BABs of History: Lizzie Johnson

“BAB?? What’s a BAB?”

It’s a not a what, it’s a who – and she is a Boss Ass Bitch. This article is the start of a new PKC series where knowledge is shared on BABs throughout history that shockingly didn’t make it into our mansplained school curriculum.

First up is educator, entrepreneur, activist, and Taurus: Lizzie Johnson, the “Cattle Queen of Texas.”

Lizzie was born in 1840 in Missouri, but she moved to Texas at such an early age that she really did most of her growing in The Lone Star State. The daughter of teachers, she was quick to follow in their footsteps and became an educator at her parents institute for sometime before opening her own school in Austin. While Lizzie valued playing a part in educating the future leaders of America, she craved a life that was simply more. Her need for change, her general need for more, led her to a bookkeeping gig for numerous cattlemen that all held high status and great wealth in Austin. After a short time of being nose deep in these prominent cowboys’ accounting books, she thought, “Well I can do what these guys do, easy.”

And she did.

By her early thirties, Lizzie had bought her first ten acres of land and was among the first women to wrangle her own cattle along one of the major routes through Texas – the Chisholm Trail. Her success was revolutionary, her path was trailblazing, and while she was building this empire, she was still an educator and did not stop teaching at her school in Austin until well into her forties. Lizzie Johnson challenged societal norms, pushed through gender roles set before her, and was an activist with a passion for both women’s rights and additionally prison reform.

In the midst of expanding her business, Lizzie fell in love with widower Hezekiah Williams. But before she would marry him, our BAB, Lizzie, required a prenup that stated she would remain in full control of all of her finances and all of her property – Hezekiah couldn’t touch it without her say so.

Can we take a moment to applaud this revolutionary act that no doubt caused a ripple in the community? A woman in the 19th century not relinquishing control of her life to her husband?! Blasphemous!

This BAB said, “My blood, my sweat, my tears, my brain – my money.”

And honestly Hezekiah must have been a dope dude, because he signed it and they were happily married, boosting each other along their respective ambitions until his death in 1914. Her husband’s death absolutely crushed her, resulting in her to live her remaining ten years as what locals called her: a miserly recluse. I refuse to end her story on a sad note, so you should most certainly know that by the end of her life, old gal, Lizzie, had acquired 160 acres of land and amassed $250,000 which would convert to nearly $3 million today! And more notably, in 2013, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum.

. . .

What can be learned from Lizzie Johnson is that following familial traditions is okay up until the point which you find yourself unsatisfied. Don’t ever ignore the hunger inside you craving more, don’t ever try to tame your fire to make others feel comfortable – sort out what you want and create a realistic path of how you’re going to get there, then make it happen. Most of all, Lizzie is a prime example of all of the limitless possibilities that can happen when you know your worth.

. . .

Sources: Smithsonian Mag, WITH, Wide Open Country, TSHA

Published by

Emily Smith

Core Values: Adaptability, Empathy, Intuition, & Dedication. A creature of habit with a passion for the world, I spend an abnormal amount of time plotting my next vacay on google maps. I often yearn for adventure and to be anywhere other than where I am and with a strong drink in my hand. I currently hail in Brooklyn, but I've spent a greater part of my life in both Indiana and Kentucky and a blip of time living in Caen, France. I have an affinity for exploration and New Age practices, so feel free to reach out to me for travel tips, dream interpreting, mediocre palm reading, or just to have a candid conversation.

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