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Arts & Life

Festival of Books: The Life And Legend Of Calamity Jane


One of the best-known early residents of Deadwood is Calamity Jane. According to the various stories about her, she was a scout for the army, a pony express rider, a sidekick of Wild Bill Hickcok, and an angel of mercy who nursed small-pox victims and aided the poor. The reality is she wasn’t a Wild West heroine, but a tragic alcoholic. However, the legend of Calamity Jane has endured from 19th century dime novels, through Hollywood films, to the recent HBO series, Deadwood.

James McLaird in his book, Calamity Jane: The Woman and the Legend, and Richard Etulain in his books, The Life and Legends of Calamity Jane and Calamity Jane: A Reader’s Guide, write about the real life of Calamity Jane and the myths that have shaped her reputation.

McLaird taught history at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell for 37 years. Etulain is Professor Emeritus of History and former director of the Center for the American West at the University of New Mexico. The joined Dakota Midday from the 2015 South Dakota Festival of Books.

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