Gathering Cow shit back in the day... nice and dry!
I actually lived in KS as a child and know this area well, including a couple of the remains of a Sod House which the early Pioneers lived in.
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, we honor the most recognized Kearny County woman in history: Ada McColl, the Cow Chip Lady. The photograph of Ada McColl pushing a wheelbarrow full of cow chips is well known in historical circles, appearing in a number of publications including the cover of Joanna L. Stratton’s book, “Pioneer Women.” But Ada hadn’t intended to become perhaps the most well-known female pioneer model; her love was photography.
Ada served as an apprentice to H.L. Wolf who operated a photography shop in Garden City, and Wolf gave Ada a few pointers on how to use the Rochester Optical Company camera her parents gave her. She went on to create family portraits and document the Kansas prairie, keeping records of photography expenses and numbering/naming all of her photographs. The cow chip photograph was taken in 1893 when Ada and Polly McColl, her mother, were collecting chips for fuel near their Lakin, Kansas home. The two women took turns posing and taking the picture. McColl entitled it, “36 Independence on the Plains. Gathering Chips.”
Mr. Wolf processed the photographs in his studio and may have received credit for some of Ada’s work as dozens of copies of the “Cow Chip Lady” were printed in the 1890s. Ada moved to Iowa and married in 1895, leaving her negatives and photograph collection behind with Wolf. In a letter dated March 30, 1895, he told Ada that he would send them to her at any time should she want them. Apparently, she never asked him to send them to her. Wolf later sold out, and left Ada’s plates in the studio.
The identity of the Cow Chip Lady remained unknown for nearly 100 years until Ada’s great-granddaughter, Rochelle Danner, presented several pieces of evidence to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1984. Erma Pryor, Ada’s daughter and mother of Rochelle Danner, wrote:
“I asked my mother (Ada) why she had her mouth open in that picture of her and the wheelbarrow full of cow chips and she said she was telling her mother how to take the picture...”
Edited by roc, 29 March 2019 - 07:07 PM.