Style Unlocked: Saddled Up For Service

Posted By on January 28, 2021
The Brady women from left to right: founder Julee Brady, Shanda Brady Riggs, Marjon Brady Brown, Kelsee Brady Bradshaw and Taryn Brady Hale

Cowgirls Historical Foundation showcases beauty from head to toe

When the nonprofit Cowgirls Historical Foundation was founded 20 years ago by Julee Brady, she combined her passion for horses, community involvement, patriotism and fashion. Brady’s mission of serving and uplifting others has guided the organization and only grown stronger over time. “We believe the past is a present for the future,” said Marjon Brady Brown, CHF member and Julee’s daughter. “Promoting and preserving our Western heritage and the equestrian way of life is our mission,” she said.

The 20 women volunteers of CHF not only share an interest in preserving the Western lifestyle but have high integrity and appreciate the code of the West — respect and honoring family, heritage and patriotism. These core beliefs feed into a “sisterhood” that recognizes there is much to understand and learn from the past and the importance of applying those lessons to today.

Becoming a Cowgirl is done through a rigorous, invitation-only process. All members are women of accomplishment, including public office holders, professionals in the aerospace engineering field, professional cowgirls, horse trainers, working mothers and every kind of equestrian. A program exists to mentor incoming Cowgirls by assigning them an experienced member who leads them in understanding the organization’s values and mission and accompanies them to various events and activities throughout the year. Membership stands the test of time and knows no geographic boundaries as involvement in the organization ebbs and flows with the Cowgirls’ personal lives. Some members have been involved since CHF began, others have moved away or taken a break. Regardless, all are considered a part of the group.

“Our love for the CHF principles and how passionate we feel about instilling them in our children, other people’s children and in communities runs through our veins,” said Kelsee Brady Bradshaw, CHF member and Julee’s daughter. “The quality of women we get to be surrounded by makes it so much more meaningful in not only sharing the glad messages of our Western heritage but working together in striving to be great examples of honesty and integrity everywhere we go, whether or not someone is watching.” 

The Cowgirls have put many miles on their boots as they travel throughout Arizona and the country. Community involvement includes performing at rodeos and parades, participating in fashion shows and fundraisers, and even visiting elementary schools to provide educational programming on topics such as Arizona’s statehood and the Pony Express. Education doesn’t stop with kids — adults and kids alike are the focus of CHF’s “Kick ‘N Up Kindness” platform that highlights “good-deed detectives,” who participate and share acts of kindness with others to make the world a better place.

The hundreds of volunteer activities the Cowgirls participate in annually represent a blend of longtime partnerships, such as the Returning Warriors Fund and Veteran’s Medical Leadership Council, as well as other organizations that speak to the CHF core beliefs. “Our performance drills at rodeos and parades are choreographed maneuvers on horseback to music,” said Brady Brown. “One thing that sets us apart from other drill teams is we try to leave the audience with a message or a theme that helps them think about something meaningful and is often derived from a basic message of faith, family and freedom.”

An annual CHF calendar is created to raise money for the Returning Warriors Fund and serves as a talking piece showcasing the iconic imagery of the Cowgirls’ fabulous outfits, CHF activities and its members. The 2021 calendar is slightly different from previous years as it is a tribute to CHF founder Julee Brady, who lost her battle with cancer last year. “In years past, we’ve focused and celebrated the fashion aspect as that was something Julee was very passionate about,” said Brady Brown. “Fashion was something that spoke to her and brought joy to her life. Some of these incredible pieces of wearable art date back to the 1930s. Some have been worn by the famous country-western singer Judy Lynn, and the most famous of these vintage outfits was created by Nudie Cohn. Nudie made Elvis Presley’s gold lamé suit as well as clothes for all kinds of celebrities. His wearable art typically ends up in museums so when we’re honored enough to wear it, we love it because it’s a piece of walking history.”

When performing on horseback, the Cowgirls don outfits created for particular drills to drive home the theme or message of that drill. The Cowgirls’ participation in fashion shows and high-profile events, like the Rose Parade, allows them to wear clothes from famous Western clothing designers from the Glitterati Age of Hollywood, such as Nathan Turk. “One unique thing about Cowgirls is they have their own wonderful sense of style and flair,” said Brady Brown. “Every one of our members has incredible style and one-of-a-kind specialty pieces in their own closets as well.”

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About Julie Coleman

Julie Coleman is a contributing writer for Frontdoors Media.