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Annie Oakley

Updated on October 8, 2014

Annie Oakley: Sharpshooter and Superstar

When I was 8, I was obsessed with Annie Oakley. I wanted to be Annie Oakley. No really. I wanted to be Annie Oakley. We had a career day at my church, and I went dressed up complete with gun. Of course, given time, I came to understand that this was not a viable career choice and I moved on. But I still find Annie to be a inspiration - a woman who carved out a niche in a man's world, who found a way to take her talent and turn it into a glorious career.

Yep - that's me in the middle as Annie Oakley for Halloween one year. (You can see my rifle in the grass behind me.)
Yep - that's me in the middle as Annie Oakley for Halloween one year. (You can see my rifle in the grass behind me.)

Annie Oakley: Reality Check

Let's set the record straight here from the beginning. Annie Oakley was a sharpshooter. She was a show woman. She was a world traveler.

What she wasn't was a cowgirl or even part of the Wild West. Born and raised in Ohio, she never lived west of the Mississippi - no matter how many TV shows or movies you see that portray her that way. This doesn't make her any less impressive. It just goes to show that Bill was a better spinmaster than most.

"My mother and sisters thought my prowess with the gun was just a little tomboyish."

Annie Oakley: Caught on Film

Yep - that's really her!!! It's so cool to me that she lived long enough to be immortalized on film. It's hard sometimes to see historical figures as living, breathing creatures. They become pictures on a page or a modern actress playing dress-up rather than a real person.

One of Annie's best known tricks was the over-the-shoulder rifle shot.

"I would like to see every woman know how to handle [firearms] as naturally as they know how to handle babies."

Annie Oakley: Tradition of Firearm Education

Annie was nicknamed "Little Sure Shot" and spent a great deal of her time in retirement passing on her knowledge to others. She trained women and soldiers up and down the east coast on marksmanship.

Carrying on her tradition is the Annie Oakley Sure Shots.

Its goal is to...

  • Provide a safe, encouraging and comfortable shooting environment for women of all skill levels from novice to expert.
  • Promote firearms safety and education.
  • Open the door to a wide variety of experiences allowing women to progress into other shooting disciplines for personal satisfaction and/or competition.
  • Address concerns facing new shooters such as; self-defense, firearms purchases, care and cleaning of your firearm and other questions, in an open environment.
  • Facilitate a place where women can mentor each other, have fun and compare experiences with others who share a common interest in the shooting sports.
  • Offer a recreational activity in which the whole family can enjoy.

Annie Oakley: What Do You Think?

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Annie Oakley on TV?

I'm going to plead youth here, but I had no idea there was an Annie Oakley TV show!! It starred Gail Davis, was totally inaccurate historically and ran for 81 episodes. Can't wait to see it myself. Oh, and there was also a comics series based on the TV show. Here's the opening segment for you, and the show's now out on DVD - five seasons worth.

Catch the show's opening

Annie Oakley: Did You Know?

Back before the days of computers, theaters would punch holes in tickets that were given out free to media or friends of the actors. The holes helped them separate paid tickets from free when it came time to count the box office. These punched tickets were called "Annie Oakleys" due to their resemblance to playing cards Annie purportedly shot holes in during her act.

"God intended women to be outside as well as men, and they do not know what they are missing when they stay cooped up in the house."

Annie Oakley: Books for Kids - Great place to start for a Women's History Month report

Who Was Annie Oakley?
Who Was Annie Oakley?
About 100 pages with plenty of hand-drawn pictures in there as illustrations. One thing I do like about this one is the timeline of world history to help a kid put Annie's life into context with other things they are learning about history. Perfect for about a third-grade level depending on your child's reading ability.
Shooting For The Moon: The Amazing Life and Times of Annie Oakley
Shooting For The Moon: The Amazing Life and Times of Annie Oakley
Picture book bio of Annie with absolutely gorgeous artwork by Bernie Fuchs. More paintings than the typical kid's book illustrations you're used to seeing. It's listed as being for K-Gr3, but the amount of text on the page makes it a read-together book for younger kids.
Annie Oakley (Robbie Readers) (What's So Great About?)
Annie Oakley (Robbie Readers) (What's So Great About?)
A real overview of her life. This one makes a great starting point for a history project, though, as the back of the book includes a bibliography of sources, as well as places on the internet to find more information. (Like this page, maybe?) Of course, the internet part could get out-of-date quickly, so don't rely on it for giving you all your sources.
Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley
Non-fictionalized version that tries to get at the true story of the woman. Definitely for older kids as there are illustrations and photos included, but not many for a book that's more than 200 pages.
The Colonel and Little Missie: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and the Beginnings of Superstardom in America (includes 16 pages of B&W photographs)
The Colonel and Little Missie: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and the Beginnings of Superstardom in America (includes 16 pages of B&W photographs)
By the great western writer himself - Larry McMurtry. Reads like a bio, but with a lot of personal opinion and reflections mixed in. Again, better for older kids and adults looking to get a look at her entire life. Sweeping is typical for McMurtry, who covers just about every tiny aspect.

Annie Oakley: On Stage and Screen

Annie Oakley was America's first female "superstar" so it's only fitting that she was played by some of the biggest stars out there in various portrayals of her life. Often exaggerated, rarely accurate portrayals, but all fun nonetheless.

  • In 1935, Barbara Stanwyck played Annie in a highly fictionalized film called Annie Oakley.
  • The 1946 Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun is very loosely based on her life. The original stage production starred Ethel Merman, who also starred in the 1966 revival. A 1950 film version starred Betty Hutton. Some years after headlining the 1948 national tour, Mary Martin returned to the role for a 1957 NBC television special.
  • From 1954 to 1956, Gail Davis played her in the Annie Oakley television series.
  • A highly-fictionalised Annie Oakley appears in the 1966 comedy film, Carry On Cowboy. This version of Oakley had a father who was sheriff of the fictitious Stodge City, and traveled out west to kill her father's murderer, and eventually fell in love with the inept Englishman, Marshal P. Knutt (Jim Dale). Oakley was played by Angela Douglas.
  • In 1976, Geraldine Chaplin played Annie in Buffalo Bill and the Indians with John Considine as Frank Butler.
  • In 1982, Diane Civita played Annie, opposite Richard Donner as Bill Cody, in an episode of "Voyagers!", where, during Cody's performances before Queen Victoria, Annie engaged in a marksmanship contest with a Russian duke.
  • In 1985, Jamie Lee Curtis offered a fresh portrayal in the "Annie Oakley" episode of the children's video series, Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales and Legends.
  • In 1999, Annie Get Your Gun was revived on Broadway with Bernadette Peters in the title role.
  • In 2006, an episode of PBS's American Experience documented Oakley's life.

Annie Oakley: Movie of Her Story

Annie Oakley: Annie Get Your Gun

Annie Oakley: Clips from Annie Get Your Gun

"I am, indeed, very grateful for your many kind words in my obituary. How such a report started I do not know. I am thankful to say I am in the best of health."

Annie Oakley: Where to Learn More

Women In Ohio History

Extensive bio of Annie.

Annie Oakley House in Cambridge, Maryland

A history of Annie and Frank Butler that covers much of what happened to them after they retired to Cambridge.

Buffalo Bill Historical Center

Bio of Annie covering her show career

Annie Oakley Foundation

Seeks to provide accurate information on the life and legend of Annie Oakley, to disseminate educational materials, and to create and maintain the Annie Oakley Education, Cultural and Sports Activity Center.

Annie Oakley: Got Something to Say?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Amazing post!! I am setting out on writing a shorter post on her for my own blog. I too have loved Annie Oakley since I was a young girl, probably about the same age. No you mind if I link to your post in my own blog?

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm old enough to remember watching the Annie Oakley television show. Enjoyed it then, but liked finding out the real facts about her life.

    • Lewister profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Texas

      @anonymous: i just went to see if I could find that book now that you've mentioned it. I so remember that cover!! And I probably read all of those biographies as well. I remember reading a lot of those as a kid, surprised I really never did get a history degree given my early interests. Glad your daughter is getting to enjoy it now!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I wanted to be Annie Oakley when I was 8 also. No REALLY. I did too. When I was in 2nd grade, I read all the biographies in our library (this was waaaay back in the 1970s). Our library had a whole series of biographies called, "Childhood of Famous Americans", and its Annie Oakley biography was just the best. The illustrations were done in black and white silhouette...but I digress. My daughter is age 7 now and our village librarian did a search and found the SAME BOOK, which is called "Annie Oakley, Little Sure Shot", it was written by Ellen Wilson, copyright in 1958 by the Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. I'm reading it to my daughter, and she loves it as much as I did! It is, what, fictionalized history? I don't know how much is true but it sure is an interesting and inspirational story about Annie growing up in her Ohio log cabin. Anyone who loves the Little House books will love this one too. I hope by posting about it, that others will discover this wonderful old book and rescue it from obscurity.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      10 years ago from Colorado

      A most impressive and talented woman. Thank you for this fascinating account of Annie Oakley. I learned a great deal and have even more appreciation now for her. **Blessed**

    • dwnovacek profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens - very informative and beautifully presented. Angel Blessed!

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      Jennifer Sullivan 

      12 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Great lens! I definitely went as her one Halloween at least!

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      My favorite story about Annie Oakley is how she beat an astonished Frank Butler in a shooting match. Some fellows with more ego might not have been able to deal with that; instead he goes and marries her. :)

    • religions7 profile image


      13 years ago

      Wonderful. Those women who made something of themselves back then are just so impressive. What else can I say.


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