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Historic Portrayal: Calamity Jane

Thanks to Women in History Ohio, a nonprofit dedicated to the education of all people through the dramatic re-creation of the lives of notable women in history, we will be visited by Calamity Jane, portrayed by Linda Witkowski. This Historic Portrayal will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 3 in Orchestra Hall.

Martha Jane Cannary Burke (or Marthy) was the oldest of six children, having two brothers and three sisters, born to Robert and Charlotte Cannary. Both of her parents were born in Ohio.

In 1865, the family emigrated over five months with a wagon train from Missouri to Virginia City, Montana. Her mother died along the way in Black Foot, Montana, in 1866.

Shortly after arriving in Virginia City, the family left in the spring of 1866 for Utah, arriving at Salt Lake City in the summer. They remained there a year until her father died in 1867.

As the oldest child, Martha Jane took over as head of the family and navigated them to Fort Bridger, Wyoming Territory, arriving in May 1868. From there, they traveled to Piedmont, Wyoming, on the Union Pacific Railroad.

Martha Jane set herself apart from other women in that she could work and socialize with hard and tough frontiersmen: from digging for gold, drinking in bars, cussing and dressing like a man, she was mostly accepted by them.

As a young child, she loved adventure and the outdoors and became an expert rider at a young age.

On her family’s emigration trip, while 13 years old, Martha Jane apparently could already “cuss as fiercely as any man” and had “learned to like the taste of whiskey,” writes biographer Doris Faber. As Martha Jane wrote in her brief autobiography in 1896: “I figure if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.”

Witkowski joined Women in History Ohio in 2003, in time to help the organization celebrate the Ohio Bicentennial. In July 2019, she considered it a great honor to take over the presidency of Women in History Ohio.

She has been a performer for many years and was intrigued by the process of research, scripting and dramatization used to bring another’s life experiences to the stage.

Living history is so much more exciting than the written page, and it creates a vehicle for education that seems to more directly involve the listeners.

Witkowski has a master’s degree in liberal arts from Case Western Reserve University.

She has been a career-long computer scientist and is retired from the field of information technology. She has been grateful to the computing pioneers that went before, and also grateful for the occasional chance to be in the pioneer driver’s seat herself.

The event is finished.


Jun 03, 2024


7:30 pm


Arts & Entertainment,


Orchestra Hall
Orchestra Hall
122 West 2nd Street, Lakeside, Lakeside Marblehead, OH, USA

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