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Adrienne Rose Johnson is a PhD candidate in Modern Thought and Literature. She studies American popular culture with particular attention to the body, labor, and the landscape, and has done research on the history of American vacationing, frugality, and dieting. She is a 2008 graduate of UC Berkeley's American Studies program and has taught in the American Studies, English, and the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford.
In 2012 she was awarded the Marjorie Lozoff Graduate Essay Prize for her essay "Romancing the Dude Ranch, 1925-1947":
A late nineteenth century invention, the dude ranch peaked in popularity in the 1930s as a popular vacation resort that supplied wealthy Easterners with a traditional Western experience. The “traditional” Western experience was constructed through technological refusal, rustic décor, old-timey speech, and, most significantly, in portraying the dude ranchers as old-fashioned Western frontiersmen and women happily embosomed in a traditional patriarchal family structure. In these ways, ranchers carefully orchestrated the romances of the dude ranch – a romance of history, a romance of the West, a nostalgic romance for the way it used to be but never actually was. In performing old-fashioned Western warmth in a strategically anachronistic landscape, dude ranchers provided Eastern men and women beset by social change with the living memorialization of an imagined past. In turn, the symbolic and literal freedoms of the Wild West emboldened Eastern dudes to transgress and modify their own, very contemporary restraints of gender and class. In this paper, I contrast the performative ranch family and the freedoms afforded to dudines to demonstrate how the dude ranch helped reconcile women’s changing gender roles to the norms of traditional American family life. The numerous dudine-wrangler romances attests to the ranch’s sexually liberating climate in contrast to the promise of traditional familial order. The performance of the traditional home and family both reassured young women about the resiliency of tradition and permitted them to experiment within these bounds. This study uses a wealth of primary sources – letters, poems, columns, postcards, romance novels, and cartoons -- to reveal a history of the spitting, flirting dudine largely absent within the sparse secondary literature.