Friday Friends - Calamity Jane

CowboySpirit.TV - This week we visit to get information on a wild woman of the West, Calamity Jane.

She was born Martha Jane Canary; there are numerous tales of how she got her nickname but no one knows for sure. She was a tough cookie and dressed like a man, in buckskins. By the time she was 18, after moving to Salt Lake City with her parents after the Civil War, Jane had been a nurse, a dishwasher, a waitress, a cook and an ox-team driver. She was a frontierswoman and professional scout most well-known for being a close friend of Wild Bill Hickok's, but also having gained fame fighting American Indians.

She had a reputation for being able to handle a man, shoot like a cowboy, skills that took her into Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show where she performed sharpshooting astride her horse. The love of her life was Wild Bill Hickok. They allegedly were secretly married in 1870 and he supposedly took off after the birth of their daughter three years later. During the 1870's, Jane was the subject of some dime novels which brought her national fame. She is buried in Deadwood near Wild Bill Hickok.

She was born in Princeton, Missouri, the eldest of six children, having two brothers and three sisters. Her mother died in 1866 of "washtub pneumonia", and her father died in 1867 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She lived for a time in Virginia City, Montana. She received little, if any, formal education but was literate. In 1868 at age 16, she took on the role as head of her household and moved her family to Fort Bridger then onto Piedmont, Wyoming. Accounts from this period described Canary as being attractive, with light blue eyes.

She moved on to an outdoors and rougher more adventurous life on the Great Plains. In 1870, she signed on as a scout and adopted the uniform of a soldier. It is unclear whether she was actually enlisted in the United States Army at the time. From then on she mostly lost touch with her siblings. She did live a very colorful and eventful life from that point on, but historians revealed that she was prone to exaggerations and lies about her exploits.

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