In the 1894 Thomas Edison film short Annie Oakley, we see Annie, the famed sharpshooter, take out six targets in quick succession. Her male assistant (possibly her husband, Frank Butler) darts into the frame, and she switches guns and crouches down into a squat, pointing her barrel into the air. He tosses up new targets, and she hits those too, never breaking a sweat.
These were the kind of stunts that “Little Sure Shot” performed for audiences across the country in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. She was famous for her precision and athleticism, but she was known for something else too, something that’s very clear in the Edison movie: her femininity. With her full skirts, poise, and ever-present husband, Oakley never let you forget that she was a cowgirl, setting a foundational precedent for female gunslingers in pop culture that persisted long after her death.
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