Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Story of 'Calamity Jane'

Am I the only one who had misidentified the nick name and character of the real life Calamity Jane? That name was not all that unfamiliar when I was young, but I never paid much attention to who she really was. Somehow, I got the wrong impression that she was another fictitious or legendary character that was always falling into hard times and precarious situations like the heroine in the old 1914 era serial films called “The Perils of Pauline.”

Well, as it turns out, Calamity Jane was a real life character in the old west. But her title of fame was NOT due to her falling victim to frequent disasters, but to the contrary, it was anyone who had done her wrong that was sternly warned that they would fall victim to a 'calamity' dished out by the hands or the guns of Martha Jane Cannary (Calamity Jane). Note that some records show the spelling of her last name with just one 'n' while others indicate that there were two.

Born May 1, 1852 in Princeton, Missouri, Jane was somewhat the female counterpart of the western frontiersmen and rough and tough drifters and drunks in those days. And photos of her show her wearing mostly the clothing that the men were wearing back then.

Under the category of occupation, Wikipedia lists: “Army scout, explorer, performer, dance hall girl, prostitute, frontier woman.” As a performer, among her other appearances, she was likely a regular with the famous Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Calamity Jane accompanied the Newton–Jenney Party into Rapid City in 1875, along with California Joe and Valentine McGillycuddy. In 1876, Calamity Jane settled in the area of Deadwood, South Dakota in the Black Hills. There she became friends with Dora DuFran, the Black Hills' leading madam, and she was occasionally employed by her. She also became friendly with Wild Bill Hickok and Charlie Utter, having traveled with them to Deadwood in Utter's wagon train (http://bit.ly/2QO405Z).

Here's a 45-minute video on Wild Bill, followed with my final thoughts on Calamity Jane.

Until her death from pneumonia in 1903, her legend continued on with many 'stories' of her adventures as an Army scout and her rugged frontier life in general. Official records do prove however, that she actually met Wild Bill Hickok after she was stationed at Fort Laramie in July of 1876, and then joined a wagon train that Hickok was part of. But if we include the fact with the fiction in the stories of Calamity Jane, I'd say that she represents and deserves an important part of the history and of the legends of the old west.

Gary Miller, Author


Want to know more about Calamity Jane, here are some additional resources via Amazon. Please help support WMD by purchasing one. Thank you!

Movies and Documentaries About Calamity Jane

                   

Books About Calamity Jane

                   

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