Who Was Annie Oakley?
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You want girl power? Meet Annie Oakley! Born in 1860, she became one of the best-loved and most famous women of her generation. She amazed audiences all over the world with her sharpshooting, horse-riding, action-packed performances. In an age when most women stayed home, she traveled the world and forged a new image for American women.
charge, liked the way Annie always pitched in and did her best. They praised her for it. Unfortunately, their praise reached the wrong ears. One day a man came to the infirmary looking for household help. He heard the Edingtons speak highly of Annie. So he offered her fifty cents a week, plus time off for school and hunting. His wife, he said, needed a baby-sitter for their newborn child. Nancy Edington wrote to Susan Moses for permission to send Annie to this couple. Susan said yes, and Annie
prompting, the Sells Brothers program referred to Butler and Oakley as “The Great Far West Rifle Shots.” Annie made her entrance on horseback, blowing kisses and smiling. Then she hit every target that Frank released—at a gallop. The crowds were dazzled. Everyone knew that cowboys and Indians out on the Western plains could shoot like that, but a woman? Annie’s showmanship was becoming as skillful as her shooting. In her private life, she was still a modest, soft-spoken Ohio native, the
table in the arena, she gave the signal and Frank started releasing targets. Clay birds flew into the air, first singly, then in pairs, then in threes and fours. As fast as they came, Annie hit them all. Then she shot glass balls, sometimes fifty or sixty in a row. If she missed, she scowled and stamped her foot. Then she would quickly do a much harder stunt—perhaps lying on her back across a chair and shooting a target upside down—just to show the audience that she had missed on purpose.
balance perfectly, and hit every target Frank released into the air. She never had done the stunt in public before. It alone, said one newspaper, was worth the trip to New Jersey. Meanwhile, Nate Salsbury and Bill were in Brooklyn, getting ready for another Wild West season. It was a huge job. The show had grown so big that a special arena had to be built for it. As construction began, the twenty-four-acre show lot became a tent city, filled with cowboys, Indians, stagehands, animal handlers,
one that always had been dear to her heart. She would teach women how to shoot. Annie had long believed that women should be able to handle guns “as naturally as they handle babies.” She had learned to do both; why couldn’t others? She invited women to her shooting exhibitions, promising them a warm welcome. She wrote a series of how-to articles for the New York Journal. She told women that shooting was “one of the best kinds of tonics for the nerves and for the mind.” Most important, it was an