June 10, 2003

Calamity Jane

When I proposed this title to Jason, he asked, "Was there really a person named Calamity Jane?" In fact, Calamity Jane's biography, as Dave will be interested to hear, is a combination of folklore, fabrication, and that necessary element of the truth. Admittedly, the title came to me before any kind of rationale... but at the same time, I realize that perhaps there's a little bit more at work in the back of my mind here than I was willing to admit right away.

In any case, let's start with Calamity. Born Martha Jane Canary in Princeton, Missouri on May 1, 1852, Calamity Jane was orphaned at a young age and, as the legend goes, began roaming the western territories, especially mining districts. She was married to Clinton Burke in 1891, but he left her shortly after their marriage. Among her accomplishments, she has been credited with being a Pony Express rider, saving ambushed caravans, and coming to the rescue of one Captain Egan. Calamity describes her naming this way:

"It was on Goose Creek, Wyoming, where the town of Sheridan is now located. Capt. Egan was in command of the Post. We were ordered out to quell an uprising of the Indians, and were out for several days, had numerous skirmishes during which six of the soldiers were killed and several severely wounded. When on returning to the Post we were ambushed about a mile and a half from our destination. When fired upon Capt. Egan was shot. I was riding in advance and on hearing the firing turned in my saddle and saw the Captain reeling in his saddle as though about to fall. I turned my horse and galloped back with all haste to his side and got there in time to catch him as he was falling. I lifted him onto my horse in front of me and succeeded in getting him safely to the Fort. Capt. Egan on recovering, laughingly said: ``I name you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains.'' I have borne that name up to the present time. "(From "LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF CALAMITY JANE By Herself" at http://www.blackhills-info.com/calamity_jane/CALAMITY.htm)

Other biographers question the validity of Calamity Jane's account; however, most agree that her name emerges from one or a combination of these three phenomenon: her constant spells of bad luck, her unflagging willingness to help those who needed it, and/or the fate of her enemies (owing to her uncanny skill with a pistol).

As an anti-gun kind of girl, myself, I still wanted to pay homage to one of our most colorful and bold female historical legends. Calamity Jane has gone out of fashion. Unlike Pocahontas, she has no Disney film honoring her achievements. She is not a popular literary figure or acknowledged by feminist academics. This could be for a combination of reasons. Perhaps Disney, despite the Southern Baptist Convention's protest, is afraid of her cross dressing past (or maybe it's the spitting...). Or perhaps it is that praising the manifest destiny American past is hardly an academic hobby horse. So, Calamity Jane slips through the cracks.

Therefore, I've adopted the persona of Calamity Jane for my blogging. Most of the people who visit the site know who I am in RL. But for here... I'll be Calamity Jane, taking aim with words instead of bullets.

Just for kicks... You may enjoy the Calamity Jane site. If you know French, you may enjoy the French version of an American Western. I got a hoot out of it. Posted by c_jane at June 10, 2003 8:42 PM

You are so cool! This is a fantastic idea and I LOVE your graphic at the top. Miss Calamity, I can't wait to see what else you write about. Genius!

Posted by: natalie at June 11, 2003 6:59 AM |

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how brilliant! vive la calamity jane!

i very much look forward to some straight shootin' from this here blog. folklore and life-writing, indeed.

Posted by: dave at June 11, 2003 4:01 PM |

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Thanks! That's a huge compliment coming from such accomplished bloggers yourselves! You both are so creative and thoughtful... I was suffering from blogger's anxiety :-)

Posted by: c_jane at June 12, 2003 6:57 AM |

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I like the suprised sheep (cow?) up top. Rock on, cowgirl.

Posted by: Jason at June 12, 2003 8:43 AM |

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Wow--Calamity Jane had a lot of gumption. A lot like her blog namesake. Love the graphic. Can't wait to see who or what gets lassoed into calamity.wordherders.net

Posted by: karik at June 14, 2003 2:00 PM |

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i love calamity jane thanks to your article!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: shanning at April 13, 2004 8:24 PM |

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