Calamity Jane

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New non-fiction book on the life of Calamity Jane.

Calamity Jane by James D. McLaird - Calamity Jane far outstrips her contemporaries with 213,000 Internet hits; comparing Wild Bill Hickok at 23,400, Liver-Eating Johnson at 4,980 and Colorado Charlie Utter at 29,600. Just so, you will say, after reading James D. McLaird’s Calamity Jane published by University of Oklahoma Press (

James D. McLaird is Professor Emeritus of History, Dakota Wesleyan University, and Mitchell, South Dakota. The award-winning author of numerous historical articles has brought forth the real gal of the west. He notes alcohol, general living and mundane survival to be her mainstay and “she arrested no outlaws, robbed no banks, and killed no Indians”, yet, her legend and fame grows with time. He has identified that truths are unpopular and exaggeration of those truths are what folks truly needed. Thus making an expanding icon for generations.

Meticulously researched over 20 years, leads followed, individuals identified and Jane’s surroundings, facts and fictions, discussed; this 355 page work with maps will keep you wanting more information--and it’s there in the source notes! The photographs speak, no, shout, of the wear of the years on Calamity as they are presented throughout the book.

You’ll find Martha Canary (1856-1903) was everything a woman was and is and more. Continually moving, working, drinking and carousing--the trail dust she stirred up from town to town, individual to individual--varied with mother nature, disease, killings, gold rushes, Indian scares, and the building of the railroads. Legends sprang up from those who knew her or of her. Newspapers, dime novels and stories watered the tales that became a forest of Calamity events. Bullwhacker, driver, nurse, companion, buddy, laundress, prostitute, scout, bartender, cook or what ever you want to call her, her life was wrought with excitement, adventure and danger. Good or bad, in the best of times and the worst of times, truly a Calamity Jane.

Addendum: This is a great historical read with excellent notes, maps, photographs and research leads. I am going to say all roads lead to Calamity…..this reader certainly enjoyed the travel in time.

Dorman Nelson

P.O. Box 33842

Granada Hills, California 91394


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Dorman Nelson
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