Life Of Annie Oakley: America’s First Female Sharp Shooter

Life Of Annie Oakley: America’S First Female Sharp Shooter
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Annie Oakley was a lot more than America’s sharpshooter.

Phoebe “Annie” Mosey was born on August 13th, 1860, to a destitute family in a decrepit cabin near Greenville, Ohio. She was five years old when her father, Jacob, died on a trip to town in a blizzard. Annie’s family was on the verge of losing their farm a few years later. Thankfully, by then, Annie had learned to hunt and was able to feed her family. As her shooting skills grew, she began to learn different types of trick shots for which she would eventually become famous. Annie’s perseverance paid off. Her abilities not only provided sustenance for her family but also let her make money by selling the wild games to Greenville merchants. At the age of 15, she had saved enough money to pay off the family farm.

In 1875, Annie Oakley competed in a local shooting battle against Frank E. Butler, a professional entertainer and trick shooter, during a vacation to Cincinnati. The pleased Butler genuinely chuckled when he saw the tiny lady approaching him, and offered to take all bets with a $100 purse. “It’ll be a joy to offer you marksmanship instruction!” he said.

Annie, on the other hand, had the final laugh, hitting all 25 clay pigeons as they flew into the air. Butler’s total was 24. To put it mildly, Butler was blown away. He was smitten as well, having met his match in Annie. He made it his goal to get to know the girl better, and he succeeded in worming his way into her heart. The pair are thought to have married on August 23rd, 1876, in Cincinnati.

Annie Oakley took on a stage name, Annie Butler, based in a Cincinnati neighborhood, as the couple began traveling around the west.

Life Of Annie Oakley: America'S First Female Sharp Shooter

Annie Oakley was capable of shooting targets while standing on the back of a galloping horse.

Annie Oakley displayed her powers by shooting dimes from a man’s hand and smokes from his lips; striking a moving candle’s flame; and shooting the center of the Ace of Spades over her shoulder using a mirror. She was also capable of shooting targets while standing on the back of a galloping horse. With his Buffalo Bill’s Wild West performance, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody offered the Butlers a three-day trial run in 1885. Cody was blown away and hired the couple right away. To get the crowd used to the sound of shooting, he dubbed Oakley “Li’l Miss” and scheduled her as one of his first acts.

Chief Sitting Bull, a television and film legend, was so taken with her that he sent her $65 for an autographed photograph. Oakley returned the money along with the photo that had been requested. Sitting Bull named her “Watanya Cicilla,” which means “Little Sure Shot” in English. Soon after, Chief Sitting Bull joined Buffalo Bill’s entertainment.

Aside from her shooting skills, Annie Oakley stood out in 19th-century America for two reasons: she wore knee-length dresses and her chestnut hair ran down her back, both of which were considered taboo at the time. Author Julie E. Williams theorizes in her thesis, Embodying the West, that Oakley got away with her outfit because she lived the life of “a feminine, homely, and pious woman.”

Unlike other Buffalo Bill employees who enjoyed a good party, Oakley chose to spend her time between acts reading her Bible and sewing in the comfort of her tent. Annie Oakley’s success inspired more women to participate in sports, which are traditionally dominated by males. As the Spanish-American War loomed on the horizon in 1898, she boldly sent a letter to President William McKinley. In it, Oakley offered to donate her services by personally organizing and training 50 female sharpshooters to serve if America went to war. Her plea was denied, owing to the fact that women were not allowed to serve in the military at the time.

Life Of Annie Oakley: America'S First Female Sharp Shooter

“When a man hits a target, they call him a marksman. When I hit a target, they call it a trick. Never did like that much. ” -Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley was at the peak of her game by 1901. The Wild West show was well-known across America, touring from town to town and performing to large crowds. However, in the early hours of October 29th, 1901, a horrible train catastrophe in North Carolina brought the exhibition to a halt. Oakley, who was sleeping at the time of the event, was violently flung from her bunk and spent 17 hours in a coma. Her left side was paralyzed when she awoke. She was only able to walk again after five surgeries, months of recovery, and two years. Souvenir seekers would claim to find things from the crash for weeks thereafter. Annie Oakley’s stint as a member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West act has come to an end. She began teaching shooting classes for elite gun clubs because she needed a less stressful job.

Meanwhile, Frank Butler went to work for the Union Metallic Cartridge Company. The job required demonstrations, which allowed the pair to continue providing shooting demos to demonstrate how fantastic their shooting skills were.

When World War I broke out, Oakley tried her luck once more by volunteering to teach the troops how to fire. She was turned down once more. According to the book Women of the American Circus, Oakley took matters into her own hands and traveled across America offering shooting lessons and demonstrations for the National War Council of the Young Men’s Christian Association and the War Camp Community Service.

Americans lost their heroine when Annie Oakley died in 1926 at the age of 66. The lady who aimed to satisfy her fans through her impeccable shooting talent would live on in the hearts of her fans. Thankfully, two films exist in which the world-famous shooting champion proves her prowess. After Oakley’s death, her life was romanticized in films, songs, and a television show. The first film of her career, Annie Oakley, starring Barbara Stanwyck, was released in 1935. A 1946 stage musical, Annie Get Your Gun, was adapted into a 1950 film starring Betty Hutton and remade in 1957 for television. Annie Oakley was a television show that aired in syndication between 1954 and 1957. However, the show was purely fictional, with Oakley and her brother enforcing law and order in Diablo. One thing was certain: Annie Oakley was a woman who was not hesitant to flaunt her hard-won abilities.

At a time when most women were restricted to careers as housewives and domestic workers, she blossomed as a humble emblem of the American female spirit. Most significantly, Annie Oakley’s fortitude and resilience in the face of tragedy are inspiring even today.

Also Read: Meet Avani Lekhara The Champion Shooter From Jaipur

Avani Lekhara Rsp

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