Marking NM’s Historic Women: Dessie Sawyer & Fern Sawyer

Photo Credit: Palace of the Governors Photo Archives
Fern Sawyer, rancher, women’s rodeo pioneer and cowgirl champion, New Mexico
Photographer: Ann Bromberg
Date: 1985
Negative Number HP.2008.31.13

Lea County Cowgirls: Dessie Sawyer (1897–1990) and Fern Sawyer (1917–1993)

Dessie Sawyer was a rancher, philanthropist and political activist. Her work with community and charitable organizations advanced her into politics. She became the National Committee Woman of New Mexico’s Democratic Party. Her advocacy of the western way of life was recognized by her induction into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1981. Dessie’s daughter, Fern Sawyer, became a celebrity cowgirl. She was the first woman to win the National Cutting Horse world title. She also became the first woman appointed to the State Fair Commission and the State Racing Commission. She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1976.

Roadside Marker Location: Lea County, US Hwy 380, Mile Marker 231.1

You can view a county by county list of the Historic Women Mile Markers in this pdf.

March is Women’s History Month. During this month we’ll be highlighting some of the women featured on New Mexico’s Historic Women Roadside Markers. Text provided by our colleagues at New Mexico Historic Preservation Division

You can view the locations of the Historic Women on a map interface at