Little Miss Sure Shot: Annie Oakley’s World
Written by Jeffrey Marshall
I picked up this book not really knowing what to expect. Of course I had heard of Annie Oakley, but I did not expect to find there was so much more than a wild, undisciplined sharpshooter. Sure got a surprise when I started reading this account which is not a biography but rather a colorful portrait of the highlights in Annie’s illustrious career and her fifty year marriage with Frank Butler.
Annie was born in 1860 to a poor Quaker farm family living in Ohio who named her Phoebe Ann Moses. One of seven children, at the age of six her life soon became even more difficult when her father died. By the age of eight, Annie had learned to shoot small game which she sold to help support her family. Before Annie hit her teens she was competing with men in shooting competitions. During one of these she met sharpshooter Frank Butler; Annie won the competition by one point. Fifteen year old Annie promptly fell in love and married the man with whom she would soon perform in the vaudeville circuit.
A few years later the couple would join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with Bill Cody. They traveled throughout the country and later on to Europe. Annie wanted her name to match her frontier image; the name Oakley actually was taken from a town near her farm. When it became clear that Annie was the star feature, Frank graciously decided from that point on he would be her manager instead of her shooting partner.
Marshall does a good job of describing their whirlwind life on the tour circuit, They witness the construction of the Statue of Liberty on Bedloe Island, attend the fiftieth anniversary celebration of Queen Victoria, meet General Sherman, P.T. Barnum, and Kaiser Wilhelm. The couple sail the canals in Venice and walk the streets of Paris. Annie appears in stage plays and gets invited to participate in one of Thomas Edison’s first moving picture ventures.
After an unfortunate train wreck in 1901and a bad automobile accident in 1907, Annie and Frank open up sharpshooting training centers to teach their skills to others. Though they never had children, Annie and Frank gave generously to orphanages and children’s hospitals. Ironically, Annie died of pernicious anemia, which may have been cause by her constant exposure to the lead of the bullets that she used to shoot. Frank lived less than three weeks after her passing.
The author weaves an exciting story depicting Annie’s strong pioneer spirit of determination and stubbornness, a love story, history, adventure, and travel. Annie presents a strong female character well ahead of her time willing to take on the challenges of one whose life spanned the era from the Civil War through the end of World War I. This book can be enjoyed by readers ten and older. Teachers can certainly use it as a tool as a window to life during that era as well as a woman ahead of her time.
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