Gals With Gumption - Annie Oakley Edition

Gals With Gumption - Annie Oakley Edition

In this edition I want to tell you about Annie Oakley. We were so taken by her story, that when the logo for our company, Lea Avery Gear, passed through the trademark process we celebrated by giving her a name. Annie seemed absolutely perfect given the little I knew at the time was that she was a young huntress and expert shooter. What we learned was so much more and that this girl had gumption!



Meet Annie Oakley:

Annie Oakley, a remarkable figure in American history, defied social norms and blazed trails in the world of hunting and shooting for girls. Her passion for marksmanship and unwavering determination propelled her to become one of the most celebrated sharpshooters of all time. At a time when hunting and shooting for a girl was basically unheard of, Annie paved the way for girls interested in the sports. So, let’s get more into her extraordinary life and the impact she had on empowering girls in hunting and the outdoors.



Annie’s Dad Introduces Her to Hunting:

Born Phoebe Ann Mosey in 1860, she was called Annie by her sisters. Annie discovered her love for hunting at a young age and was introduced to the sport by her dad.

Annie’s bond with her dad played an important role in her journey as a hunter. From a young age, Annie accompanied her father on hunting expeditions, learning the art of marksmanship and developing her skills alongside him.

He taught her the importance of patience, precision, and respect for the natural world. Together, they would embark on hunting trips, exploring the wilderness, and honing their shooting skills side by side. Her father's guidance and support not only shaped Annie's abilities as a hunter but also fostered her self-confidence and determination.

During their hunting excursions, Annie and her father would hunt various game, such as rabbits, squirrels, and birds. They would carefully observe animal behavior, study tracks, and patiently wait for the perfect opportunity to take a shot. Annie's father emphasized the ethical aspect of hunting, teaching her the importance of responsible hunting practices and using the game to provide for their family.

Although her father passed away when she was only six years old, he made a huge mark on her young Annie even in that short time. He served as her mentor and role model, instilling in her a respect for firearms and firearm safety. He taught her proper handling, maintenance, and shooting techniques, ensuring that she became a skilled and responsible shooter.

At just eight years old she snuck out and fired her father’s muzzle-loading rifle from her front porch taking a clean shot at a squirrel on a fence. Her mother was furious when she found out Annie had taken her father’s gun. But after proving she knew exactly how to handle it and was a talented hunter, she actually used it to help support the family.  After Annie’s father passed, she helped her mother by hunting to put food on their own table as well as selling game to a local grocer to provide an income for her family. She was able to pay off her family’s mortgage with her wild game sales.

The time Annie spent hunting with her father set the direction of her extraordinary career as a sharpshooter. It cultivated her love for the sport, nurtured her natural talents, and provided her with the skills and confidence to pursue her dreams. Annie Oakley's hunting experiences with her dad became the foundation of her success and the became an inspiration for generations of girls who aspire to follow their passions and challenge traditional gender roles in hunting and beyond.



Challenging Stereotypes:

Annie’s prowess in hunting led her to compete in a contest against a professional sharpshooter named Frank Butler when Annie was just fifteen years old. Frank hit 24 of 25 targets…Annie all 25. He couldn’t have been too offended because they married a year later.

Eventually, Annie began to perform in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, captivating audiences with her incredible marksmanship. Her performances proved that girls were just as capable of mastering hunting skills as their male counterparts. With each precise shot, she shattered stereotypes and empowered generations of girls to embrace their passion for the outdoors.

In fact, in her shows she purposely missed some shots because spectators believed the show had to be staged when she made every single shot.



Girl Drama and Rivalry:

Annie wasn’t the only female markswoman at the time. She had a single serious rival named Lillian ‘Lily’ Smith. Lily was an excellent marksman as well, but this is probably where the similarities end. Lily preferred the rifle while Annie usually preferred a shotgun.

Their personalities were opposites as well. Lily was storied to be a bit of a brag, claiming things openly like “Annie Oakley was done for”. Probably pretty like girl drama of today.

In addition to this, Lily was known to be flirty and wore flashing clothing. Lily went for a more extravagant and showy style, using her costumes to captivate the audience and highlighting her charisma and stage presence. Her vibrant outfits and daring fashion choices reflected her desire to entertain and create a sense of spectacle and glamour around her performances.

While Annie opted to keep a more conservative approach to her performance, including her costumes. She made her own outfits and designed them to be more in line with the Victorian era style of the time. Can you imagine how hard it must’ve been for her to move quickly and accurately in long skirts and jackets? But she believed that the way she presented herself allowed the audiences to focus on her shooting abilities rather than her physical appearance.

Despite their totally different costume choices, both Annie Oakley and Lily Smith were exceptional markswomen and huntresses who made significant contributions to the field of entertainment. While their styles and costumes differed, they both challenged societal expectations and gender norms of their time. Through their skill and achievements, they paved the way for future generations of women in the entertainment industry.

In the end, Annie Oakley's choice of a conservative costume highlighted her focus on talent, professionalism, and dedication to her craft. It reinforced her image as a trailblazer and role model for women pursuing their passions.



Hit Me With Your Best Shot:

Annie made some incredible trick shots in her performances. Most famous were during her time with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Here are just a few of her most remarkable.

  • Hit dimes in midair.
  • Split playing cards with the edge facing her, from 30 yards.
  • Shoot cigarettes from her husband’s lips.
  • Snuff the flame of a candle with one shot.
  • Shoot corks off of bottles, without breaking glass.
  • Shooting small targets while riding horseback.
  • Shooting ring targets facing backwards with the gun over her shoulder while looking in a mirror.
  • Throwing a playing card in the air and making several shots through it before it hit the ground.


In fact, “Annie Oakleys” are referred to as free tickets or passes. Ushers commonly would punch a hole or two in free tickets to events so they could be distinguished from paid tickets when calculating receipts. Because they looked like the playing cards shot by Annie, they began being called “Annie Oakleys”.



Inspiring a Generation:

Annie Oakley became a symbol of female empowerment, inspiring girls around the world to pursue hunting and marksmanship. She valued dignity and her reputation above all. She leaned into her talent and let that be her legacy. She taught thousands of women in her time to shoot but the story of who she was serves as a great inspiration, encouraging girls explore their full potential, even if in traditionally male-dominated sports.



Modern-Day Impact:

Annie Oakley's influence can still be felt today as more girls are taking up hunting and embracing the great outdoors. With the rise of women's hunting clubs, programs, and organizations, girls now have platforms to connect, learn, and thrive in hunting pursuits. Oakley's trailblazing spirit and exceptional achievements have paved the way for a more inclusive and diverse hunting community, where girls are celebrated for their skills and contributions.


Annie Oakley's remarkable journey from a young girl hunting to becoming an iconic figure in American history continues to resonate today. Her legacy and story are one of empowering girls to challenge stereotypes and pursue their love for hunting. She certainly has gumption!


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