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Miss Billie’s Deer: Women in Bow Hunting Journals, 1920–1960


Early twentieth-century American outdoor magazines promoted sport hunting as recreation characterized by class, rather than gender. Women hunters were not harbingers of gender equality, and their “femininity” gave hunting a genteel legitimacy. During the mid twentieth century, sporting publications reflected a growing ambivalence of the hunting community toward women hunters, as hunting became increasingly viewed as a homosocial ritual tied to ideals of manhood and patriotism. Women’s voices virtually disappeared from mainstream outdoor literature. When the modern sport of bow hunting emerged as an alternative to firearms hunting in the 1920s, advocates again relied upon the femininity of women bow hunters to lend their new recreation legitimacy and gain public acceptance at a time when the public, and even firearms hunters, considered it to be a cruel and unsportsmanlike pastime. Women became allies in the promotion of the controversial new sport and, unlike the broader hunting community that came to marginalize women’s hunting experiences, bow hunting journals portrayed their recreation as fundamentally distinct from firearms hunting, welcomed women as hunting equals, and celebrated their hunting successes.

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