Known for her marksmanship and her time spent performing with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, Annie Oakley made a name for herself in what, at her time, was considered a male dominated space.
Born to the name Phoebe Ann Moses in August of 1860 in Darke County, Ohio, Oakley experienced family losses early on in life. Both her father and step father died when she was a just a kid.
Until 10, Oakley lived at the county poor farm as a child. At the age of 10, Oakley was sent to work for a family that did not treat her well, which consequently led to Oakley running away and eventually reuniting with her mother. As a teen, Oakley honed in on her shooting and used her talent and marksmanship to earn money for her family by shooting game in the woods and selling it to a local shopkeeper. In fact, Oakley earned enough money to pay off her mother’s mortgage.
Rising to be a Sharpshooter and Star
Shortly after this, in 1875, Oakley decided to enter a shooting competition against a top touring shooter, Frank Butler. At only age 15, Oakley won not only the Thanksgiving Day match, but also Butler’s heart. The following year, the couple married and Butler continued touring with his male partner, until 1882, when his partner died and Oakley stepped on stage to join her husband. Crowds were so impressed by Oakley’s shooting that she soon became the main star and Butler stepped back to manage his wife’s widely popular act. Oakley made her own costumes, often described as modest or conservative, which helped distinguish her as she toured along the vaudeville circuit.
In 1885, Oakley joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a show where for the next 17 years she would perform and entertain audiences by shooting corks off bottles, holes through playing cards and more tricks . Two years later, at the American Exposition in London, Oakley gained international fame when she performed with Buffalo Bill Cody’s show in front of influential audience members such as Queen Elizabeth who remarked that Oakley was a “clever little girl.”
In 1901, both Oakley and Butler suffered injuries in a train accident, which stopped Oakley from performing in the short term, but she was able to recover and return the stage. Not long after the accident, Oakley left the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, and began starring in a different role, one written for her, in the melodrama The Western Girl. Later in the decade, Oakley once again joined another western show before retiring with Butler in 1913.
World War I and Later Life
During the Great War, Oakley offered to both organize and train a regiment of women sharpshooters, but her petition to do so was ignored by the government. After this, Oakley transferred her efforts into raising money for the Red Cross through shooting demonstrations at Army camps.
Oakley died on Nov. 3, 1926, and 18 days later, Butler, her husband of 50 years also passed. Oakley’s contribution and mark in the west as a strong woman made a sharp, long lasting impact.
Nadia Comaneci was the first woman to ever win a perfect 10 at the Olympics in the sport of gymnastics. She was only 14 at the time.
The Romanian gymnast was born in Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Romania in 1961. At the age of 6, Nadia was discovered by coach Bela Karolyi, who later went on to coach both the Romanian and U.S. teams to gold. Nadia became one of the first gymnastic students under Bela and his wife Marta’s gymnastics school in Onesta. In 1969, she won 13th place in the Romanian National Championships, and she only continued to progress.
Just six years later she won the Romanian National Junior Championships and the following year, as a senior, she won the European Championships.
Nadia became known for her original skills, clean technique and cool under pressure demeanor during competitions. Her skill and ability to perform landed her a spot on the 1976 Olympic gymnastics team.
Competing in the Olympics
At a time when Cold War tensions were high, and speculations about communist countries cheating, the small but mighty Nadia impressed the world with her with her smile and her skills.
Nadia brought her best the the 1976 Montreal Olympics and not only warmed the heart of her audiences, but also the respect of her judges. In total, Nadia earned seven perfect 10 scores, three gold medals, including the highly esteemed individual all-around individual gold. The Romanian team also won bronze with Nadia’s help.
In 1980, Nadia picked up even more medals, two gold and two silvers during the Moscow Olympics.
In 1984, Nadia retired from the sport and worked as a coach for the Romanian National Gymnastics team. After a trip to the U.S. in 1984, Nadia’s movements were more closely monitored by government authorities. With the help of her former coach, Bela Karolyi,Nadia defected to the United States in 1989.
In the States, Nadia reconnected with Bart Conner, a fellow gymnast she met during the Montreal Olympics. The two were later married in 1996. Today, Nadia and Bart live in Oklahoma and Nadia splits her time among a variety of activities including speaking engagements, commercial endorsements, gymnastics commentary and charity events. Nadia, Bart and their business manager Paul Ziert also work on a number of other gymnastics-related businesses, including a gymnastics academy, as well as a gymnastics’ magazine, production company and gymnastics supply company.
Nadia continues to give back, from visiting Romania to support local charities in her home country, to serving as the Vice--Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Special Olympics International.
As a 14 year old, Nadia wowed the world through her art, but even though she’s no longer competing on the beam, uneven bars, floor or vault anymore, Nadia continues to inspire young gymnasts from outside the arena today.