Today we're going to talk about a woman with a name almost everyone is familiar with: Annie Oakley.
Most of us know Annie Oakley as an American sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. For many women, she became the inspiration to learn a sport that men primarily dominated.
Annie's experience with guns began at the young age of 8 when she hunted game to sell to make money for her impoverished family. At the age of 15, she won a shooting contest against an experienced, traveling marksman named Frank E. Butler.
She impressed Butler, who began courting her. They later married and toured the country together, where Annie acted as his assistant. She did a bit of shooting and became popular, adopting the name of "Oakley."
Annie became part of the act. While on tour, she met Sitting Bull, the Lakota Sioux leader who defeated General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He nicknamed her "Little Sure Shot" after seeing her perform.
Butler and Annie toured with the Sells Brothers Circus for a year and then joined the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. As Annie's popularity grew, Butler chose to work as her assistant and manager, assisting her as she became the star of the show.
Lady With The Golden Gun
Annie used a Marlin M1891 lever action rimfire in her performances. In 1903, Marlin honored her with a gold-plated Marlin M1897 rimfire rifle. Master engraver Conrad F. Ulrich Jr. engraved this firearm with a grape and vine motif and game scenes depicting a buck and doe in a forest on the left side, with a squirrel in a tree on the right.
The rifle currently resides with many of Annie's items at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK. Annie had many guns, perhaps one of every model available at the time, and her Marlins were believed to be one of her favorites. In a magazine interview, Annie said, "Nobody should trust their lives behind a cheap gun."
Annie was a strong advocate for women in the world of shooting. She once said, "I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies."
It's believed that she taught around 15,000 women how to shoot.