Long before the silver screen showed the face of Mary Pickford to millions of Americans, Annie Oakley, born as Phoebe Anne Oakley Moses on August 13, 1860, had won the right to the title of “America’s Sweetheart.” Having grown up learning to shoot game to help support her family, Annie won first prize and met Frank Butler at a shooting match when she was fifteen years old. He convinced her to change her name to Annie Oakley and became her husband, manager, and number-one fan for the next fifty years.
Annie quickly gained worldwide fame as an incredible crack shot, and could amaze audiences at her uncanny accuracy with nearly any rifle or pistol, whether aiming at stationary objects or shooting fast-flying targets from the cockpit of a moving airplane.
In August 1903, when she was well known as a champion shot in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Oakley became a target of defamation by a reporter for a newspaper owned by media magnate William Randolph Hearst. The libelous story alleged that the famous sure shot had been arrested for stealing and buying drugs. Annie sent a telegram denying the claim and asked the story to be retracted. Hearst refused and the story was then published in all his newspapers. Miss Oakley responded with a libel suit and spent seven years in court fighting the well-known businessman.
During the long, drawn-out legal battle, Annie was struggling with health issues. Despite these trials she poured her energy into advocating for the US military, encouraging women to engage in sport shooting, and supporting orphans.