Wild West Women: Gambling and Gunslinging Girls of the OId West
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Wild West Women: Gambling and Gunslinging Girls of the OId West

You may have heard of wild west women like Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, and Belle Starr. However, these lesser-known, gunslinging, gambling, and all-around audacious women also deserve to be remembered in history, for making the west what it was… wild.

1. Eleanor Dumont

Wild West Women: Gambling and Gunslinging Girls of the OId West

Photo: @snorinhorse via Twenty20

At the time of the California Gold Rush, a daring figure proved gambling wasn’t just a man’s game. Eleanor Dumont was a French woman who was nicknamed “Madame Mustache” for her hairy upper lip. It was her card-playing, however, that made her a legend. She made her living off “Vingt-et-un” which was the predecessor to American Blackjack, “21”. Her success helped her launch her own gambling parlor in Nevada City in 1854. She was so skilled that when the gold dissipated, crowds gathered around her wherever she went just to watch her amazing card play.

2. Lillian Frances Smith

Wild West Women: Gambling and Gunslinging Girls of the OId West

Photo: @zhappyfarms via Twenty20

At the age of 15, Lillian Smith became a trick shooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show where she was known as “The champion California Huntress.” She was a star in her time and was once privileged to meet Queen Victoria while traveling with the show.  Smith became infamous after a devastating showdown against her rival Annie Oakley. She left Buffalo Bill’s after the defeat and went on to become a great performer in other shows as well as a record-setting sharpshooter. She belongs on any list of wild west women.

3. Mary Fields

Wild West Women: Gambling and Gunslinging Girls of the OId West

Photo: @caitlinrheaphotos via Twenty20

The postal system wasn’t as safe in 1895 as it is today. Mary Fields was contracted to deliver mail by stagecoach in some of the worst conditions of the era, earning her the name “Stagecoach Mary.” She fought off wolves, thieves and endured harsh weather conditions. Fields was born into slavery, but when she received her freedom after the Civil War, she went on to work in many vicarious positions. However, she was most notorious for being the first African American female in the United States to become a star route mail carrier.

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Written by Deborah Hall

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