ANNIE OAKLEY by Shirl Kasper

ANNIE OAKLEY

Age Range: 1860 - 1926
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A fact-filled, if flatly executed, attempt to uncover the truth behind an American legend, by Kansas City Star reporter Kasper. Relying largely on Oakley's own scrapbooks, Kasper reveals a complex character far removed from the rough Western tomboy mythologized in popular lore. Born Phoebe Ann Moses to a Quaker farming family in Ohio, Oakley (1860-1926) discovered her lifelong passion and extraordinary talent at age eight after sneaking off with her father's hunting rifle. When she was 20, local farmers pitted her against circus sharpshooter Frank Butler in an impromptu contest. Winning both the match and her rival's heart, Oakley (who married Butler) soon gained a career when she stepped in for her new husband's ailing partner. In 1886, with Butler now serving as devoted manager and assistant, Oakley joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Petite and slender, clad in a prettily embroidered skirt and blowing kisses, the ``prim'' star used ``humor, pantomime, and drama''--along with astounding shooting prowess--to captivate audiences in America and Europe for 17 years, finally retiring with dignity and self-made fortune intact. Kasper pointedly emphasizes the ``paradox'' informing both Oakley's appeal and her place as a ``symbol of the liberated woman.'' Conservative and proper, she was appalled by bloomers and uncertain about women's suffrage--but, at the same time, she was a feminist ``despite herself,'' constantly proving the truth of her statement that women could equal men in anything ``outside of heavy, manual labor.'' Despite first-rate research, though, Kasper fails for the most part to go past quotes and chronology to the deeper historical and personal analysis necessary to animate Oakley and her world. The result is an admirable but unsatisfying sketch. A bit wide of the mark but with a worthy enough target to warrant readers giving it a shot. (Thirty illustrations.)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-8061-2418-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1992