Calamity Jane (kəlămˈĭtē jānˈ) [key], c.1852–1903, American frontier character, b. Princeton, Mo. Her real name was Martha Jane Canary, and the origin of her nickname is obscure. Little is known of her early life beyond the fact that she moved with her parents to Virginia City, Mont., in 1865 and that she grew up in mining camps and rough frontier communities. In 1876 she appeared in Deadwood, S.Dak., dressed in men's clothes and boasting of her marksmanship and her exploits as a pony-express rider and as a scout with Custer's forces. In her later years she toured the West in a burlesque show and appeared at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y. She died in poverty and obscurity in Deadwood, where she is buried beside Wild Bill Hickock.
See biographies by D. Aikman (1927) and Mrs. G. Clairmonte (1959); R. J. Casey, The Black Hills and Their Incredible Characters (1949).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.