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In June 1911, high-spirited Goldie St. Clair, Champion Lady Bucking Horse Rider of the World, rode with several other cowgirls in the Scranton, Pennsylvania, street parade to the rodeo grounds where the 101 Ranch Wild West Show was going to perform. A year prior, Goldie had captured the bronco riding title at the Frontier Days celebration in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She rode an outlaw horse named Red Bird, that did some terrific bucking but was unable to unseat her. Among the crowd watching her demonstration of skill and nerve that day was former President Theodore Roosevelt. At the conclusion of the event, he gallantly summoned her to his box so he could congratulate her on the ride.
Irene (Goldie) Wooden was born in Kansas in 1890, but she grew up on a ranch in Maramec, Oklahoma. There, she learned to ride some of the cattle ranch’s most cantankerous horses. Naturally modest and quiet, she was anything but that on the back of a horse. By the age of 14, she was winning fame as a rider in the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show. Not only did she travel the country working for the 101 Ranch, but for Buffalo Bill Cody’s show as well.
In 1907, Goldie competed in a bucking horse competition at the Jamestown Exposition and World’s Fair in Jamestown, Virginia. It was there she won a gold medal and title of Lady Bucking Horse Rider of the World.
In the spring of 1908, Goldie was hired to ride for Dickey’s Circle D Wild West Show in Milwaukee. During the sixteen weeks she worked for Will A. Dickey, she performed most every week, sometimes giving up to eight performances in a day. The male bronc riders with the show would only agree to ride bucking broncs twice a day. Rodeo fans came often to see the fierce teenage rider and her rugged brand of showmanship.
While with the Dickey Show, Goldies met and married her first husband, fellow performer Burney St. Clair. After they were married, the couple continued with the Dickey Show until it closed.
Cowboy humorist Will Rogers sought Goldie out not long after she won the bronc riding title at the Frontier Days show in Wyoming. He signed Goldie and her husband to a six-week contract to perform on Broadway. Standing at the side of the stage while going through his roping act, Will Rogers would keep up a continual patter about the talented women in his troupe. Some of the gifted lady ropers would then join him on stage and perform a few tricks. The act closed with Goldie riding a bucking horse.
Goldie competed in the first Calgary Stampede in 1912 and held the women’s bronc riding title of the world for several years.
Goldie and Burney divorced in 1929 and shortly afterwards, she married rancher Tom Hillis. She retired from bronc riding to manage a ranch in Alberta, Canada, with her new husband. Goldie died on November 30, 1956, from injuries she sustained in a car accident. She was 66 years old.