Philip A. Homan

Queen of Diamonds: Kittie Wilkins, Horse Queen of Idaho, and the Wilkins Horse Company

Kittie Wilkins, the Horse Queen of Idaho, was a woman of superlatives. The boss of the Wilkins Horse Company in the Bruneau Valley of Owyhee County and owner of 10,000 range-bred horses, all branded with her famous Diamond brand—the largest herd owned by one family in the West—the Queen of Diamonds was the only woman at the turn of the twentieth century whose sole occupation was as a horse dealer. She sold horses by the carloads in the livestock markets of the United States, even making the largest horse sale ever in the West. Newspapers along the Union Pacific announced her arrival in the stockyards with headlines like “Is Consistent Womanhood,” “She Is a New Type,” and “The Only One of Her Kind,” and papers throughout America spread the word about the Idaho girl who was making a fortune selling horses. A “thoroughly womanly woman,” however, she was a different type of the “new woman”—who rode the range, indeed, but on sidesaddle, not astride, hating bicycles as much because they were unladylike as for their harm to the horse market. She had the Victorian charm, education, prejudices, style, and tastes of a late-nineteenth-century wealthy, urban woman of the East—but preferred life as a single woman on a ranch in Idaho, which she called “the most independent life on earth.” Wilkins—who made Idaho a household word across America—was the most famous Western woman of her generation, becoming for Americans the very model of the West.