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Calamity Jane: The Woman and the Legend

3.12 of 5 stars 3.12  ·  rating details  ·  33 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Forget Doris Day singing on the stagecoach. Forget Robin Weigert’s gritty portrayal on HBO’s Deadwood. The real Calamity Jane was someone the likes of whom you’ve never encountered. That is, until now.This book is a definitive biography of Martha Canary, the woman popularly known as Calamity Jane. Written by one of today’s foremost authorities on this notorious character, ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 17th 2005 by University of Oklahoma Press (first published September 30th 2005)
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First Sentence: "'A complete and true biography of the life of Calamity Jane would make a large book, more interesting and blood-curdling than all the fictitious stories that have been written of her,' remarked the editor of the Livingston (Montana) Enterprise in 1887, 'but it would never find its way into a Sunday school library.'"

You may think you know about Calamity Jane: the hard-drinking, rough-riding, swearing army scout who had a feminine side that captured the heart of Wild Bill Hickok.
Incredible research, but I confess that the introduction dissuaded me from wanting to finish the book. He essentially says Martha Canary's life wasn't very interesting, that she was a neglectful mother, tale teller and prostitute. Knowing that that was what I was getting into, after several chapters I decided to spare myself the disappointment of having to let go of the Doris Day-version of Calamity Jane that I've loved for so many years.

So, note to self: write more compelling introductions tha
Mar 18, 2015 EC rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: guidon
I originally picked this book up to thumb through it, wondering why a publisher like the University of Oklahoma Press would published two books 10 years apart that seemed to be about the exact same thing. After flipping through the first few pages I thought this looked much more readable than Etulain's Calamity Jane so I read it (to be honest I did a lot of skimming of both books). I was right, it definitely was more enjoyable. If someone insisted they want to read about Calamity Jane I would de ...more
AJ LeBlanc
The amount of research that went into this book is astounding. Mclaird painstakingly goes through documents to try and piece together the life of Martha Canary, who becomes Calamity Jane. The research is incredibly difficult because exaggerations, confusions, and outright lies were printed during her life and after. Martha herself adds to the deception by making up stories, exaggerating the truth and even adding years to her age. On top of this there were other women who also went by Calamity Ja ...more
Samantha Newman
Alright. I knew little to nothing about Calamity Jane before reading this book. And this book seems to really be all about debunking the prevalent false ideas about her and her accomplishments. It's sad to say that simply, it's disappointing to read, basically, that nothing she is famous for, she actually did. She was kind of just a drunk lady who wandered around and made up stories. ?? But- I'm not sure I believe that completely. At least, I wouldn't phrase it that way.

Let me first say that the
"... historians know how to ruin a good story." This taken from Mr Mclaird's book at the conclusion (pg 269) seems to say it all - however I'm not sure about his status as a historian on Calamity Jane. What he wrote was mainly from others research or books and then he would add a few words of his own here and there. The issue I had most was his words seemed to be unfounded and assumed most of the item. While it's true I like the dime store novel idea of Calamity Jane I was willing to see what th ...more
Why, why why was this book published? It was nothing but pure speculation.
Page after page of
Some say….
Could of…
Rumor was…
The author couldn’t even validate her birth date.
Did I mention that Jane was a known drunk who lied continually about her past, present and future.
I found nothing out; will find nothing out because Jane was bogus in every way possible. It would be no different than if I just select any random drunk on the street and listened to his stories.
I found this book a bit of a plod as well as a bit disappointing. It reveals, backed with historical documentation, the definitive Calamity Jane . She wasn't half as fun as the legend and actually had a pretty sad existence with her battles with alcoholism. She still lived her life larger than most folk and chummed with fascinating Old West characters.

Veronica Bright
Being a student and a fan of the "Old West" as well as Native American History, I enjoyed it. It is fairly comprehensive and dispels a lot of rumors. I also enjoy getting to know the actual facts, time lines and so forth. A lover of history and fan of this Old West legend will really like the book.
Separates the women from the legend. It gives a view of the daily life of Martha Canary and explains how the legends and the myths of Calamity Jane came into the social conscious. The truth of her life can be disheartening and leaves you wishing the legend was true.
Sep 05, 2009 Sue added it
I learned that a lot of what was written about Calamity Jane was pure hogwash, especially her own autobiography.
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