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Belle Starr - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing: Belle Starr

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

Born in Missouri in 1848 Belle Starr would become one of the most notorious outlaws in American History.

After the civil war, Belle’s family moved to Scyene, Texas where they became associated with known criminals, including Jesse James and the Younger brothers. Belle married a man named Jim Reed in 1866. Two years later, they had a daughter who they named Pearl. Reed, too, became involved in crime and was soon wanted for murder in Arkansas. The family fled to California where their second child, Eddie was born.

In 1871 the Reed’s returned to Texas and settled in the town of Paris. Reed tried his hand at Belle Starr - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Boveefarming, but to no avail. He soon fell in with the Starr Clan, a Cherokee Indian family known for many crimes, but primarily horse theft. The Reeds also became reacquainted with Belle’s old family friends, members of the Jesse James gang and the Younger brothers gang.

In the Spring of 1874, Belle was arrested for a stagecoach robbery she allegedly committed with her husband and one of the gangs. Belle always had a keen sense of style and would often be seen riding with the gangs sidesaddle and perfectly attired in a black velvet riding habit, plumed hat, and carrying two pistols.

In the summer of 1874, Reed was killed. Belle then married one of the Starr brothers, Sam, and they settled in Oklahoma. Belle assisted her husband in criminal activities such as bootlegging, horse thievery, and harboring criminals from the law. In 1883, Belle and Sam were arrested for their crimes. Belle was found guilty and served nine months in Detroit, Michigan. Sam, too, was found guilty and assigned to hard labor.

Three years later, Sam was killed in a gunfight with lawman Frank West. It was said the relationship with Sam Starr was the happiest of Belle’s life, and with the death of her husband, her life of crime ended. But shortly thereafter, she died under mysterious circumstances.

While riding home from a friend’s house Belle was shot in the back. She fell off her horse, Belle Starr - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Boveeand was shot again, this time in the shoulder and the face. Legend has it, her own shotgun was used to do the deed.

According to Frank Eaton, also known as “Pistol Pete”, she had attended a dance on the fateful night. She danced with Frank and then a very drunk Edgar Watson asked her to dance. She refused him and left. Watson followed her and shot her. Eaton claims Watson was tried, convicted and hung for the murder.

However, another story circulated that there were no witnesses and no one was ever convicted of Belle’s murder. Suspects included her husband after Sam, another member of the Starr clan, her son, whom she had beaten for mistreating her horse, and Edgar Watson because he feared she would turn him in for a murder he committed in Florida.

The crime of how and why Starr was murdered has gone down in history as unsolved.

Lillian Smith- Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing:

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

Like Annie Oakley, Lillian Smith learned to shoot a rifle when she was barely big enough to hold it. Like Annie Oakley, Lillian Smith started competing in shooting contests before the age of 15, and like Annie Oakley, Lillian Smith impressed upon Wild West Show owner Buffalo Bill Cody that she needed to be in his show, but that is where the similarities end—and the rivalry between the two women begins.

 Annie Oakley had become the darling of the Wild West Show, besting her male sharpshooting counterparts at every turn, and her place in the show was on solid footing.Lillian Smith- Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee Modest, in both her appearance and comportment, Annie couldn’t have been more different than this upstart teenager who used coarse language and wore flashy clothing—something Annie probably could have tolerated until Lillian started bragging that “Annie Oakley was done for” now that she had joined the show. The rivalry began. Annie even started to tell the press she was born in 1866, instead of 1860, to narrow the age gap between the two. 

The two traveled with the Wild West Show to England to perform at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Annie was further irritated when she was criticized in the press for first shaking the hand of Alexandra, Princess of Wales, before that of her husband, Bertie, England’s future King Edward, even though Lillian did the same. When Annie was presented to Queen Victoria, a drawing in an illustrated newspaper showed Lillian being presented instead. But most vexing of all was a letter published in an American newspaper, claiming that in England, Annie was being left out in the cold. This, of course, wasn’t true. Lillian Smith- Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari BoveeAnnie was still getting the lion’s share of press, and on the field at Wimbledon, Oakley bested Smith hands down and got a personal congratulations from the Prince of Wales. 

Nevertheless, the rivalry and the lack of support from Buffalo Bill Cody was too much for Annie to bear. She left the show at the end of the London run. Back home, Smith was ridiculed for her performance at Wimbledon, and allegations surfaced that she was cheating in her Wild West act. Finally, Cody realized Smith would never have the same showbusiness appeal as Annie. Smith left the show in 1889, and Annie came back just in time for the Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago.

In the first two novels of my Annie Oakley Mystery series, Girl with a Gun and Peccadillo at the Palace, I have fun with this rivalry between these two female sharpshooting sensations. You can find the books on Amazon.