Over at HistoryNet.com this month, there’s a terrific piece by author William Secrest titled “The Calamities of Calamity Jane.”
Born Martha Jane Cannary in Missouri around 1852, she became a notorious resident of Deadwood in the Dakotas during the Gold Rush of the 1870s. By the 1880s, the legend of “Calamity Jane” had spread to the east coast in the form of dime novels, newspaper accounts and stage plays.
Calamity Jane was known to swear, drink and smoke “like a man,” and was known to shoot up a tavern or two.
In William Secrest’s article, he recounts her later years, as she became increasingly debilitated by drink. Of particular interest is her attempt to end her life in retirement by accepting a job pitching books at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.
The job didn’t work out too well, and Calamity Jane ended up bouncing around the West until her death at the age of 47 in Terry, Wyoming.