Many people are familiar with tales of Annie Oakley’s legendary sharpshooting abilities. She toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in the late 1800s and achieved great notoriety for her incredible talent and personality.
The outspoken young woman even appealed to President William McKinley for lady sharpshooters to help in the Spanish- American War. While she lived, she devoted equal energy to philanthropic causes, especially those dealing with women’s rights and education. The diminutive markswoman set records into her 60s.
According to her biography, The Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley by Glenda Riley, she earned more than any other performer in Buffalo Bill’s show besides Bill himself. When she died in 1926, she had spent her fortune on her family and charities that helped women and children and the American Red Cross.
The Annie Oakley Society was founded in the spirit of Oakley’s indomitable will and pioneering spirit as well as her commitment to women’s issues and philanthropic pursuits.
The women in the society play an important role in their communities and help recognize those women who, through their lives and works, are shaping tomorrow. The society is particularly devoted to raising money to improve the quality of children’s education at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Now in its fourth year, the society’s aim is to make sweeping changes to the area of the museum focused on younger visitors.
The society holds several networking events throughout the year, but its biggest fundraising event is the annual luncheon and awards.
This year, at the annual luncheon, the society will honor two Oklahoma women who personify Oakley’s legacy.
Kristin Chenoweth is an Emmy and Tony award-winning actress who rocketed to fame playing Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway production of Wicked. Hailing from Broken Arrow, the diminutive star with a big presence formed a charity partnership with the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center to bring the world stage to small-town Oklahoma. She will receive the Annie Oakley Society Award.
The actress will appear by satellite and will be represented by native Oklahoman and former Miss Oklahoma and Miss America Jane Jayroe Gamble.
Pat Summitt will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. She is a former head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer basketball team.
Summitt is using her winning attitude and tenacity as she fights a battle with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Sherri Coale, head coach of the University of Oklahoma women’s basketball team, will represent Summitt at the awards ceremony.
The society will also make an announcement about the future of the museum. Seating at the luncheon is free for members, and the event is open to nonmembers. Annual membership in the society is available on a tiered basis starting at $250.
Judy Hatfield, Oklahoma chairwoman of The Annie Oakley Society, said Oakley has had an influence on her life.
“One of my absolute favorite pictures of me as a little girl was me on my mechanical horse — they were called mobos — with my pigtails and my gun being Annie Oakley because I thought she was the coolest person in the world,” she said.
Hatfield now gets to have a hand in keeping Oakley’s legacy for women alive and honoring those with the pioneering spirit embodied in the words “Aim high!”