Friday, September 5, 2014

Nonfiction RC #6

I read this book for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2014.

Annie Oakley and the World of Her Time – Clifford Lindsey Alderman

Written for juvenile readers, this book covers the life and times of the American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter, Annie Oakley (1860 - 1926). The focus is mainly on her years with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Her renowned feats included shooting the cigarette from the mouth of her husband Frank Butler, and doubtlessly more suspenseful to dog-fanatic wives in the audience, shooting an apple off the head of her dog Dave.

Alderman tells about Oakley’s charity to orphans and needy kids, providing free tickets and guiding them on tours of the show grounds. She gave away so many free tix that her name became a synonym for “complimentary ticket” in the circus world. But she was no softie when it came to business. She had to be astute to hold her own against the likes of Buffalo Bill.

Oakley did not believe women should have the right to vote, but she advocated equal pay for equal work for women.  She thought that all women should be able to defend themselves with a gun. At shooting clubs, she taught hundreds of women how to shoot. One assumes that she believed women could endure combat, since she ran programs by the army to train female sharpshooters for service in both the Spanish-American War and WWI.

Frank butler was an ardent husband.  Both he and Annie were ill in 1926, but he left to go on a trip to Florida. Alderman says that Annie encouraged him to go for his health’s sake. But when we read this as long-married adults, it is very hard to imagine why such a devoted couple would separate with death right around the corner.

Still, this book gives a good sense of how and why Annie Oakley became an American icon. Both bright kids and interested adults would enjoy this book about an extraordinary woman.

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