Annie Oakley

Picture of Annie Oakley

Who: Annie Oakley, leading lady of the American West; international sensation known for her performances in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show

Why She Dazzles: Annie won a shooting match against traveling-show marksman (and future husband) Frank E. Butler when she was only 15 years old, and then joined him as a vaudeville performer. Her stunning displays of marksmanship wowed audiences, especially when she shot off the ends of cigarettes from participants’ lips, and punched holes in playing cards in the air before they hit the ground. She traveled across the world and even performed for crowned leaders, including Queen Victoria, German Kaiser Wilhelm II, and King Umberto I of Italy.

Why You Need to Know Her Today: Step aside Dolores. Annie, a real iconic woman of the West, earned more than any other male or female performer in Buffalo Bill’s show except for Buffalo Bill himself. She was America’s first female star, known internationally for her shooting tricks, in a world dominated by men. Frank and many men were amazed by Annie’s skills and viewed her as an equal, however, when Annie volunteered to organize a regiment of female sharpshooters during World War I, the government ignored her. Instead, she raised money for the Red Cross by providing shooting demonstrations, eventually teaching thousands of women how to use a gun to defend themselves by the end of her career. She was an inspirational role model with a rare talent that made her a legend in American history.

What She Would Say—Because She Said It Then: “Aim for the high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time, 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.”

Picture of luna half moon stud earrings by Leah Alexandra for Local Eclectic
Annie always wore a skirt—usually one she had sewn herself—because she wanted to show the Victorian public that a girl could shoot like a man and still act like a lady.

What She Would Wear to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show Tonight: Annie made her own modest costumes, which distinguished herself from performers who dressed more risqué. Although she was perceived as a rugged tomboy, she was only five-feet-tall and wore lace and elegant clothing both on and off the stage. She would add a drop of bling to jazz up her lace collar.

Picture of a crystal ball on a card by Rifle Paper Co.
“When I started, there was a prejudice to live down.”—Annie

What She Would Send to Her Friend: One of her closest friends was Sitting Bull who was enthralled by her skills and vibrant personality. He asked for a sign picture of Annie, which formed a lifelong friendship between the pair. Sitting Bull gave her the Lakota nickname Watanya Cecilia, or “Little Sure Shot,” and unofficially adopted her as a daughter. Annie wrote of him as her “adopted father,” and claimed that he gifted her a pair of moccasins he wore in the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Picture of downtown Greenville, Ohio
Visitors to Greenville can see Annie’s guns, medals, personal clothing, and gifts given to her by royalty.

Where She Would Instagram: Greenville, Ohio, where Annie learned how to shoot game in the woods when she was only eight years old. She quickly established her reputation as an excellent marksman, which captured the attention of the community, particularly a local merchant who sold her game to local businesses. Greenville is also home to the National Annie Oakley Center which exhibits artifacts from her adventurous life.

Tweet This: Annie Oakley first appeared on film in 1894 when Thomas Edison used a kinetograph, a primitive version of what would later become a movie camera. Edison filmed her in action—the smoke rising from Annie’s gun, and the glass balls shattering when her shots hit them. #anewlady

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