After the revolution was won, warrior women moved west with the advancing Manifest Destiny of the American frontier. One of them was Martha Jane Canary. She was born in Missouri, but moved west with her family until a series of calamities left her scraping to support her siblings in Piedmont, Wyoming.
However, it wasn't her hard youth that earned her the nickname Calamity Jane. One story goes that it was on account of the fact that any man who fancied her was “courting calamity.” Jane herself was enamored with the liquor bottle and suffered from alcoholism for much of her life.
Jane served as a scout in the conquest of the Native American nations of the plains. In her service, she reportedly once swam across a river then rode 90 miles at top speed while soaking wet to deliver urgent communications.
Eventually she ended up in Deadwood, South Dakota where she became infatuated with Wild Bill Hickok, who did not return her affection. While in Deadwood, Jane reportedly defended a stagecoach from an attack by Native Americans and drove the coach into town after the driver was shot. She also nursed the inhabitants of the town after an outbreak of smallpox in 1876.
After Hickok was shot in poker game, Calamity Jane drifted until she found work with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. She didn't show off her shooting and riding skills. Instead, she told stories about herself that got bigger with each telling. The decades of liquor and hard living caught up with her on August 1, 1903, leaving a mixture of self-promoted myths and true tales of heroism.