Little Sure Shot Annie Oakley

July 5, 2021

Annie Oakley, born Phoebe Ann Moses, became one of the most famous women in America in the late 19th century. Even more amazing, her famous name and even more famous sharpshooting still echo nearly 100 years after her death. 

First a squrriel and then the world. (KPBS)

The diminutive sharpshooter born and raised in Ohio became a Wild West legend with the likes of Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill, and Davy Crockett, thanks to her otherworldly shooting skills. She also navigated perhaps the most testosterone-filled era with grace and unflappable aplomb. As she said, “I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him either.”

A Prodigy From The Start

"I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies."

While her sisters were off playing with dolls, Oakley joined her father on hunting trips and quickly became the sharpshooter of the family before the age of 10. As a precocious youth, her very first shot perfectly clipped the head of a squirrel. As she remembered, “I was eight years old when I made my first shot and I still consider it one of the best shots I ever made.” Unfortunately, her mother wasn’t as thrilled that her 8 year old daughter was playing with guns. “It was a wonderful shot, going right through the head from side to side. My mother was so frightened when she learned that I had taken down the loaded gun and shot it that I was forbidden to touch it again for eight months.”