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Bessie Moses Edwards, Great Grand-niece of Annie Oakley

Bessie Lee Moses Edwards, 91, great-grandniece of Annie Oakley, remembers sitting in Annie's lap as a child. As the granddaughter of Annie's only brother John Moses, and the oldest living direct relative, she has worked to preserve and clarify the image of Annie Oakley, and to, as she puts it, "clean up the untruths told about Annie and tell her real story."

Annie Oakley: A Detailed and Characteristic Cabinet Photo by A. J. Wood Annie Oakley, born Phoebe Ann Mosey (later changed to Moses), was an American sharp shooter and entertainment icon. Annie Oakley used rifles, shotguns and pistols as part of her exhibition. She shot standing still, over her shoulder using mirrors, and standing on a moving horse. Oakley's amazing talent and timely rise to fame led to a starring role in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show for most of 17 years along with her husband, Frank Butler, as her manager. They traveled the United States and Europe entertaining huge audiences in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Bess says; "Too many people, because of the image created by Broadway, Hollywood and the print media, believed that Annie was a coarse, ignorant woman, says Edwards. "But she was a very kindhearted, intelligent and talented woman who loved children, was widely known for her philanthropic work with widows and orphans and deserving young women who wanted to further their education. She also taught women how to shoot and handle a firearm safely," Ms. Edwards continued.

Annie Oakley: Personally Inscribed Oversized Photograph from The Western Girl, Another in the Series Shot by Edward Thayer Monroe of the White Studio in 1903 Paul Fees recalls a conversation he had with Bess Edwards: "After the 1983 publication of a popular novel about Annie Oakley, Bess called me, outraged over invented details of Annie's and Frank's personal life. Aunt Annie never!" Bess insisted, "She never!" The book may have been the last straw for Bess. In 1984 she established the Annie Oakley Foundation to try to save her great-aunt from the fate common to so many idols: their true character and accomplishments become swamped by their public image. Bess has spent a lifetime telling people how the private Annie Oakley measured up to be even better than her legends."

Ms. Edwards spent 13 years living in Greenville, Ohio researching Annie and her life. Greenville is near where Annie lived as a child and hunted game for food for her childhood family. Annie and her husband of 46 years are buried in the Brock Cemetery there. Annie was born in Darke County, Ohio in 1860. She and her husband both died within weeks of each other in 1926.

Ms. Edwards will be lending her authenticity of various Annie Oakley items and artifacts including one of Annie Oakley's first and most used shotguns. The shotgun was purchased by Annie's husband Frank Butler in 1883 for Annie. Edwards says that Annie called this gun, the Parker (30203 serial number) "her first real gun of quality."

Annie Oakley's motto was: "Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time, maybe not the third, but keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect." Ms. Edwards says that the things she would like people to know and remember about Annie Oakley are:

  • She was dedicated to her husband Frank and her family.

  • She was a lady in every way with extraordinary talent and dedicated to her profession.

  • She was dedicated to women's causes of the times and was one of the first to foster equal pay for women.

  • She was very generous in her philanthropic work. For example, she melted down all the medals she won and donated the proceeds to charity.
View the Bessie Moses Edwards collection here.