by Bess Edwards, grandniece of Annie Oakley
The incredible woman who called herself Annie Oakley overcame poverty, prejudice, physical setbacks and her inner modesty to become a star shooter and a woman who broke barriers for other women in the entertainment industry, and in the trapshooting, sport hunting and self-defense arenas. She believed in and campaigned for women's rights to hold paid employment, earn equal pay, participate in sports, and defend themselves in their homes and on city streets.
Born near Greenville, Ohio on August 13, 1860, Phoebe Ann Mosey learned to shoot while hunting game for her widowed mother and her brother and sisters. After she met and married shooter Frank Butler, she chose the professional name of Annie Oakley and began to tour the vaudeville circuit. Between 1885 and 1901, she starred in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. As the first female wild west star, she helped open both wild west shows and rodeos to women. She also proved herself an outstanding athlete in trapshooting competitions and shooting exhibitions. As the first well-known woman sport shooter, she opened shooting ranges and matches all across the nation and Europe to women competitors.
Annie set an example for women and helped change the American public's mind regarding what were appropriate sports and activities for women. She also argued for a woman's right to bear and use firearms, both for sport shooting and for self-defense. She coached more than 2,000 women in firearm safety and shooting. As a public service she traveled the Eastern coast, at her own expense, demonstrating the safe and effective use of firearms for World War I soldiers.
Her philanthropic work, quietly done, was often overlooked by biographers. She helped orphans, widows, and young women who wanted to further their education. She gave benefit exhibitions in addition to making her own financial contributions for these causes. There is evidence to show that she funded college and professional training for at least 20 young women.
Annie continued to set records into her 60's even after suffering a debilitating automobile accident that caused her to wear a steel brace on her right leg. She died November 3, 1926, at the age of 66. her memory lives on in hundreds of articles, numerous biographies, dramatizations and films, private collections and several museum displays.
Educators consider her a positive role model for young people today because of her outstanding accomplishments and strength of character. She helped to break barriers for women in society while maintaining a wholesome image for women.
The Annie Oakley Motto:
"Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally, you'll hit the Bull's-Eye of Success."