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April 9, 2024

Ford co-authors book about gay rodeo culture

By Georgia McGonigle, communication assistant


Dr. Elyssa Ford

Dr. Elyssa Ford

Dr. Elyssa Ford, a professor of history at Northwest Missouri State University, has authored her second book, “Slapping Leather: Queer Cowfolx at the Gay Rodeo,” which was published by the University of Washington Press in January.

The 288-page book details the history and progression of gay rodeo, a group formed by members of the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to describing the rodeo, which offers both traditional and camp events, the book discusses a variety of issues that have faced gay rodeo, including hypermasculinity, political and consumer power, AIDS and the position of women within the setting.

“I think it would be of interest to anyone who is LGBTQ, or anyone interested in LGBTQ history because we don’t often think about queerness in rural spaces and, obviously, there is and always has been,” Ford said.

In her last book, “Rodeo as Refuge, Rodeo as Rebellion: Gender, Race, and Identity in the American Rodeo,” which was published by the University of Kansas Press in 2020, Ford dedicated one chapter to discussing gay rodeo. That work inspired her to further her research and write her latest book entirely about the history and culture of this rodeo world.

Ford collaborated with Rebecca Scofield, associate professor of history at the University of Idaho, due to their shared interest in gay rodeo. Both conducted previous research on the topic and wanted to deepen their knowledge of the history and complications of gay rodeo, which led to their decision to work together.

Along with the support of a faculty research grant, Ford received a semester-long sabbatical to conduct research for the book. During that time, she visited the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles to review archival material that was central to writing the book.

Ford joined the Northwest faculty in 2011 and is a social and cultural historian with academic interests in gender, sexuality and the American West. She teaches courses in U.S. history and women’s history in addition to directing the public history and museum studies program at Northwest. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in international studies from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and has a graduate certificate in museum studies, master’s degree and doctorate in history, all from Arizona State University.



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