ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Little Sure Shot: Annie Oakley

Updated on March 16, 2016

Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley circa 1880s
Annie Oakley circa 1880s

Little Sure Shot: Annie Oakley

What’s a girl to do when her father passes away and leaves nothing to help support his wife and children?

Why, she picks up his old rifle and starts shootin’, of course.

Born in Ohio on August 13, 1860, Phoebe Ann Moses was one of seven children born in the town of Cincinnati. Her father, a postman, died from pneumonia when Phoebe was six, and her mother had very little money to support her family. To help feed her siblings, Phoebe took her father’s rifle and taught herself how to shoot. Soon she was bagging wild animals to bring home to her mother, learning how to hit them with one shot through the head so that there would be more usuable meat left on the body. Often skipping school to go hunting, Phoebe soon was hunting game and selling it to local restaurants and hotels, and making a pretty penny for it too.

In 1875, a traveling sharp shooting show stopped in Cincinnati, featuring the talents of trick shot Frank Butler. Frank invited the locals to a friendly shooting contest; if they hit more targets than he did, they would win $100, which was big money in those days. Imagine his amazement when a fifteen year old girl stepped up to challenge him. Being a good natured fellow, Frank welcomed young Phoebe to the contest … and couldn’t believe it when she matched him shot for shot. Phoebe beat Frank by one shot and won the money. Frank was happy to hand it over to such a pretty and talented lady, and he became intrigued by Phoebe and her skill. One year later they were married.

Phoebe joined Frank’s show, becoming their most popular act—so popular in fact, that Frank retired from trick shooting and spent all his time managing and promoting his wife, whom he billed as “Annie Oakley” (“Oakley” likely coming from the name of a town near Cincinnati, where they lived for a time.) Frank was keen on the public’s interest, and he noticed that while the audience loved a lady trick shooter, they were sometimes put off by her frontier manners. Frank spent time refining Annie, helping her to become a little more dainty and lady-like, which won audiences over—they loved seeing such a well-mannered young woman shoot apples off her dog’s head, shoot holes through playing cards thrown in the air, snuff out candles with bullets, shoot backwards with only a mirror to guide her, and hit targets standing, running, or riding a horse at a full-speed gallop (while still riding side-saddle). Frank boasted that Annie could even shoot a target while standing on her head … but she was too polite to do that in public.

Annie Oakley Shooting Over Her Shoulder with a Handmirror

Annie Oakley Shooting Over Her Shoulder with a Handmirror
Annie Oakley Shooting Over Her Shoulder with a Handmirror

Annie’s fame soon won them the attention of Buffalo Bill Cody and he hired them to join his Wild West Show, where again Annie became the star attraction, entertaining and impressing people such as Queen Victoria (who told Annie, "You are a very, very clever little girl,") when the show toured Europe. She became very close with Lakota chief Sitting Bull, who had lost his own daughter who would have been about Annie’s age when they met. Annie was the only one who could bring Sitting Bull out of his frequent deep depressions, and he affectionately nicknamed her, "Watanya Cicilla" or “Little Sure Shot.” When Sitting Bull passed away, Annie was listed in his obituary as, “Sitting Bull’s Adopted Daughter.”

Poster for Buffalo Bill's WIld West Show

Poster for Buffalo Bill's WIld West Show
Poster for Buffalo Bill's WIld West Show

In 1894, Annie starred in a ninety second “movie” filmed by Thomas Edison, shooting glass balls that were thrown into the air. The film was shown in nickelodeons (a kind of film projector) in New York, and crowds gathered by the hundreds to view it.

Annie Oakley Shooting, 1894

Annie was a patriotic American, and when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Annie wrote to President William McKinley to offer her services as a sniper as well placing, “a Company of fifty Lady sharpshooters at your disposal.” McKinley politely declined.

In 1892 while touring Munich, an infuriated bronco broke loose and charged Prince Luitpold, who thought that it was part of the act. Horrified, Annie raced forward and tackled the prince out of the horse’s way, saving his life. She later joked that she "was the only person alive that ever knocked a ruling sovereign down and got away with it." Shortly afterwards a story appeared in U.S. newspapers that Annie had an audience with the now vilified Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and snuffed out a cigarette he held with her gun, and she allegedly remarked that had she known that he was about to cause the Great War (World War 1), then she would have deliberately shot him in the head instead. The story wasn’t true, but Annie and her husband gleefully pretended it was.


Annie Oakley, 1922

Annie Oakley, 1922
Annie Oakley, 1922

In 1901, Annie was badly injured when the train she was riding in derailed. Her spine damaged, Annie was partially paralyzed for a time and underwent five spinal surgeries before recovering. No longer well enough to travel extensively, Annie retired from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and began starring in a variety of plays that had her playing the part of a big-hearted cowgirl who defeats evil in a courteous way, and at the age of 62 starred in a full length movie. She also taught an estimated 15,000 women how to shoot guns for exercise and defense, saying, "I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies." Annie single-handedly made it acceptable for women to handle guns.

Though they never had children, Annie and Frank remained happily married for fifty years. On November 3, 1926, Annie Oakley passed away from pneumonia, and a broken hearted Frank Butler died eighteen days later. When Annie’s biography was being prepared, it was discovered that she had spent her entire fortune on her family and on charities.

Annie Oakley works cited:

America’s Women,

by Gail Collins

The Usborne Book of Famous Women,

by Richard Dungworth & Philippa Gregory

They Went Whistling,

by Barbara Holland

Cool Women,

by Dawn Chipman et al

“Annie Oakley,” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/oakley-europe/

“Annie Oakley,” http://www.britannica.com/biography/Annie-Oakley-American-markswoman

“Annie Oakley,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Oakley

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      2 years ago from California Gold Country

      What a unique and special woman she was,especially since she mostly used her talents and fortune for good instead of personal gain.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)