By Vanessa Norris
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There comes a time in one's life when it becomes necessary to choose a name for a child... In our case, as ceramic artists, we were naming Deb's kilns—Big, Medium, Small, and Gas Kiln were just not cutting it. We thought about it for a few days and tossed around suggestions during one of our lunch breaks, finally arriving at some criteria. Why not name the kilns after the most infamous female outlaws? After some debate, we arrived at these four ladies: Annie Oakley (small electric), Pearl Hart (medium electric), Calamity Jane (large electric), and Belle Starr (gas kiln)–the baddest bitches of the wild West.
Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane were sharp shooters, though they primarily used their skills for entertainment. Each made a name for herself by touring with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, more often than not outshooting their male counterparts—shocking a patriarchal society with their abilities and “unladylike” behavior. Pearl Hart is said to have been inspired by Annie Oakley but used her talents for crime and personal gain. She and her then partner are known for robbing a stagecoach at gunpoint. While on trial for the crime, Hart delivered this famous line: “I shall not consent to be tried under a law in which my sex had no voice in making.” Though she was convicted and sent to jail, it remains one of the more notable quotes concerning women's rights. Belle Starr lived outside the law with a mile long list of illegal activities. She shuffled in and out of courtrooms, local jailhouses, and saloons until she met her demise when she was shot in the back while riding home from the store.
The stories that gave rise to these bandit queens' reputations, whether completely true or the tall tales of a yesteryear, remain part of the history of women trailblazers. One way or another, these ladies rose from the shadows of the men around them and continued to prove you don't have to be a dude to get shit done.