The wild and tragic life of Calamity Jane
Martha Jane Cannary was born on May 1, 1850. Her mother was a prostitute and her father a poor farmer and a gambler.
Martha Jane was the eldest of five siblings and was not a delicate little girl. From early on she excelled at things like horse training and hunting. At the time, these were still considered "men's activities."
When she was 13, her family moved to a different region in search of work. The trip was difficult and took a horrible toll. While on route, Martha Jane's mother died and her father abandoned his children to start a new life. Barely a teenager, Martha Jane was left to raise her brothers and sisters on her own. She took work where and when she could find it, but often had to resort to prostitution to feed herself and her siblings.
But finally the day came when Martha Jane was given the opportunity to pursue her dream and enlist with the cavalry.
At that time the conquest of the West was in full swing. Martha Jane was one of the few women who were allowed to join the battle as a combatant. She quickly proved herself to be a very fierce, brave, and tenacious soldier.
One day, Martha Jane's regiment found itself in a particularly difficult battle. They were surrounded and six men had already been killed. Just when another ambush was about to hit, Martha Jane noticed that her captain was in trouble. She quickly rode over, pulled him onto her horse and raced off to safety.
The captain laughed and said, "I baptize you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains." And a legend was born.
Calamity Jane wore men's clothing and became an expert markswoman, leading violent campaigns.
Yet despite her adventurous lifestyle surrounded by her comrades, Martha Jane was a lonely woman. Eventually she became pregnant from a casual affair and gave birth to a daughter.
But not long after that, Martha Jane's life took a big turn when she met Wild Bill Hickock.
The two were briefly inseparable, but they didn't have long together.
One night, in the infamous city of Deadwood, Wild Bill was killed by a bullet to the head while drinking in a saloon. Jane was devastated.
To this day, the nature of their relationship isn't known. Were they lovers, or simply friends? It's still a mystery. What is known, however, is that Calamity Jane insisted that Wild Bill was her daughter's father even though it was impossible.
Calamity Jane continued her life as a free woman. She had many affairs and didn't "give a damn" about her reputation or the rumors that were spread about her.
The years went by and Jane got older. She eventually tired of life in the cavalry and decided to try other jobs. She worked as cook, a nurse, a railroad worker, and even tried her hand at selling bed linen to brothels.
Jane's first marriage hadn't lasted long, but now she met Clinton Burke. The couple married, had a daughter and opened a hotel in Colorado. But like her first husband, Clinton was obviously not cut out for married life and eventually left her.
Calamity Jane’s friends wanted to make her famous, so they started spreading the story of an independent and free woman who fought like a man and loved adventure. This was how she began performing in shows playing the character she knew best: herself.
But bit by bit, Calamity Jane's life was being taken over by alcohol. She started behaving strangely and was very difficult to deal with.
She even worked as a prostitute from time to time.
Calamity Jane's behavior got so reckless that she ended up in a mental institution in 1901. Two years later she died of pneumonia.
Fortunately, Calamity Jane still had some good friends who took her body to Deadwood to bury her in Moriah cemetery beside her soulmate Wild Bill Hickock.
Watch this video to learn more about Calamity Jane’s incredible story:
Calamity Jane's approach to life is fascinating, given that era. She clearly had a unique personality and she didn't care about what others thought about her. Strong and independent, she led a life full of adventure, with all the joy and pain that comes along with it!