On April 24, 1885, the legendary female sharpshooter, Annie Oakley (Phoebe Ann Mosey), was hired by Nate Salsbury to perform in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. She could perform a wide range of tricks with a rifle, such as shooting cigarettes out of people’s mouths.
Shooting was a way of life for Oakley, as she grew up hunting and providing food for herself and six siblings. Her father died at a young age and her mother had difficulty taking care of the family, so Oakley had to be independent.
Oakley was the first woman to be hired as a trick shooter and showed that the Second Amendment and gun ownership were the greatest guarantors of female equality. Oakley was only about five feet tall and just over 100 pounds, but she could be equal to any man because she could carry and deftly use this great equalizer.
It must irritate the National Organization for Women to no end that the two most important inventions that led to female equality are the gun and the washing machine.
Interestingly enough, Oakley’s talents and unique background made her more valuable to the show than the men. It was reported that she actually made more money than her fellow male performers, which undoubtedly strikes a blow to the modern purveyors of the gender “wage gap.” Capitalism has a way of creating natural equality and decreasing prejudice.
The story of Annie Oakley does not just end with her skills as an entertainer and performer. She was also a patriot who offered up her gun fighting skills to the war effort at the beginning of the Spanish-American War.
The Spanish-American War, which coincidently started on April 24, began because of calculated strategic thinking by President McKinley’s administration as well as a shift in American public opinion. The Spanish had treated Cubans cruelly and resisted pressure from the United States to desist. Oakley didn’t hesitate to join the war effort.
Oakley heeded the call to arms and wrote a letter to President McKinley, offering aid. She wrote:
I for one feel confident that your good judgment will carry America safely through without war. But in case of such an event I am ready to place a company of 50 lady sharpshooters at your disposal. Every one of them will be an American, and as they will furnish their own arms and ammunition, will be little, if any, expense to the government.
Unfortunately, Oakley’s services were not accepted in the Spanish-American War, but this didn’t prevent her from trying to contribute in America’s next war, World War I.
While Oakley was never given a combat role, she did travel the country to give demonstrations to troops. Though much of her wartime involvement is wrapped up in legend, it was said that she personally trained American sharpshooters who would be going over to Europe to fight.
Even though Oakley was from Ohio and did not grow up on the American frontier, she epitomized the frontier woman: strong, brave, independent, shrewd, and ultimately, caring.
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