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Vol. 1 - No. 4 July, 2019 Nooseletter Home SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
 
The Real Calamity Jane
Rare 19th century images show notorious
female outlaws who ruled the wild west
The images contrast with the male cowboys and bandits that most people picture when they think of the old American frontier.
Belle Starr atop a horse in Fort Smith, Arkansas, 1886
Belle Starr atop a horse in Fort Smith, Arkansas, 1886
Calamity Jane pictured in men’s clothing in 1895 in Livington, Montana.
Calamity Jane pictured in men’s clothing in 1895 in Livington, Montana
A mugshot of Laura Bullion, a famed associate of Butch Cassidy
A mugshot of Laura Bullion, a famed associate of Butch Cassidy
A young Pearl Hart attired in men’s clothing, circa 1890s
A young Pearl Hart attired in men’s clothing, circa 1890s
They show the “ladies of ill repute” who, although lesser depicted in Hollywood films, were infamous in their own lifetimes.

The westward expansion of the settlers in the United States during the 19th century gave rise to a new breed of law-breakers on the country’s sparsely-populated frontier.

Many women experienced a greater degree of social and economic freedom once removed from traditional city life, and were more able to run businesses and own land if they wanted to.

Many of those who pursued the outlaw lifestyle had already established themselves running operations in gambling and prostitution.

Among them was Pearl Hart, who became infamous after committing one of America’s last recorded stagecoach robberies in 1899.

Born in Canada, Hart operated a tent brothel near a mine in Arizona and developing a fondness for hard liquor, cigars, and morphine.

She staged the robbery after the mine closed and her business dried up.

She got away with $400, a small fortune at the time, but was later caught by sheriffs.

She was the first woman to rob a stagecoach and survive, prompting interest from journalists, who came to photograph and interview her.

Other female trailblazers included Laura Bullion, who robbed trains with Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, and Mary Katharine Haroney, better known as Big Nose Kate, who broke legendary gunfighter Doc Holliday out of jail.

Calamity Jane, subject of numerous Hollywood films, was known for her sharpshooting skills, alcoholism, and habit of wearing men’s clothes.

After being orphaned at the age of twelve, Jane was forced to move from place to place and took on any work she could to survive.

After fighting several campaigns with the US army troop against the Native Americans, she drifted to the lawless town of Deadwood, South Dakota, where she survived as gun-toting prostitute and befriended outlaw Wild Bill Hickok.

It is claimed that after Wild Bill’s death, Jane went after his murderer with a meat cleaver.

Calamity Jane’s fame grew even more in 1895 when she joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show performing sharpshooting skills astride a horse.

She eventually died of alcoholism at 51.

Also shown in the images are Belle Starr, who left the wealthy family into which she was born to become the so-called Queen of the Oklahoma Outlaws.

She was married to Samuel Starr, leader of the horse-stealing Starr Clan, who was killed in a gunfight in 1891.

Belle Starr pictured with Blue Duck in May 1886
Belle Starr pictured with Blue Duck in May 1886
Belle was later romantically linked to other outlaws, including the notorious Blue Duck, but was fatally shot while riding home from a neighbour’s house in 1889.

Who killed her remains unknown.

Big Nose Kate pictured in the 1870s after travelling to Kansas from Hungary - Age 16
Big Nose Kate pictured in the 1870s after travelling to Kansas from Hungary
Age 16
Calamity Jane picture in Livington, Montana in 1885
Calamity Jane picture in Livington, Montana in 1885
Calamity Jane picture in Livington, Montana in 1885
Pearl Hart whilst incarcerated at Arizona’s Yuma Territorial Prison, circa 1899
Pearl Hart whilst incarcerated at Arizona’s Yuma Territorial Prison, circa 1899
by Christy Cooney of More News
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