America's Best Female Sharpshooter: The Rise and Fall of Lillian Frances Smith
by Julia Bricklin
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ A casual student of history might believe that Annie Oakley was a peerless shooter without a rival, standing alone amongst the famous names of western men renowned for their accuracy with pistol and rifle. This book sheds light on Lillian Frances Smith, who not only matched but often exceeded "Little Miss Sureshot" when it came to displays of incredible skill with her guns.
In the more than capable hands of Julia Bricklin, we learn that the reason history has remembered Oakley so fondly while ignoring the exploits of Smith is that Annie's image as a feminine, clean-living, happily married woman was much easier to package and market than her frequently less palatable rival. But we learn that while America more readily accepted pretty little Annie, Lillian was the better of the two when it came to her remarkable ability with her weapon.
The abilities and sensation of Lillian Frances Smith are attested by the fact that she, like Annie Oakley, was hand-picked by Buffalo Bill Cody, the preeminent showman of the age, to star in the traveling Wild West Show. Smith went on to reinvent herself several times over, transitioning from "California Girl" to Sioux princess "Wenona," rumored to be the daughter of Sitting Bull himself. Through periods of feast and famine, fame and misfortune, in romance and dire straights, Julia Bricklin walks us through the sometimes tragic but always interesting life of one of America's great forgotten stories.
Just like in her biography of Ned Buntline, Bricklin is able to concisely present a story of a person whose life wasn't always (if even often) pretty with humanity, not shying away from the bad decisions and moral failings but never condemning her subject. Presented in whole in the context of history, Lillian Francis Smith, like Ned Buntline, stands as a fascinating individual who rose to the very top of their milieu on their own terms, and who deserves to be remembered and written about by someone with the attention to detail and to the craft of writing that Bricklin so often displays. America's Best Female Sharpshooter: The Rise and Fall of Lillian Frances Smith by Julia Bricklin is available at: