Calamity Jane and the Lady Wildcats

Synopsis

When Calamity Jane and the Lady Wildcats was first published in 1927, Thomas Beer, with tongue in cheek if not in check, noted the book's underlying theory: "The women of the pioneer epoch--say, from 1840 to 1890--had their feet planted on a resonant drum of man's sexual necessity. They could choose the measure of the dance and the amount of noise to be exacted from creatures in a state of animal tension. Wifehood, polyandry, and an excused rapacity were open to the shrewd." Arguments and assents to that theory aside, Aikman's book is still good fun. Our fascination with Calamity Jane has, if anything, increased since Aikman exploded her pretensions and revealed her genius for publicity.

Other ladies of noisy repute featured in these pages are Cattle Kate Maxwell, a cattle rustler headed for a noose; Belle Starr, brainy for a desperado; Lola Montez, the tempestuous dancer and courtesan; Pearl Hart, the last lady road agent; Madame Moustache, a polite presence of gambling hells; Poker Alice Tubbs, a cigar-smoking card sharp who looked like Winston Churchill; Carry Nation, the saloon smasher; and Bridget Grant, Portland's queen of the shanghai gangs.

Special features of this edition are the "Life and Adventures of Calamity Jane by Herself" and an introduction by Watson Parker, author of Deadwood: The Golden Years.