Annie Oakley 18601926

John Wood (active 18651890)
Albumen silver print, c. 1885

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; acquired through the generosity of friends of the Department of Photographs

Outfitted for this portrait in a homemade floral-embroidered skirt and matching blouse, sharpshooter Annie Oakley balanced and perfected dual roles as a performer and a domestically well-versed woman during a time in which it was considered uncouth for proper women to use firearms or perform on stage.

For seventeen years beginning in 1885, the year when this photograph is believed to have been taken, Oakley was a major attraction in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Widely admired for her sharpshooting skills—the Lakota leader Sitting Bull gave her the nickname “Little Sure Shot”—she was also applauded for her adherence to Victorian etiquette. Oakley personified the western cowgirl who could outshoot a man during the day and cook a roast for her husband at night.