Burk, Martha Jane

Burk, Martha Jane (Canary) (Calamity Jane)

(?1852–1903) legendary frontier figure; born in Princeton, Mo. Raised in Virginia City, Mont. (1864), she became an expert markswoman and rider—dressed as a man—and held her own in rough, mining-town society. Allegedly a pony-express rider and then a scout for Gen. George Custer in Wyoming (1870s), she was companion to “Wild Bill” Hickok and heroine during the smallpox epidemic (1878) in the gold rush town of Deadwood, S.D. In 1891 she wed Clinton Burk(e) in El Paso, Texas, but he soon left her and she died in poverty. She is the heroine of Deadwood Dick on Deck, or Calamity Jane the Heroine of Whoop Up, an Edward L. Wheeler dime novel (1884), and is buried beside Hickok in Deadwood.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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