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legendary sharpshooter annie oakley sighting in a mirror and shooting backwards over her shoulder. after meeting and marrying frank butler, she performed for years in the vaudeville circuit before joining buffalo bill’s show in 1885. she quickly became known as a maid of the west, performing stunts like shooting clay pigeons out of the air with a rifle while standing atop a galloping horse. of course, to maintain her “ladyhood,” she always wore a skirt—usually one she had sewn herself. though oakley was certainly one of the best shooters of the day, she was not leaps and bounds better than several of her contemporaries, including her rival in her last years with buffalo bill, the “california girl” lillian smith. a fast-talking cocksure 15-year-old, smith had outshot some of the premier marksmen of her day, many over twice her age. in contrast to oakley, smith was known to wear revealing costumes and emphasize her sexuality. while she was nearly oakley’s match in skill, smith never had oakley’s celebrity. oakley’s clever manipulations of her own image in favor of her modesty made her appealing to many different groups and for many different reasons. one winter’s day in 1887, smith and oakley, on tour in england, stepped forward to greet queen victoria. the two young women of buffalo bill’s wild west show stood in stark contrast to each another. smith was a proud, round-faced teenage girl with a coarse manner; oakley, a bit older, with finer features and long, dark hair, had a certain reserved elegance implicit in her posture. the former would soon fade into the annals of history, but oakley would become the subject of books, musicals, and even a mid-1950s television series. their performance had left the queen eager to personally congratulate them, but as she faced the two women, the queen addressed only one. “you are a very clever girl.”, the queen famously said as she took annie oakley’s hand. —from ‘annie oakley turns 150’ by jess righthand, photo posted by turnofthecentury.CKBoss

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