Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane

Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane

by Karen R. Jones


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A fascinating new account of the life and legend of the Wild West’s most notorious woman: Calamity Jane

"In this vivid and compelling biography, Karen Jones recovers the remarkable creativity of Martha Jane Canary, who helped to invent the mythic West by reinventing herself.  As Calamity Jane, she told wild tales of adventure and blurred the lines between legend and history, male and female, and truth and possibility."—Alan Taylorauthor of The Internal Enemy

Martha Jane Canary, popularly known as Calamity Jane, was the pistol-packing, rootin’ tootin’ “lady wildcat” of the American West. Brave and resourceful, she held her own with the men of America’s most colorful era and became a celebrity both in her own right and through her association with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody.
In this engaging account, Karen Jones takes a fresh look at the story of this iconic frontierswoman. She pieces together what is known of Canary’s life and shows how a rough and itinerant lifestyle paved the way for the scattergun, alcohol-fueled heroics that dominated Canary’s career. Spanning Canary’s rise from humble origins to her role as “heroine of the plains” and the embellishment of her image over subsequent decades, Jones shows her to be feisty, eccentric, transgressive—and very much complicit in the making of the myth that was Calamity Jane.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300212808
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Pages: 314
Sales rank: 585,121
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Karen Jones is a professor at the University of Kent. Her previous publications include Wolf Mountains: A History of Wolves Along the Great Divide, The Invention of the Park, and Epiphany in the Wilderness: Hunting, Nature, and Performance in the Nineteenth-Century American West.

Table of Contents

List of Plates ix

Introduction: The Story of Calamity Jane: Tall Tales, Gender Possibility, and Frontier Celebrity 1

Chapter 1 "A Fearless Rider for a Girl of My Age": Martha Canary Goes West (c.1852-70) 14

Chapter 2 "I Name You Calamity Jane": Crook, Custer, and Cross-Dressing in the US Cavalry (c.1870-76) 29

Chapter 3 "Calamity Jane Has Arrived!": From Deadwood to Dime Novel (1876-95) 56

Chapter 4 "Heroine of a Thousand Thrilling Adventures": Calamity Jane and the Culture of Frontier Celebrity (1895-1903) 98

Chapter 5 "Bury Me Next to Wild Bill": Committing Calamity to Popular Memory (1903-35) 138

Chapter 6 "How the West Was Sung": Femininity and Fakery on the Hollywood Frontier (1935-60) 174

Chapter 7 "A Feminist in Buckskin": Performance, Profanity, and Sexual Politics on the New Western Frontier (1960-2000) 218

Conclusion: From Doris to Deadwood and Back: The Continuing Life and Adventures of Calamity Jane 251

Notes 263

Bibliography 281

Index 293

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