Who would have ever figured that Annie Oakley would be the target of a malicious attack by one of the biggest newspaper owners of her time. Certainly not me. As reported in this story from Listverse, she was not one to stand by and suffer the attack quietly, but fought to clear her name. The woman certainly had spunk, that's for sure!
Alleged Cocaine User
Photo credit: Baker’s Art Gallery
Born in 1860, Annie Oakley had all but retired from the public eye as one of the West’s most famous sharpshooters by 1901. The best at what she did, Oakley was always the product of a carefully groomed reputation. For example, she was rarely, if ever, shown killing animals in her shooting stunts, and she was always dressed like a proper Victorian lady.
So when William Randolph Hearst ran a story saying that Oakley had been caught stealing to fund her cocaine habit, the country loved it. The story went turn-of-the-century viral, running in 55 papers across the country before the perpetrator was revealed to be a burlesque dancer of questionable morals who had billed herself as “Any Oakley.”
In days, the bogus tale destroyed an image that Oakley had worked a lifetime to create. But she sued each newspaper for libel, traveling across the country and winning or settling 54 out of the 55 cases. It took seven years, and in the end, her defense was so expensive that she lost money despite receiving large monetary settlements.
If Oakley hadn’t fought back, Hearst’s story had the potential to change the way America remembered one of the most well-known female shooters in history. In the middle of the fight, Hearst even hired some private investigators to dig up dirt he could use against her. When they came back with nothing, he—and his newspapers—were forced to pay up and admit that Oakley didn’t have a cocaine habit after all.
Most of the time the truth will surface and win out, but only if it's pursued with a passion and fury that comes from being in the right! To bring a man with the power of Hearst to the point of surrender was no easy task, but Annie beat him and did it with dignity. Score one for the good guys!
Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?