Last updated: March 26, 2018
The Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley, by Glenda Riley. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.
People who know of legendary female sharpshooter Annie Oakley through film and television portrayals will likely find a more nuanced and complete biography of the woman in Glenda Riley’s The Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley. Riley provides not only a biography of Oakley but also an evaluation of her legend and influence.
While faithfully recounting Oakley’s personal and professional accomplishments, the author also offers an interpretive view of Annie’s successful effort to reconcile her public image as a resourceful and athletic woman with her more private perception of herself as a genteel Victorian lady and a model wife.
Riley explains in her book, “Annie defied convention on one level but embraced it on another. On the one hand, like any avowed feminist, Annie tested and broadened the limits of women’s sphere. On the other hand, however, she clung to the concept of ladyhood, thus wrapping the cloak of respectability around her efforts to stretch the acceptable boundaries of women’s activities.”
Riley is successful in drawing a vivid and complete portrait of an entertainer and businesswoman whose enduring fame and popularity both reflected and defied the conventions of her era. Unlike many previous Oakley biographies, Riley moves well beyond folklore, producing an insightful and original account of the life, times, and significance of a uniquely American heroine.