Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane (1848–1903) In U.S. history and folklore, popular name for Martha Jane Canary, noted for her marksmanship, who dressed as a man. She got her nickname in 1872 in a peculiar way. She was at that time at Goose Creek Camp, South Dakota, where Captain Egan, commander of the post at Goose Creek (now Sheridan), Wyoming, and a small body of men were stationed.

In a battle with the Indians Captain Egan and his men were surrounded and had to fight desperately for their lives. Captain Egan was wounded and had fallen off his horse. Suddenly, it is said, a woman rode into the center of the trouble, dismounted, lifted the captain in front of her on her saddle, and rode away. When he recovered, Captain Egan laughingly spoke of Miss Canary as “Calamity Jane,” and the name clung to her.

Some accounts allege that she was a lesbian and that her affair with Wild Bill Hickok was a cover-up, because he was said to be homosexual as well. But Hollywood’s movie Calamity Jane, starring Doris Day and Howard Keel, tells how Calamity Jane wins the love of Hickok. It was from her that Bret Harte took his famous character of Cherokee Sal in “The Luck of Roaring Camp.”


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow-Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante