10 Things You’ve Never Heard About Annie Oakley, Sharpshooter Extraordinaire

unattributed, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

You might think you know Annie Oakley — but we’ll bet you haven’t heard these ten facts about the famed female sharpshooter before.

1. She beat out her pro-sharpshooter husband in a contest.

Professional sharpshooter Frank Butler was asked to compete against 15-year-old Annie. The pro shooter laughed when he saw his opponent, but was blown away when she managed to outshoot him. The two got married the following year and spent half a century enjoying wedded bliss.

2. She got her start young.

Annie Oakley was just eight years old when she started sharpshooting. As an adult, Annie still fondly remembered her first shot, saying it was one of the best shots of her life.

3. She didn’t try to blend in with the crowd.

Annie was a standout in a male-dominated field, but she didn’t shy away from embracing her womanhood. Even on the shooting range, Annie often wore dresses while showing up men. She didn’t only love dressing up to show off her femininity — she loved creating her own costumes as well, embracing her creative side.

4. Annie had a big presence for a tiny person.

Annie wasn’t quite five feet tall — proof that great things come in small packages. The tiny woman held her own among the men who towered over her at the shooting range.

5. President William McKinley turned down her offer to lead an army.

During the Spanish-American War, Oakley wanted to take a female army into battle, but President McKinley denied her request, as women were not permitted to serve in the military at that time.

6. She started taking care of her family financially at a young age.

Annie’s mother paid a $200 mortgage each month. As soon as her earnings allowed, a teenaged Annie began taking over her mother’s monthly bills, allowing the family to live in their rural town with fewer financial worries.


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7. The Wild West wonderwoman was actually born and raised in Ohio.

It’s hard to believe that Annie Oakley didn’t grow up slinging guns around the Wild West, but she was actually born and raised in Darke County, Ohio, a rural area located near the state’s Indiana border.

8. She had a friendly relationship with Chief Sitting Bull of the Sioux tribe.

The Native American legend Chief Sitting Bull attended one of Annie Oakley’s shows and was blown away by her talent. After the show, he sent her money for an autograph and a photo. Oakley returned the money (with an autographed photo), the Chief gifted her a pair of moccasins and dubbed her “Little Sure Shot,” and a lifelong friendship began.

9. Annie Oakley got her big break after a shipwreck.

After getting rejected from a job with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Oakley got an unlikely big break. The show’s steamboat sank — and took its sharpshooter’s weapons down with it. Thankfully, no lives were lost, but the show’s sharpshooter had trouble with his new guns. He left the show, and Annie waltzed right in and took her rightful spot as the show’s featured sharpshooter.

10. Her name wasn’t actually Annie Oakley.

That’s right — the sharpshooter that so many know as Annie Oakley was actually named Phoebe Ann Moses. She was often referred to by her middle name by her sisters, and she took her last name from a town near the Ohio town where she was born and raised.

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