Calamity Jane 18521903

George W. Potter (lifedates unknown)
Printing-out paper print, c. 1896

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Born Martha Cannary, Calamity Jane earned her nickname for her riotous behavior and her unladylike appearance. Although much of her life is shrouded in myth, she lived a transient’s existence, moving frequently from one small town to another and working in a series of menial jobs. She spent several years in Deadwood, South Dakota, where she was known for her dalliances in brothels, her romantic association with Wild Bill Hickok, and her appetite for alcohol. Yet Calamity Jane also demonstrated genuine concern for the poor and the sick, offering sympathy and relief when others failed to help.

At age twenty-five she gained a national profile when she was featured as a sidekick to the character of Deadwood Dick in the first of several dime novels. She died in 1903, most likely of alcoholism, and is buried next to Hickok in a Deadwood cemetery.