The name Calamity Jane brings to mind an iconic character of the American West. Accounts of Calamity—whose real name was Martha Canary—are legion and she has achieved mythical status in the lore of the frontier. She lived and traveled throughout Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas from 1867 to 1903, during some of the West’s wildest days. The voracious Victorian press sensationalized her activities, and as a flamboyant character in popular dime novels, Calamity Jane’s legend grew until the person behind the character all but disappeared. Who better to give us insights about the real story than madam Dora DuFran, aBlack Hills pioneer, entrepreneur and close friend of Calamity’s. Ms. DuFran built a successful red light business during the rambunctious early days of the western frontier in Deadwood, South Dakota, and has a unique perspective about how wild it really was. Ms. DuFran knows better than anyone the life of Martha Canary and Calamity Jane, two quite different women, one legendary, one all but forgotten.
Mary Jane Bradbury is an historic interpreter and scholar who brings history to life for audiences of all ages. She is an artist in residence for the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls and the Montana Historical Society in Helena.