Love her or hate her, you probably don’t know her at all. Nee Martha Canary, she was less — and more — than she’s cracked up to be: She was a cook and a laundress, a dance hall girl and a prostitute, an abject alcoholic and a devoted nurse, an abused wife and a mother who said of her daughter, Jessie, “She’s all I’ve got to live fer; she’s my only comfort.”
She knew Wild Bill Hickok, who was newly married, for a mere six weeks before he was shot down in Deadwood, S.D. Legend has it — wrongly — that they were lovers. And let the record show: Though she sometimes donned men’s clothes, Canary typically wore a dress.
But weirdly enough, a major source of misinformation about her came from her impostor daughter, Jean McCormick, who popped up in 1941 with a forged memoir, itself spun from popular fictions, that crystallized Canary’s myth and went unquestioned for decades.
McCormick claimed her parents were Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok, and because so little research had been done on Canary, the forgery, which McLaird debunks in a few deft and convincing strokes, was long accepted as fact. READ FULL STORY HERE
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