Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Why Annie Got Her Gun

Why Annie Got Her Gun

Ratings: (0)|Views: 1,172|Likes:
Published by carolyn6302

More info:

Published by: carolyn6302 on Jan 07, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOC, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Copyright 1995 Carolyn Gage
Originally published in
On the Issues,
Spring 1996.
Annie Oakley has always been a problem for feminists. The world’s champion sharp-shooter, shestalwartly refused to align herself with any of the women’s reform movements of her day, includingSuffrage.Who should have understood better the need for the bloomer costume than the woman who made acareer of slogging through marshy bogs at dawn with all-male hunting parties, who practiced trick riding,and who engaged in trap-shooting competitions in the sports arena? But Oakley “abominated” bloomers.Instead, she wore gaiters and shortened skirts, rode sidesaddle for her stunts, and designed her ownspecial skirt with hooks and grommets after she took up the sport of cycling.Oakley refused to participate in the Suffrage debate, expressing her fear that not enough “good” womenwould vote. Married to the same man for fifty of her sixty-six years, she allowed her husband to manageher career, her finances, and her image of ladylike propriety.But Annie Oakley had this thing about guns... And this thing about guns, as it turns out, had very muchto do with her thing about men.Annie Oakley hadn’t always been Annie Oakley. She was born Phoebe Ann Moses, the fifth of sevenchildren born to a dirt poor Quaker couple in Darke County, Ohio. At nine, she left her widowed mother to live at the county poor farm, an infirmary that housed orphans, indigent Irish and African-Americans,and people classified as idiots. From there she hired out to work in the home of a man she would later refer to only as “the he-wolf.”In the home of “the wolves,” Phoebe Ann was held prisoner, beaten, frozen, starved, over-worked, andpossibly sexually abused. Finally, after two years, she managed to run away, begging train fare from astranger. Back at the poor farm, she lived in terror that the “he-wolf” would come back to reclaim hisprisoner. The wife of the farm superintendent, however, had noticed the scars on the child’s back, andwhen the “he-wolf” showed up at her door, she ordered her husband and son to throw him out. InOakley’s words, “That night I slept untroubled for the first time in long months.”Was Annie Oakley sexually abused? Today, some of her family members as well as Darke Countyresidents believe that she was. Certainly many of her later behaviors fit the profile of post-traumaticstress disorder. All her life, she preferred living out of hotels and tents to owning her own home. Shecarried out compulsive daily routines regarding nutrition, hygiene, shooting practice, and publicappearances - and she had sharp words for those who dared object to these “particular” behaviors.Oakley seldom visited members of her family, and she wrote to them even less frequently. She never had children, and because of the difference in age between herself and Frank, there is speculation thatthe marriage might have been an asexual marriage of convenience. An intensely private person, Oakleydid not cultivate intimate friends or confidantes, and the closest companion of the latter part of her lifewas her beloved English setter Dave.
Was childhood trauma the explanation for the conservatism of Oakley’s personal life? But what abouther exhibitionism as a sharpshooter? What about all those guns? If Annie Oakley did not care a fig for women’s right to vote, she did care - and care passionately - for women’s right to bear arms.What an earlier generation of women’s studies students may have overlooked in Annie Oakley’sbiography was the radical implications of that right. A strong argument can be made that Oakley’sscrupulous cultivation of a conservative image was for the sake of rendering the sport of shooting moresocially acceptable - fashionable even—for women. Everywhere she went, she argued that shooting wasa healthy and proper sport for all females, not just performers, tomboys, or the daughters of backwoodsmen.In her lifetime, Annie Oakley taught thousands of women to shoot. On her first visit to London, she tookout a newspaper ad offering to give lessons on the use of pistols, rifles, and shotguns “to ladies only,”and back in the States she continued her campaign of free lessons. In 1897, she wrote a series of articles titled “Without Shooting Herself, Taught by Annie Oakley,” in order to dispel one of the mostpersistent and prevalent myths about women who own guns.In these articles, Oakley insisted that nervousness was the principle obstacle for women to overcome inhandling guns, but she assured her readers that shooting was “one of the best tonics for the nerves andfor the mind.” In 1898, she went so far as to send a letter to President McKinley offering “to place aCompany of fifty lady sharpshooters” at his disposal. She went on, “Every one of them will be anAmerican and as they will furnish their own arms and ammunition will be little if any expense to thegovernment.” Twenty years later, in 1917, she made a similar offer to President Wilson: “I can guaranteea regiment of women for home protection, every one of whom can and will shoot if necessary.” Needlessto say, both offers were politely ignored.After her retirement from the arena, Oakley continued to teach classes for women at the various resorthotels where she took up residence. Despite her refusal to be drawn into political debate on the“women’s question,” she actively opposed state laws banning firearms in the home. She argued thatsafety would not be an issue if both women and children were properly instructed in the use of guns.According to Oakley, “Every intelligent woman should become familiar with the use of firearms.” Sheanticipated the day when women would handle guns “as naturally as they handle babies.”Shunning any kind of sensational publicity, she was nevertheless willing to pose for photographers,demonstrating the correct way for women to carry a concealed weapon in public. She advised them tohold a revolver ready for use in the folds of their umbrella, arguing that in an assault situation, they wouldnot have time to retrieve it from their purse. In 1906, she posed by her bedside table, serenely loading arevolver for the nightstand drawer.Annie Oakley had learned the hard way that independence is something to be asserted, not granted.Oakley seemed to understand that the shortest distance to reforms for women was not through thetorturous machinations of the electoral process, but by the mere presence of a female populationuniversally armed and presumed dangerous. Far from being old-fashioned and conservative on thesubject of women’s rights, Annie Oakley was radical and far-sighted. It appears that we feminists haveyet to catch up to Oakley’s vision of a world made safe by women.

Activity (3)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 thousand reads
1 hundred reads

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->