Everyone has a lesson to teach us, even the hard living, hard drinking, crime breaking ones who bucked convention and survived in a dangerous time and place. These two women of the American wild west fall on a side of the life-choices spectrum that we don’t usually talk about, but it’s time that we did. We thought it was time to tell the stories of two women with fabulous, well-known nicknames that mask who they really were.  (Lady Gaga and Madonna are amazing but come back in 120 years and we’ll talk.)

Belle Starr and Calamity Jane (aka Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed Starr and Martha Canary)


Calamity Jane

Her name wasn’t “Jane,” it was Martha Canary and most of her autobiography was a fabrication, but -damn!- she made great copy as the poster girl for women of the wild west! Susan debunks as many myths as she can and gives you the story of this woman who grabbed life by the horns, held on tight, got up when she was flung off, and when someone got her story wrong she didn’t correct them. We’ll save the good parts for the podcast but here’s a big myth busted: we see photos of Calamity Jane in men’s clothing A LOT, but for the most part? In her real life she wore a dress.


Circa 1895 Courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University 


We feel like we should put more pictures of her in a dress than in pants to help balance out all the other photos of her in pants.


Contrary to the myth, she and Wild Bill Hickok weren’t close, but she got close to his grave shortly before she, herself, died circa 1903.

Belle Starr

Beckett separates the fact from the legend of the woman who was given the name of Myra Maybelle Shirley at her birth, but most of us know her as Belle Starr.


Time Travel with The History Chicks


The town of Deadwood South Dakota can help you learn more about the life of Calamity Jane and those around her. Deadwoodhistory.com


Calamity Jane’s Autobiography is on Project Gutenberg, if you have 10 minutes, you can read her tall tale.

Belle Starr books:



Calamity Jane books:




Of the books Susan read, there are two that tell not only Martha Canary’s story, but all addresses the myths swirling about Calamity Jane. This by James D. McLaird…


…and this by Richard Etulian


1937, Calamity Jane


1953 with Doris Day, the squeaky cleanest Calamity Jane in the history of Calamity Janes.


1995, Grittier but with that dad gum love story




1981 It’s time, Movie People! We need a new Belle Starr!