Annie Oakley (1860-1926) is a historical legend who gained notoriety for her sharpshooting skills. She performed in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and displayed her shooting talents for royalty and heads of state.
Here are 10 facts about “Little Miss Sure Shot.”
1. She started shooting at 8-years-old
Oakley (real name Phoebe Ann Mosey) grew up poor in rural Ohio. Her father died when she was very young and she was counted on to contribute to her family. She made her first shot at 8-years-old when she killed a squirrel. Oakley said of the beginning of her shooting, “It was a wonderful shot, going right through the head from side to side. My mother was so frightened when she learned that I had taken down the loaded gun and shot it that I was forbidden to touch it again for eight months.”
2. She used her skills to pay off her mother’s mortgage
When she was a teenager, Oakley hunted animals and sold the meat to a grocery store in her native Ohio. She eventually earned enough money to pay off her mother’s $200 mortgage. Oakley said, “Oh, how my heart leaped with joy as I handed the money to mother and told her that I had saved enough to pay it off!”
3. She beat her future husband in a shooting match
When she was only 15, Oakley matched up against a shooter named Frank Butler in a competition in Cincinnati. Oakley outshot Butler and the man lost the $100 bet he had placed on himself. The two got married the following year.
4. She emphasized her femininity despite her profession
Oakley shot guns for a living against men, but she did not shy away from her feminine side. She wore her own homemade costumes onstage and enjoyed “proper” female activities such as embroidery.
5. She performed for Kings and Queens
Oakley was one of the stars of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The Old West imagery and mythology were so popular that the show toured Europe. Oakley performed for royalty across Europe, including the Queen of England and Italy’s King Umberto I.
6. She offered to lead female shooters in wars
Oakley wanted to use her skills to help her country, and in 1898 she wrote President McKinley and offered 50 female sharpshooters for the Spanish-American War. She never heard back, but in 1917 she contacted the Secretary of War to teach women how to shoot for service in World War I. That never materialized either, so Oakley raised money for the Red Cross and military charities.
7. She appeared on film as an actress
Oakley visited inventor Thomas Edison in New Jersey in 1894 and showcased her shooting skills for Edison’s Kinetoscope. The film was called The Little Sure Shot of the Wild West and you can watch some of the footage by clicking HERE.