Tracing Oakley’s path to being a sophisticated woman


GREENVILLE — The Garst Museum will open its 2023-24 lecture series on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m., when Brenda Arnett, local historian and expert on Annie Oakley, presents, Annie Oakley: From Sharpshooter to a Sophisticated Woman. The Garst Museum lecture series is free of charge, but regular admission fees apply to tour the museum.

The Annie Oakley often portrayed as an unsophisticated country bumpkin on stage and screen couldn’t be further from the real Annie Oakley that traveled the world and met and performed for the Crowned Heads of Europe. Arnett pointed out that what people see in Annie Get Your Gun is not the real Annie Oakley. She said the movie and stage production got a few things right – they got the names of Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill correct and that there was a shooting contest, but the rest of the production is fiction.

Arnett stressed those who knew or met Oakley found her to be authentic. “She wasn’t just a performer. She knew how to act in public and treat people. She was a very modest person in her dress; not what you would think from the wild west. She was very humble. She didn’t brag,” said Arnett.

From her modest beginnings to being a world-famous entertainer, Arnett believes Oakley was able to adapt to her changing notoriety, as well as a changing world. She agreed that even with very little formal education, Oakley was a smart woman.

It could also have been her family’s background as Quakers that had a lot to do with who Oakley was. “I’m sure the good manners were enforced early on,” said Arnett.

Oakley’s good manners and humble attitude could have been what endeared her to Queen Victoria when she visited for the queen’s Jubilee. That trip will be one of many significant occasions in Oakley’s life that Arnett will explore as she takes visitors through the stages of Little Miss Sure Shot’s life.

Join Arnett to witness the evolution of a young girl who had nothing but her God-given talent to provide for her family to a woman who was a revered entertainer at home and abroad.

Learn fact from fiction when Arnett presents Annie Oakley: From Sharpshooter to a Sophisticated Woman on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m. There is no cost to attend the lecture series.

The Garst Museum and The Annie Oakley Foundation Center will be open for touring that day at regular admission prices. The Garst Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on The Garst Museum, visit

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