New book on Wild West legend Calamity Jane

Professor Karen Jones of the University of Kent’s School of History has, with Yale University Press, published a new account of the Wild West legend, examining the woman behind the character.

Born Martha Jane Canary, she quickly became the ‘lady wildcat’ of the American West, famously known as Calamity Jane.

Professor Jones notes how Canary became a legend and a celebrity in her own time, fighting to live as she chose in what was a particularly brutal “man’s world”. Association with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody also helped drive her popularity further, until she was a respected and iconic frontierswoman.

Professor Jones has collected accounts of what is known of Canary’s life and shows how a rough, independent way of life led to the heroic tales that dominated her career and legend. From her humble origins to her role as ‘heroine of the plains’, we see how popular myth can filter fact over subsequent decades, showing the marvellous Canary to be complicit in the making of Calamity Jane.

Professor Jones’ book: ‘Calamity – The Many Lives of Calamity Jane’, is available here: