Sunday, May 3, 2015

'Tainted Ladies (Female Outlaws, Renegade Women and Soiled Doves of the Old West' by Vickie Britton


This lively little guide rounds up a host of colorful women from Wild West history from stagecoach robbers to cattle rustlers. Meet Calamity Jane, who could out-drink and out-shoot any man, and Poker Alice, a widow who earned a living playing cards. Read about the madams and soiled doves and the many renegade women who defied convention in the Old West.

This book, written by Vickie Britton, author of numerous western and contemporary western novels, is divided into three major sections. The first deals with female outlaws such as Belle Starr and other women who were suspected of or arrested for crimes. Renegade Women covers such colorful characters as Calamity Jane and stagecoach driver Charlie Parkhurst, independent women who made their own way in a man’s world. The third section discusses notorious shady ladies of the night, or “soiled doves” and the business of prostitution in the West.

Read an excerpt:
Sally Skull

If ever there was a tough, rough Western character, Sally Skull would certainly fit the bill. Sally Skull was a horse trader, rancher, and "champion cusser." She was also dangerous. 
Sally was known for her colorful language. She wore men's clothing and went heavily armed, carrying a rifle and a pair of pistols in a cartridge belt as well as a whip. She was so skilled with the whip it was said that for amusement she could snap the heads off of flowers. Though for the most part she talked and acted like a man, Sally loved to dance, which perhaps proves she had a "feminine side." 
There is no record of Sally Skull's birth. The first known record of her life is a divorcee decree. She divorced her husband in the 1850's, at a time when divorce was uncommon and even cause for scandal. Sally had two children, but did not appear to take much interest in their upbringing. She sent them off to boarding school and to live with relatives when they were still very young. In their adult years, both children were estranged from their mother and rarely visited the ranch where she lived. 
Sally had learned the horse trade from her first husband, Jesse Robinson. After the divorce, she entered the horse trade profession herself. On the Texas-Mexican border, she made a living by buying and stealing horses which she then sold for a profit. She also rounded up wild horses and stray cattle to sell. 
Sally was reputed to have been "a merciless killer when aroused." She had a reputation for killing without remorse, and was believed to have killed "well in excess of three score" men. The horse trade along the border was very competitive. The men Sally killed were no doubt her rivals. The horse traders often fought over the territory in which they rounded up the wild horses. Though there is no doubt that she did kill, her victims are unknown, and there is no mention of her going to prison for any of the murders. Perhaps in the horse trade, killing competitors was fair game. 
Sally's second husband's last name was Skull and she kept this name even after his death, and after she married her third husband, Bill Hornsdorf. Maybe the name Skull suited her better. Sally definitely would have been better off if she had not married again, for she and her new husband did not get along.After one of their many violent quarrels, Sally fired several shots at Bill….

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Vickie Britton is the author of many works of nonfiction. She also writes fiction and, with her co-author, Loretta Jackson, has written over forty novels. The two are best known for the Jeff McQuede High Country Mystery Series, set in Wyoming (Murder in Black and White, Whispers of the Stones, Stealer of Horses) and the Ardis Cole archaeological mystery series. (The Curse of Senmut, Unmarked Grave, The Crimson Masquerade.) Vickie currently resides in Hutchinson, Kansas.

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