Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Mosey, in a log cabin in 1860. Her parents were quakers, and her mother had a difficult love life. When her mother was 18, she married Annie’s father, who was a few months shy of 50. She had 9 children in quick succession, including Annie. Her father, old as he was, fought in the War of 1812, but quickly succumbed to overexposure during a blizzard and died of pneumonia shortly thereafter. Her father’s death plunged the family into poverty, and young Annie rarely went to school, going to work as a nanny for a wealthy family at age ten. The family had promised her 50 cents per week for her work. Instead, she was kept as a slave, suffering physical and mental abuse. She would later refer to the family as ‘The Wolves’ but, in a huge testament of her maturity, never revealed their actual names. She ran away, and went home.
It was around this time she began hunting and trapping to support her mother and her eight siblings. She sold her spoils to fancy restaurants all around Ohio, and was so successful she paid off the mortgage on her mother’s house within a year. She became a local celebrity, and when she was 15 a shooting match was made between her and a traveling sharpshooter. The diminutive teenager must have been the last opponent he expected, but she beat him and won $100, a huge sum of money at that time. Far from being butt hurt about the defeat, this sharpshooter began courting young Annie, and they were married after a year. The marriage would last until her death.
She began performing in side shows and variety shows. She became so popular she eventually performed for Queen Victoria of England, King Umberto I of Italy, and the President of France Marie François Sadi Carnot. So great was her skill that she even shot the ashes off of Kaiser Willhelm II. After the outbreak of WWI, she wrote the Kaiser, asking to redo her famous shot, stating her aim might have been a little off.
When the Spanish-American war broke out, Annie offered to lead a team of 50 female sharpshooters, but her offer was turned down (considering the large amount of female heroes of war on this site, I’d say that was a very stupid decision on the President’s account). Annie was passionate about teaching woman to shoot, teacher thousands how to defend themselves. “I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies.” She said.
She continued to set sharpshooting records well into her sixties, as well as campaigning for women’s rights. She died in 1922, of pneumonia.