Book Review: Calamity Jane of the Western Trails by J. Leonard Jennewein

"Little about Calamity is provable, and how much that has been told is most inaccurate, or even fanciful."
James McLaird in the foreword

Link for the book @ Amazon:
Paperback $7.93

Published by Dakota West Books  First Edition 1953, Fourth Edition 1991
48 pages
Non-fiction/The Old West/Pioneer Women

Calamity Jane was a rough and tough, chewed tobacco, drank whiskey to excess, spit, cursed, solid looking big-boned gal. She could crack a bull whip and ride a horse like a man. She preferred the company of men. She was an anomaly in a culture and age where women were women and men were men....and they did not cross the line over to the other.
On the other hand she was quick to help those who were sick or in need. And even though she was course and rough as sandpaper, she had many friends that through her life helped her.
Calamity Jane for most of her life was a drifter, never staying in one place for long.
She worked various jobs: laundress, cook, teamster, bull-whacker, caring for sick, and prostitute.
What we know for sure, she died on August 1, 1903 and is buried in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Where she was born and who her parents and siblings were is only a guess. The author believes she was probably born in or near Princeton, Missouri.
She was married, or common law, to a Texan named Clinton Burke.
We know more about the dramatics and showmanship of her life than the truth.

At 48 pages this book is more like a pamphlet that you would find in a souvenir gift shop while traveling out west.
The author's aim in writing this book is to debunk the false information given about Calamity Jane. He spoke with those that knew her, or remembered her, or lived in the same towns as she did.
He made mention of the various author's that have written books about her and that he felt most had not backed up what they wrote with solid information.
At times he writes tongue and cheek about Calamity Jane's lifestyle---as it was unusual for a woman to live as a man, and more than that to be as abrasive and dramatic as she was.
I wonder if beneath that facade of tough exterior was a sensitive person. Another words that tough exterior was a cover to hide a deep hurt.
At 48 pages this is a quick read, interesting, entertaining, and I'm glad that I found this little gem in our public library---almost didn't see it because it was hidden between 2 big books!

Blissful Reading!


  1. Calamity Jane was one of my favorite movies as a kid! Though I'm sure it was complete fiction from start to finish :) Still, The Black Hills of Dakota is one of my favorite songs!!!


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