Sunday, July 4, 2010

Buffalo Gals Women of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show by Chris Enss

For over thirty years Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show brought the myth of the Old West to rip roarin' real life for thousands of enthralled spectators with displays of sharpshooting, roping, riding, and reenactments of Indian battles and daring stagecoach robberies. Amongst the talented cowboys and Indians there were a number of women who, with bead and embroidered embellishments, brought a touch of femininity to the rough world of boots and buckskin and created the look still associated with cowgirls to this day.

This book is a collection of what I call "teaser biographies" that tell you just enough to make you want to know more In its pages readers are introduced to the likes of Giuseppina Morlacchi the tender-hearted and shy Italian prima ballerina who fell in love with rugged frontier scout Texas Jack. And May Manning Lillie who surprised her demur Quaker parents by deciding to become a bronco rider when the Wild West Show came to Philadelphia and she fell head over heels in love with Pawnee Bill. Mollie Moses the mistress of Buffalo Bill who could not quite capture his heart and convince him to leave his wife of twenty years,and died in brokenhearted squalor of complications from rat bites still treasuring his picture Hard-drinking, rough-living, tall tale spinning Calamity Jane who shunned feminine trappings for masculine attire instead. And Annie Oakley's rival, teenage sharpshooting sensation Lillian Smith who so impressed Queen Victoria that she asked to meet her after the show, a champion with the rifle Lilian was defeated by her own personal demons--the wrong men, alcohol, and weight gain. Loie Fuller, one of the pioneers of modern dance, who did fresh and innovative things with graceful movements, coloured lights, and swathes of billowing silk.And, of course, the greatest star of them all, "Little Sure Shot"herself, Annie Oakley who took her fame in stride and never let it go to her head or ruin her life. These are just a few highlights from this fascinating little book.

"Buffalo Gals" provides an intriguing introduction to the many talented female performers of the Old West. Though the focus of this book is restricted to women associated with Buffalo Bill's show, Ms. Enss has also penned a similar volume about the actresses who toured and brought a touch of glamour to the wild, rugged, and unruly western cities and mining towns, which I will be reviewing here in the near future.

1 comment:

librarypat said...

I have several books by Chris Enss. She does an excellent job of presenting real people in a manner that makes you feel you have met them and would like to get to know them better. The were real people and are made real to you the reader. I have to look for this one.