Dakota Datebook

North Dakota Cowbelles

Friday, August 9, 2013


During tumultuous 1960s, the country was racing against time (and Russia) to make it to the moon. This race into space was far removed for many of the earth’s populations. After all, what is a spaceship when compared to a plow?


Lt. Col. John Glenn, Jr. piloted the “Friendship 7,” a Mercury-Atlas 6 Spacecraft, on February 20, 1962. Launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, this was the first manned orbital mission of the United States. Glenn completed a three-orbit mission around the earth in just under five hours.


North Dakota may be as far removed from Florida as a plow from a spaceship, but this news definitely affected people here. In fact, a local group of women, the North Dakota Cowbelles, decided they would send John Glenn some beefsteaks for Father’s Day that year.


The Cowbelles were part of a national group of women who helped promote the beef industry. The American National Cowbelles were incorporated as a group in 1952. The North Dakota unit gathered first in the fifties, and they had successfully championed “Beef for Father’s Day” in the past, so really this wasn’t too out of the ordinary. Still, on this date in 1962, it must have been exciting to read a note about the Cowbelle’s gift on the front page of the Ransom County Gazette.


The North Dakota Cowbelles board of directors and beef promotion committee received a letter from astronaut Glen and his wife, which they shared at a meeting in Bismarck. Mrs. Glenn wrote, “The steaks were positively delicious and every bite was thoroughly enjoyed. Our thanks to you for your thoughtfulness.”


The Cowbelles of North Dakota didn’t exactly put a man on the moon, but they did honor a man who went into outer space. Perhaps that distance wasn’t so great, after all.


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker




The Billings County Pioneer, Dec. 3, 1959


The Ransom County Gazette, August 9, 1962






This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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