Carol A. Lipscomb
Texas Tech University Press
Hardcover, ISBN-13: 978-1682830950, 256 pgs.
November 1, 2021
“…for Enid it was not about titles or being a woman. It was more about getting things done. She was willing to put in the work necessary to achieve her goals, whether it was building boots or organizing a rodeo.”
Throughout her life and career as a bootmaker and founder of the Nocona Boot Company in Nocona, Texas, Enid Justin displayed fortitude, ingenuity, and generosity. The Justin name is synonymous with quality cowboy boots, but when Enid’s father, H. J. Justin, passed away in 1918, his sons eventually decided to move the company, H. J. Justin & Sons, to the apparently greener and much larger pastures of Fort Worth, Texas. Determined to keep her father’s legacy alive in the town he chose to build his company years earlier, Enid did the unthinkable and boldly took the male-dominated world of boot making by storm by digging in her heels and keeping boot making in Nocona, much to the town’s relief and delight. By her eightieth birthday in 1974, Enid was still going strong and had already turned the initial bank loan of $5,000 and small boot factory established in 1925 into a prosperous and quite expansive $7 million company. Even with the 1929 stock market crash, the Great Depression, and manufacturing restrictions during WWII, Nocona Boot Company not only survived but thrived and provided many Nocona residents with coveted employment and job security.
With thorough research and impressive prose, Lipscomb has formulated a compelling narrative of Enid’s life as a daughter, wife, sister, aunt, savvy businesswoman, and bootmaker extraordinaire. Enid not only knew how to make boots, which she learned at her father’s side, but she had quite the knack for public relations and the ability to promote the brand in Texas and beyond. While the true cowboy life and cattle drives were eventually relegated to history books and popular TV shows and movies, cowboy boots have remained in high demand for decades as both functional and fashionable footwear.
Biographies are naturally fact based and filled with many anecdotes, and The Lady Makes Boots is no exception. The eight chapters and epilogue chronologically document each phase of Enid’s career and personal life. In fact, the line between work life and personal life for Enid was always blurred. The company was her life, and Enid loved making boots; loved her family, despite butting heads with most of them; loved Nocona, Texas; and absolutely loved her employees. Her foresight, head for business, and sincere benevolence have served both her and her business well. While change is always inevitable and often heartbreaking, Nocona remains a prominent western boot brand worldwide.
The overall structure of this biography is simple and succinct, with occasional photographs to tantalize the reader’s interest in such a fearless woman. Despite some bumps and small detours, Enid seems to have floated easily along her chosen trail; however, as Lipscomb points out in many of the chapters, Enid worked tirelessly and with enthusiasm every single day. She never passed up an opportunity to promote the Nocona brand, to give back to her community, and to keep the company employee-focused, quality-focused, and at the cutting edge of technology.
The Lady Makes Boots is a quick read because the content is remarkable and engaging. Through Lipscomb’s expert writing, readers interested in history will quickly become absorbed in Enid’s life and the Nocona Boot Company and may even feel compelled to purchase a pair of high-quality Nocona boots for themselves, if they haven’t already, honoring the legacy of a woman who was unafraid to fill her father’s boots and then construct her own unique path to success.
Carol A. Lipscomb earned a PhD in history while she, her husband, and their three sons lived in the small town of Nocona, Texas. Lipscomb studied the Nocona area and explored its Spanish Texas connection in collaboration with esteemed historian Robert S. Weddle on After the Massacre: The Violent Legacy of the San Sabá Mission. Living in Nocona also led Lipscomb to the improbable story of Enid Justin and her Nocona Boot Company, a story she researched exhaustively. An independent historian, Lipscomb currently lives in Fort Worth.