Gail Woerner from has this to report about a great new organization for women of the West.

The newly formed Annie Oakley Society held a kick-off luncheon April 14th, in the banquet hall of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. It was organized to celebrate women all over America who are demonstrating leadership and the entrepreneurial spirit of the West. The Mission of the Society is “to honor and raise awareness of outstanding women in all walks of life who exemplify the character, perseverance and moral fiber in the tradition of Annie Oakley”. Yearly they will recognize an outstanding woman and contribute to the benefit of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

The idea for the Society was birthed by Cathy Keating, former first lady of Oklahoma, who generated $500,000 from fifty women who are the founding members. Another $50,000 was given through other levels of membership; Trailblazer, Pioneer and Little Sure Shot.

Kudos to Cathy, Chairman, and Lynn Friess, Vice Chairman, who were vivacious ramrod-ettes of the festivities. They conducted the program with the enthusiasm and creativity that shows when one is passionate about their goals and the pride in the organization’s namesake. The theme was “AIM HIGH”, and it was evident their efforts followed the theme successfully. The ballroom was decorated with hot pink and bright orange with a purple drape as backdrop of the stage. It was obvious those attending weren’t going to the usual ‘cowboy boots and ropes’ affair, most-often held at the Hall but a soiree held for the feminine ‘movers and shakers’ from across the country. The Honorable Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma, welcomed everyone and commented how proud Oklahoma was of the National Treasure, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and all that it signifies.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Retired U. S. Supreme Court Justice, was honored with The Annie Oakley Society Award. Chuck Schroeder, CEO of the Hall introduced her by naming three important aspects of her life including being the first woman appointed to be a Supreme Court Justice by President Reagan in 1981 where she presided until retirement in 2006. He also mentioned her responsibilities to her ranch in Arizona, and that she began the website: to offer interactive civics lessons to students and teachers because of her concern for the lack of knowledge among young Americans about how our government works. She accepted the bronze of Annie Oakley, created by Deborah Copenhaver Fellows, by telling about Annie Oakley and the ghastly life she had as a youngster. When her mother became a widow, the second time, she was sent to a foster home but was treated so badly she ran away and went back to her mother. Annie was a self-taught marksman, and often went in the woods and shot small game, which she sold to various people in their community and gave the money to her mother. Her motto was; “Aim at a high mark. You will hit it, maybe not the first time and maybe not the second time, but you will hit it.” After meeting and being challenged to shoot against Frank Butler, whom she outshot, he became her manager and eventually they married. When she was hired to be the sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show she became famous the world over. Someone once wrote that Annie Oakley showed that women can do things a man can do without making it threatening.

Linda Mitchell Davis of New Mexico was honored by receiving the very first Annie Oakley Society Lifetime Achievement Award. Linda is a rancher, and her children and grandchildren are also involved in CS Ranch which boasts over 130,000 acres. She is also a long time member of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Board of Directors. In her acceptance speech, she spoke about Chester A. Reynolds, who conceived the idea of having a National Cowboy Hall. She said Reynolds shared his idea for the Hall for the first time with others at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver in January of 1955. Reynolds said that without the education of young people about the heritage of the West it will never happen. Support from 17 Governors of 17 western states, and many others who believed in the cause, Reynolds’ idea became a reality and the Hall was completed in 1965. Since Reynolds’ thrust was toward the youth Linda told what her children, who were youngsters during the development stage of gathering funds to build the prestigious Hall and told, “They remembered Abilene, the longhorn steer that went to all seventeen states to help collect funds for the project. My children also remembered the trails from Texas that went north and were so important in the history of the West.” She also proudly reported that on the 26th of March she became a Great-Grandmother!

The members of the Annie Oakley Society have high goals and their first project at the Hall is to improve the area of the National Cowboy & Heritage Museum dedicated to children and make it current with the theme “Land Rush” using up-to-date innovative ways of interaction for children and their families when visiting the area. Other projects will be forthcoming as the Society grows. It was a memorable gathering and you will hear much more about the Annie Oakley Society in the years to come.

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