Phoebe Ann Moses, also known as Annie Oakley, is today’s exceptionally talented Birthday Girl! (She’ll be referred to as Oakley from here on out.) In order to celebrate her birthday, we’re learning all about her early rise to success as one of America’s best sharp shooters!
Oakley was born on August 13, 1860 to Susan Wise and Jacob Moses. She was the sixth of seven children, and her upbringing was far from normal: After both her father and then her stepfather passed away, Oakley and her older sister were sent to the Darke County Infirmary where they were looked after by the superintendent and his wife. However, in 1870, Oakley was sent to live with a family to take care of their young son. In the agreement, this family — whose name Oakley never revealed — was supposed to pay her 50 cents a week and provide her with an education. They did neither.
Despite her troubled childhood, Oakley found success very soon in life: At the age of 15, she defeated a marksman named Francis E. Butler in a shooting competition. Not soon after, the two were married. Together, the couple entered the world of shooting and acting and found fame through Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1885. Oakley also toured through Europe, demonstrating her shooting skills to Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhem II. She even offered her services — along with 50 other female sharp shooters — to President McKinley in 1898 for the Spanish-American War (the offer wasn’t accepted).
What’s truly remarkable about Oakley is her perseverance: The shooting sensation suffered temporary paralysis and five spinal operations after a train accident in 1901, and later, in 1922, she had to wear a steel brace on her leg after a terrible car accident. She recovered from both — the latter recovery taking a year and a half — and continued on her way to setting records and performing.
In 1925, however, Oakley contracted pernicious anemia and passed away in Greenville, Ohio. She was just 66. Butler, it has been said, refused to eat after Oakley died and followed her just 18 days later. Despite this sad ending, Oakley lived a remarkable life. Happy birthday, Annie Oakley!