One thing I love about history, is learning the details of the amazingly interesting people who lived it. There are so many stories. Stories from high and low, far and wide. Kaboodles. And in each of those tales… lived a “Somebody.”
Today is Annie Oakley’s Birthday. She was born August 13th, in the year 1860. Now. Most people have heard of her. And many of us know she was a really good shot. So good in fact, it landed her a spot in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
But that is just the surface of her life story. I didn’t know that much regarding her life or character, before this evening. I started reading and discovered she was much more than a pretty face for Wild West Show. And certainly not a wall flower. No way. No how.
What an interesting life she had. She hails from these parts. Darke County, Ohio. Born in a little log cabin up that way. Her given name was Phoebe. Yep. Phoebe Ann Mozee. I betcha’ her ancestors were never in a hurry to get anywhere… hence the last name.
The reason behind her adopting the stage pseudonym “Oakley” isn’t exactly clear. But Oakley it was.
Her birth parents were Quaker. Peaceful people. They had horses. They fed them Oats. Quaker Oats. Well. I just made that up about the oats. But the rest of this is for real.
They were pretty poor, and to top it off… her father died. So, Annie had to be pushed off to an infirmary when she was very young. She was “bound out” to a local family to help care for their infant son. The “Sale” was based on the false promise of fifty cents a week and an education.
It didn’t go that way at all, you see. Annie spent about two years in near-slave-like conditions. They were pretty mean to her too. She endured both mental and physical abuse while staying with that family.
One time the wife put Annie out in the freezing cold, without shoes, as a punishment because she had fallen asleep over some darning. Annie referred to them as “the wolves”…. but when she wrote here Autobiography… she never gave up their real names. She was kind that way.
I could go on an on about her life, but that gets windy and long. We all know she was a great shot. Oakley’s most famous trick is perhaps being able to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on. Then…. she would put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground. And get this. She used a .22 caliber rifle…. at 90 dang feet. How about them bullets?
But probably one of the neatest things about her… is that she was a strong, strong woman. Strong of character, I mean. And she firmly believed that other women should stand on their own too.
For instance. Annie Oakley thought women ought to be in combat operations for the United States. She wrote a letter to President William McKinley…. in which she told him she could get together “a company of 50 ‘lady sharpshooters’ who would provide their own arms and ammunition should the U.S. go to war with Spain.” The U.S. didn’t take her up on it. But I am guessing she would have gone to Spain, and kicked somebody’s peppers.
Throughout her career, it is believed that Oakley taught upwards of 15,000 women how to use a gun. Little Annie (only 5 feet tall) believed that it was crucial for women to learn how to use a gun… for … both for physical and mental exercise. But, Annie also promoted women’s ability to defend themselves. She said: “I would like to see every woman know how to handle [firearms] as naturally as they know how to handle babies.”
There is much more. But Oakley was WAY cool Whether you support firearms now or not… way back then… I think things were a little different.
But she had an extraordinary way about her. She was independent in nature, had great strength, and also possessed amazing athletic ability. And she probably didn’t take too much crap from anyone.
So, another little interesting history bit. They pop up all over the place . Like wildflowers. Beautiful, abundant, and more intricate upon closer inspection.
“Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe