Most people know about female western legends such as Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane, but there are plenty of other women who played important roles in the taming of the old west, and Wild West City (50 Lackawanna Drive, Stanhope) plans to pay homage to them on Sunday, June 26.
Wild West City has been bringing the old west to life in northern NJ for over six decades, and this event will be the first time it focuses on the stories of the many women of the west who were key to its history.
Cowgirl Day will be all about boots, chaps and cowgirl hats! Cowgirl Day will feature Brave Beth and Cowboy Larry’s Wild West show with bull whip cracking, tomahawk throwing, balloon popping and so much more! The day will also feature sharp shooter Nola on Big Red. Female actresses will be taking the forefront on Wild West City’s Main Street as well. The day will also include a Best Dressed cowgirl and cowboy contest and other activities.
For the past several years, Wild West City has featured cowgirl Reillyanne Ruane driving the stagecoach. Other cowgirl regulars include Sarah Hale, Juliet DiBonaventura, Kowgirl Katie Benson, Samantha Schuman, Claudia Butzfiscina and Robin Butzfiscina. Also representing Wild West City’s “female contingent” are Schoolmarm Alice Harrison and Jane Primerano.
The day will feature historical cowgirls as well. Did you know that Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Moses in Darke County, Ohio, and at the age of eight she started hunting? As the legend goes, she would sell the game she shot to local restaurants to help earn money for her family. When she was 15, Oakley went to Cincinnati to compete against marksman Frank E. Butler, who travelled around the country challenging people to shooting competitions. During the competition, Oakley shot all 25 shots, and Butler missed one, making Oakley the winner. The competition led to a love connect and in August 23, 1876, they wed.
The couple toured around the country, and Butler continued to perform as a marksman. Oakley acted as his assistant and held up items for Butler to shoot. She would also do some shooting. As she became more popular, she adopted the stage name of “Oakley.” On May 1, 1882, Butler’s shooting partner became ill, and Oakley filled in. From that moment, Oakley became part of the act. In March 1884, she reportedly met Sitting Bull, the Lakota Sioux leader who defeated General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He was said to have given her the nickname “Little Sure Shot” after seeing her perform in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Martha Jane Cannary, better known as Calamity Jane, was a well-known American frontierswoman, sharpshooter, and raconteur. In addition to many exploits she was known for being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok.
Calamity was born in Princeton, Missouri. In 1865 her family migrated to Virginia City, Montana. During the five-month wagon train trip she spent most of her time hunting. By the time they arrived in Virginia City, she was considered a remarkably good markswoman and a fearless rider, according to stories of the time. Shortly after arriving in Black Foot in 1866, her mother died, followed by her father. Jane took on whatever job was available to provide for her siblings. In 1870 she joined General George Armstrong Custer as a scout at For Russell, Wyoming, and donned the uniform of a soldier. Calamity was considered a reckless and daring rider and one of the best shots in the West.
While Oakley and Calamity Jane may be central western figures, there were many other women who were notable in the old west. They included: Mary Katherine Horony Cummings, also known as “Big Nose Kate,” and the reported companion of fabled gunfighter Doc Holliday; the “Bandit Queen,” Belle Starr was born in 1848 as Myra Maybelle Shirley; Madame Moustache Dumont was a notorious gambler on the American Western Frontier, mainly during the California Gold Rush; one of Colorado’s earliest woman doctors, Susan Anderson, was known as “Doc Susie” for her dedication to her medical practice; and then there was Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary or Black Mary, who was reportedly the first African-American female mail carrier in the United States to travel on a Star Route.
Wild West City offers live shows, train and stagecoach rides, demonstrations, historical exhibits, music, special events and an opportunity for families to mingle with cowboys and cowgirls in “Dodge City.”
Located near Routes 206, 80 and 46, Wild West City is open weekends through Father’s Day then daily through Labor Day, and weekends again until October 31. In October, Wild West City becomes the Haunted Wild West town with both daytime and nighttime events. For more information about Wild West City visit wildwestcity.com.