Annie Oakley. Now, that’s a name one would not associate with strength of character and determination. She was a strong woman, a warrior woman, who made a name for herself in the competitive arena of sharpshooting. A man’s world.
Phoebe Ann Moses (her stage name, Annie Oakley, was to come later) was born into a Quaker family in 1860. Her childhood was one of deprivation and sadness. Her father died when she was just six years old; her step-father died a few short years later, soon after marrying her mother. A third marriage did nothing to alleviate the grinding poverty in which the family lived.
Phoebe Ann’s mother, in desperation, first sent her to live, in what was then known as a “poor house”, and, later, with a family who agreed to take her in, in exchange for doing chores around the house. It is completely unfortunate that this family abused her horribly. It is said that Phoebe Ann despised these people so deeply, that she never spoke their names. She called them the wolves.
Phoebe Ann was able to return home when she was in her early teens and found her family still struggling to survive. To help alleviate the situation, she took her father’s old rifle (which she had taught herself to use), went into the woods and shot small game to bring to the family table. Before long, this young girl started selling the game to restaurants and grocery stores. Now, dear readers, here is the part that convinced me this warrior woman should be celebrated in this column: In no time at all, Phoebe Ann had saved up enough money to pay off the $200 mortgage on the family farm.
Would you have the guts to do what she did? I wouldn’t. I’d be a puddle of self-pity, sniffling in the corner. I have nothing but admiration for this extraordinary young woman.
But, wait, that’s not all. Phoebe Ann entered a sharpshooting contest at the tender age of fifteen. Her opponent was Frank E Butler, a noted sharpshooter himself. She won. This apparently entranced Mr Butler. They courted (an old-fashioned term, folks) and married when Phoebe Ann was just sixteen years of age. The couple soon went on the road, demonstrating their sharpshooting skills in several touring shows, including Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. It was about this time that Miss Phoebe Ann Moses became Miss Annie Oakley.
As we all know, Annie Oakley became very famous. She traveled across America and went to Europe. She met Queen Victoria and was adopted by Sitting Bull. She led an exciting and fulfilling life, despite her humble beginnings.
Both Annie Oakley and her husband, Frank Butler, died in November of 1926.
If you want to see Annie Oakley in action, go here: