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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jane Goodwin Austin

Expelled from Miss Finch’s Finishing School in New York in the early 1800's for being “an incorrigible tomboy,” Jane Goodwin Austin returned to her parents’ house, had what was reputed to be a wild affair with her cousin (one of the founders of the republic of Texas), gave birth to a baby with no acknowledged father, and spent a decade establishing herself as a popular novelist of the day.

Then, during the war for Texan independence from Mexico, Austin became such a fierce guerrilla leader and adept sharpshooter that she became known as “Calamity Jane,” with the Mexican government placing a $1000 bounty on her head. Asked how many men she had killed, Austin replied “One man and thirty-two boys who thought they were men.”

Austin was killed in 1858 at the age of fifty-seven in a shoot-out with bounty hunters who were trying to relieve her of some escaped African-American slaves she was transporting as an Underground Railroad conductor. She died, as they say, with her boots on. Just as she would have wanted it.

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