At thirteen-years-old, Martha Jane Cannary already rode horseback, cursed like a trail boss, and had a taste for whiskey. So, when her parents died while she was still a teenager, she just headed west, eventually becoming a military scout in Arizona where she took to wearing men’s clothes, not only because it was more practical, but because it was better accepted in her line of work.
Creating a “ruckus” everywhere she went, she soon got the nickname “Calamity Jane,” not unlike Jane Austin who lived before her and in that same neck of the woods. A friend of both “Buffalo Bill” Cody and “Wild Bill” Hickok, Cannary traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show until her drinking and fighting got in the way. It was said that she swore never to go to bed with “a nickel in her pocket or sober,” and from all accounts, she stuck to her resolve.