article by the Justin Boots Co. highlights her career:
Cowgirl Spotlight – Pauline Nesbitt
May 16, 2012
On October 26, 2011, eight amazing women were inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. These women are an inspiration to not only those that have a Western heritage, but to women everywhere. Justin Boots feels that these women and their stories should never be forgotten. Throughout the next eight months, we will feature one new inductee every month. We hope you enjoy their biographies and are as inspired as we were. The women who shaped the West truly changed the world.
An exciting trick rider, known for her flair and split second timing, Pauline Nesbitt was one of the most thrilling rodeo performers of her era. Born Pauline Slovensky in 1907, she and her twelve siblings grew up on a farm in Stanley, Wisconsin. At age thirteen she first rode a bronc while visiting friends in Gonzales, Texas, and from that moment, she was intrigued.
Her admiration for Tad Lucas’ daring trick riding performances led to a shift in her rodeo career and she, too, flourished as a trick rider. From Melbourne, Australia to Oklahoma City, St. Louis to Fort Worth, Texas and all points in between, Pauline’s shoulder stands, under-the-belly stunts, and spectacular quadrille routines were world renowned.
In 1929 she married rodeo clown Jimmie Nesbitt, who she met on the circuit. He convinced her to quit bronc riding and concentrate on the trick riding that made her famous. The couple toured the major rodeos throughout the 1930’s and 40’s. The twosome made a top-notch team. He wowed crowds as a bullfighting rodeo clown while she won their hearts as a trick rider. The couple even did a stint with the Ringling Brothers Circus. Pauline finished fourth in the trick riding at Madison Square Garden in 1934, and performed there throughout the late thirties. It was during that era that she achieved her greatest fame. Pauline won her first trick riding championship at the 1937 Fort Worth Rodeo, where she successfully defended her title in 1938.
The Nesbitts lived in Fort Worth for a while but eventually made Nowata, Oklahoma their home base, on a ranch where they raised cattle and horses. During rodeo season, however, their time together was spent on the road in their car, pulling a trailer with Jimmy’s mule and Pauline’s pinto, and a lap dog named “Tiny.” Pauline continued into the 1930’s to rodeo and maintain her ranch. She even appeared at some of the World War II All-Girl Rodeos.
In addition to training all of her own horses, Pauline, like most of her peers, made all of her own costumes. Her love for Western fashion was highlighted in several articles, and she modeled women’s Western wear for the Sears Roebuck Catalog. She named one of her favorite horses “Moray” (a phonetic spelling for moire) because of the patterns of his spots reminded her of watermarks on silk.
For her athleticism and horsemanship, and her notable contributions to the sport of rodeo, we are so pleased to honor Pauline Nesbitt with induction the National Cowgirl Museum’s Hall of Fame.
Thanks to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame for much of the above information.