The American Wild West was a time of lawlessness and adventure, where outlaws and cowboys ruled the vast plains and rugged mountains.
While the Wild West is frequently represented as a male-dominated era, many women made their mark as cowgirls and outlaws.
These women were accomplished horsewomen, sharpshooters, and trailblazers who defied gender norms and forge their own paths during a period when women were expected to stay at home.
Some were recognized for their daring exploits and criminal activities, while others established themselves as legendary individuals in their own right. Despite their difficulties, these women demonstrated that they were just as tough and resourceful as their male counterparts.
They are still an inspiration to women all over the world who want to tear through barriers and leave their own imprint on history.
1. Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane (1852–1903) was a well-known American frontierswoman and entertainment who was well-known for her marksmanship and acquaintance with Wild Bill Hickok.
She was born in Missouri and spent most of her life on the country’s western border.
Jane was well-known for her abilities as a sharpshooter and horsewoman, and she also worked as a scout, performer, and prostitute at various points in her life. Her association with Wild Bill Hickok, a famous gunfighter and lawman of the American West, helped to make her famous.
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Despite her usually gruff face and image as a tough, independent lady, Jane was noted for her love and kindness to others.
She is said to have cared for the sick and adopted and raised an orphaned daughter during a smallpox epidemic in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Jane’s life and legacy continue to enchant and divide people, owing to the fact that much of her history is based on tradition rather than fact.
Her legacy as a symbol of the American West and a pioneer for women’s rights, on the other hand, lives on, and she is remembered as one of the era’s most famous people.
2. Belle Starr
Belle Starr, real name Myra Maybelle Shirley, was a legendary American outlaw and bandit of the late 1800s.
She rose to prominence as a result of her involvement in a variety of illegal activities, including horse theft, bootlegging, and robbery. She became known as the “Bandit Queen” and was one of the Wild West’s most famous female outlaws.
Belle was born in Missouri in 1848 to a rich family and received a decent education. According to reports, she was well-read and enjoyed books, music, and dance.
Her life, however, took a different turn when she married Jim Reed, a guy involved in a variety of illegal enterprises. Belle became involved in these activities and became well-known for her sharpshooting abilities and love of adventure.
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Belle married another outlaw, Sam Starr, after her husband was murdered in a gunfight and resumed her life of crime. She was detained multiple times but released each time owing to a lack of proof.
She later landed in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and joined the notorious Doolin-Dalton Gang. She was also said to have had affairs with outlaws such as Cole Younger and Frank James.
Belle was shot and killed in 1889, and her death is still unsolved. She has been the topic of numerous books, songs, and films, and is frequently represented as a glamorous and mysterious Wild West figure. Notwithstanding her criminal acts, Belle Starr is a well-known and fascinating person in American history.
3. Pearl Hart
Pearl Hart was a Canadian-born bandit who rose to prominence after participating in a stagecoach heist in Arizona in 1899. She was one of the few women at the period to commit such a crime, and her story swiftly became legend.
Pearl Hart was born in 1871 in Ontario, Canada, to a destitute family and moved to the United States as a teenager. She married a mining engineer called Robert “Dutch” Hart and relocated to Arizona with him. The marriage, however, was miserable, and Pearl became restless and bored.
Pearl decided to take a risk and rob a stagecoach in 1899. She enlisted the assistance of a man named Joe Boot, and together they sabotaged a stagecoach moving from Florence to Globe, Arizona. The robbery was a success, and Pearl and Joe made off with $431 in cash and jewels.
They were quickly apprehended by law enforcement personnel and transported to jail. Pearl became well-known for her daring crime and for being a woman who did it. She was sentenced to five years at Yuma Territorial Prison, but was freed after two years due to good behavior.
Pearl’s life took some unexpected turns after her discharge. She attempted acting and vaudeville but was never successful. She subsequently moved in Kansas City, raising a family and becoming interested in a variety of charity activities. She passed away in 1955, at the age of 84.
Despite her brief stint as an outlaw, Pearl Hart remains an intriguing figure in Wild West history.
4. Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley (1860-1926) was an American West performer and sharpshooter who became a symbol of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
She was born in Ohio and started shooting at a young age, relying on her skills to support her family after her father died.
Oakley rose to notoriety as a markswoman, winning a number of shooting competitions and starring in shows such as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. She was known for her accuracy and precision when it came to shooting small and distant targets as well as completing a range of trick shots and acrobatics.
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Oakley’s shooting abilities were respected around the world, and she used her reputation to advocate for women’s rights and other social issues. She advocated for suffrage and used her performances to demonstrate that women could be just as talented and skilled as men.
Oakley’s legacy as a performer and American West legend is still being remembered today. She is regarded as a pioneer for women’s rights as well as one of the greatest marksmen and entertainers of all time.
5. Etta Place
Etta Place was a mysterious female outlaw who rose to prominence as a member of the notorious Wild Bunch group, which featured Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Her true name, origins, and fate are still unknown.
Etta Place is thought to have been born in the 1870s in Colorado. Nothing is known about her childhood, but she is thought to have met Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the late 1890s. She allegedly fell in love with Sundance and began traveling with the group.
Etta was well-known for her sharpshooting abilities as well as her ability to ride horses. She allegedly assisted the Wild Bunch in multiple robberies, including a railway robbery in 1900 in which they stole almost $50,000. Her precise role in the gang’s actions, however, is unknown.
Etta followed the Wild Bunch when they fled to South America to avoid prosecution. Her fate following that, however, remains unknown.
According to some tales, she and Sundance were murdered in a firefight in Bolivia in 1908, while others believe she went to the United States and lived out her life under a different name.
6. Laura Bullion
Laura Bullion was a female criminal who was a member of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s infamous Wild Bunch gang. She was born in Knickerbocker, Texas, in 1876, and joined the Wild Bunch in the late 1890s.
Laura was well-known for her gang’s involvement in multiple robberies and train heists. She was regarded as one of the most proficient and dependable members of the team, and she was well-known for her sharpshooting abilities and fearless manner.
Laura, along with other members of the Wild Bunch, including Kid Curry and George Curry, was captured in St. Louis, Missouri in 1901. She was sentenced to five years in jail for her role in a Montana rail heist, but she was released early due to good behavior.
Laura returned to Texas after her release and had a quiet life. She kept out of trouble by working as a seamstress and a housekeeper. She never married or had children, and we know very little about her latter life.
Laura Bullion’s existence as a Wild Bunch outlaw has made her a famous character in Wild West history. She was one of the gang’s few female members, and her daring and expertise made her a symbol of female strength and rebellion.
7. Mary Fields
Mary Fields, commonly known as “Stagecoach Mary,” was the first African American woman to work as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service in the late 1800s. She was born into slavery in Tennessee in 1832 and gained her freedom following the Civil War.
Mary went to Montana in 1885 and quickly rose to prominence in the town of Cascade. The Ursuline Convent in St. Peter’s Mission engaged her to do a variety of chores, including driving children to school and conducting errands. She then became the mission’s mail carrier, bringing mail to Cascade and St. Peter’s.
Mary was well-known for her bravery and fortitude. She was known to carry a gun and protect herself against anyone who tried to assault her. She was also recognized for her dedication, as she delivered mail in all kinds of weather and situations. Even when she was in her 70s, she never missed a day of work.
Mary was a well-liked figure in Cascade, and the residents adored and respected her. She lived to be over 80 years old before passing away in 1914. She is known today as a postal pioneer and a symbol of fortitude and endurance.
Her legacy has encouraged many people to follow in her footsteps, and she was inducted into the Montana Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
8. Sarah Bowman
Sarah Bowman, dubbed “The Great Western,” was a female rancher and cattle driver who rose to prominence as one of Texas’ most successful female ranchers in the mid-1800s. She was born in Tennessee in the 1810s and came to Texas as a young woman with her family.
Sarah rapidly got into the ranching business, working as a cattle driver and ranch worker. She was well-known for her firearms skills and for her toughness when dealing with challenging livestock.
She eventually married a rancher, Charles Goodnight, and they worked together to develop several successful ranches in Texas.
Sarah and Charles were well-known for their ranching efforts and for their contributions to the development of the cattle business in Texas. They were also recognized for their Unionist sympathies during the Civil War, which was a divisive issue in the South at the time.
Sarah and Charles continued ranching after the war and were prosperous in the cattle business. Sarah was well-known for her self-reliance and ability to hold her own in a male-dominated industry.
She died at the age of 50 in 1866, but her legacy as a successful female rancher and cattle driver has inspired countless women since.
9. Sally Skull
Sally Skull, a fierce and independent rancher who maintained her own ranch in the mid-1800s, is a legendary figure in Texas history. She was born in Tennessee in 1817 and came to Texas as a young woman with her family.
Sally became immersed in the ranching industry soon, working as a ranch hand and cattle driver. She finally established herself as a successful rancher in her own right, owning and operating her own ranch in Nueces County, Texas.
Sally was well-known for her toughness and independence, as well as her abilities as a horsewoman and cattle driver. She was also noted for her quick wit and ability to hold her own in a male-dominated field. She was well-liked in Texas and frequently visited the state capitol in Austin.
Sally’s property was taken over by the federal government after the Civil War, and she was forced to leave Texas. She relocated to Mexico for several years before returning to Texas in the 1880s. She passed away in 1902 at the age of 85.
10. Elanor Dumont
Eleanor Dumont, often known as “Madame Moustache,” was a key figure in California’s early gambling industry in the mid-1860s. She was born in France in 1829 and immigrated to America in the 1850s.
Eleanor became involved in the gambling sector fast and established a successful casino in Nevada City, California. She was noted for her prowess in faro, a popular card game at the time, as well as her unusual moustache, which gave her the nickname “Madame Moustache.”
Eleanor’s casino became a popular resort for miners and prospectors, and she rose to prominence in California. She was also well-known for her fashion sense, as she was frequently spotted wearing gorgeous gowns and jewels.
Eleanor’s life was not without difficulties, despite her accomplishments. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry, she suffered prejudice and was frequently the target of gossip and rumors. She also had financial difficulties and was forced to sell her casino at one point.
Eleanor later suffered with alcoholism and financial issues. She committed suicide in 1879, at the age of 49.
11. Rose Dunn
Rose Dunn, commonly known as “Rose of the Cimarron,” was a legendary person in the Wild West who was associated with bandit organizations in the late 1800s. She was born in 1879 in Oklahoma and grew up on a ranch.
George “Bittercreek” Newcomb, Rose’s brother, was a famed bandit and member of the Wild Bunch gang led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Rose joined the group and was known to have assisted them in their criminal actions, including concealing them at her family’s ranch.
Rose was never convicted of any crime, despite her affiliation with outlaws. She was also said to be romantically involved with many gang members, including Bittercreek Newcomb and George “Kid Curry” Curry.
Rose moved to Oklahoma after the Wild Bunch split up and married a farmer named Charles Albert Noble. She led a quiet life and was known to be a generous and compassionate woman.
12. Katherine Haroney
Katherine Haroney, popularly known as “Big Nose Kate,” was a colorful Wild West character who rose to prominence as a member of the criminal group commanded by the famed gunfighter Doc Holliday. She was born in Hungary in 1850 and immigrated to the United States as a child with her family.
In her adolescence, Kate became involved in the prostitution industry and finally made her way to the Wild West, where she met Doc Holliday in the 1870s. They fell in love instantly and traveled together for several years, including during the notorious gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
Kate was known for her fiery attitude and quick wit. She was also a superb card player, and she frequently played poker with members of the criminal underworld of the Wild West. She was known to have acquaintances with a number of notable outlaws of the day, including Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson.
Kate continued to travel and work as a prostitute when her romance with Doc Holliday ended. She eventually relocated in Arizona and spent the remainder of her life there. She died at the age of 89 in 1940.
13. Goldie Griffith
Goldie Griffith, often known as the “Rose of the Klondike,” was a well-known character during the late-nineteenth-century Klondike Gold Rush. She was born in Montana in 1871 and became involved in the Alaska gold rush when she was in her twenties.
Goldie soon rose to prominence as a prospector with the ability to hold her own in a male-dominated sector. She was also recognized for her beauty and charm, and she was well-liked by the region’s miners and prospectors.
Goldie staked a claim in the Yukon in 1898, becoming one of the few women to own and run a mine during the gold rush. She was also well-known for her involvement in a number of businesses, including a saloon and a hotel.
Goldie’s gold rush success made her a local legend, and she was frequently the focus of myths and folklore. Her prosperity, however, was fleeting, and she soon lost her riches in disastrous investments and business ventures.
Notwithstanding her financial difficulties, Goldie remained a popular and well-liked figure in the Klondike. She spent the remainder of her life in Alaska and died at the age of 84 in 1955.
14. Lillian Smith
Lillian Frances Smith (August 4, 1871 – February 3, 1930) was a fourteen-year-old trick shot and trick rider who joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1886. She was hailed as “the champion California huntress” and competed in the program against Annie Oakley.
Lillian Frances Smith was the third of four children born in Coleville, California in 1871 to Levi Woodbury Smith, Jr. and Rebecca T. Robinson. Her parents came from Massachusetts and settled in Coleville in 1867.
Smith started shooting at the age of seven and was competing by the age of ten. She joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1886, at the age of 15, where she met her rival, Annie Oakley. Smith and Oakley were reportedly never particularly friendly.
15. Cattle Annie and Little Britches
Cattle Annie and Little Britches were two teenage girls who rose to prominence in the late 1800s in Oklahoma for their involvement in cattle rustling. They were linked to several bandits of the time, notably the infamous Doolin-Dalton Gang.
Cattle Annie, true name Anna Emmaline McDoulet, was born in Indian Territory in 1882. (now Oklahoma). She had grown up with horses and animals as the daughter of a rancher.
She apparently had an early interest in outlaws and began interacting with them as a youngster. She was known to have assisted the Doolin-Dalton Gang in their cattle rustling activities, and she was claimed to have a crush on one of the members, Bill Doolin.
Little Britches, real name Jennie Stevens, was born in Texas in 1879. She also grew up amid horses and cattle and learned to ride at an early age.
Cattle Annie and she met when they were both teenagers and soon became friends. Jennie, like Annie, was affiliated with outlaws and was reported to have assisted them in their cattle rustling crimes.
Cattle Annie and Little Britches were never convicted of any crimes despite their association with outlaws. They were finally apprehended by police enforcement and returned to their family, who were enraged by their actions.
Cattle Annie went on to live a quiet life, marrying and having children, while Little Britches vanished from public view. Their brief moment of popularity as young female outlaws, however, has made them a distinct and memorable part of Wild West history.