Updated: Nov 3
Maybe you have heard of Annie Oakley through the 1950 film, Annie Get Your Gun? Maybe you didn’t know she was a real person or, if you did, you are wondering what she has to do with Glasgow? Read on!
Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Mosey in Western Ohio on August 13, 1860. She developed hunting skills as a child to provide for her impoverished family and at 15 she won a shooting contest against an experienced marksman, Frank E. Butler. The pair married in 1876 and subsequently joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1885, Oakley being the stage name that Annie adopted, possibly after the area of Cincinnati in which she and Frank lived. Some of her tricks were to shoot a cigar from her husband's hand or to split a playing card edge-on at 30 paces. She earned more than anyone except Buffalo Bill himself.
The show toured extensively, including in Europe, and this is where Glasgow comes in. Annie visited twice and, according to the popular Facebook site Lost Glasgow, on the first occasion in 1891, she had a special tartan outfit made (see link for image). As the show was in town over Christmas, she had herself photographed wearing it and turned it into her own Christmas card - creating what is often acknowledged as the world's first personalized Christmas card. As a further connection to Glasgow and Gallus Pedals, according to Tom Cuningham in his book 'Your Fathers the Ghosts: Buffalo Bill's Wild West in Scotland', Annie learned to ride a bike during her time in Scotland.
Annie continued to set records into her sixties, dying aged 66 on November 3, 1926. It should be noted that Annie Get Your Gun does her a disservice by portraying her downplaying her own skills to get her man. In reality, she can be recognized as something of a feminist. Although we might disagree with her that women should learn to use a gun for the empowering image that it gives, her view that women should be independent and educated and are as capable as men when offered the opportunity to prove themselves is much less controversial.
There is no memorial to Annie in Glasgow, but we do have a statue of Buffalo Bill in Dennistoun which we cover as part of our Glasgow Alternative Tour, and during these tours we weave in the connection.
As many of our bike tour guests are international and it is very often we have guests from North America - it's nice to have at least one life story who is widely known internationally too. Our recent guest Michael remarked on Annie:
"I love the stories of the bicycle names. 'Annie Get Your Gun' is my all-time favourite Broadway musical."
This blog is part of a Trailblazers collection, celebrating the lives of 10 women who we decided to name our bikes after! This is the tenth in our series of blogs introducing a high-level overview of the life stories of the women whom our fleet of bikes is named after. To find out about the other women, please click on Trailblazers: The 10 Women who inspired Gallus Pedals.
Many thanks to Anabel Marsh from Glasgow Women's Library for writing this post.
Anabel Marsh is a volunteer tour guide with the Glasgow Women's Library (GWL). GWL now has six women's history walks, three longer trails, and one bike ride, all of which can be downloaded as self-guided tours from GWL's website. Guided walks take place during the summer months and can be booked via the library's events calendar.