Mythes et Héros / Myths and heroes : Calamity Jane - Anglais - Terminale ES

Mythes et Héros / Myths and heroes : Calamity Jane - Anglais - Terminale ES

Nous mettons à votre disposition ce cours d'Anglais sur la notion "Mythes et Héros", rédigé par notre professeur, et consacré à a légende Calamity Jane.

À travers ce document, vous saurez si Calamity Jane était une héroïne de son temps ou tout simplement une fiction.

Téléchargez gratuitement ci-dessous ce cours d'Anglais sur la notion Mythes et Héros (Myths and heroes) sur Calamity Jane.

Mythes et Héros / Myths and heroes : Calamity Jane - Anglais - Terminale ES

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Her family background

She was raised for a short period of time in a family suffering many problems such as gambling and drunkenness. At a very young age she had to face the difficulties of a hard life.

She was born in 1856 in Princeton and she was the eldest of peasants’ family. Her real name was Martha Canary. In 1864 her parents decided to sell their farm because they needed money and because they wanted to find gold, their financial situation was so bad also because of the economic crisis.

This period in America was marked by the Gold Rush.

But Reality was quite far from what they had expected. Indeed they had to face cold, hunger and the lack of food on their way.

They followed the Oregon trail and Martha was only eight years old.


The Oregon Trail was composed of pioneers, who during the 19th century, went from Missouri to Oregon after crossing Nebraska and Idaho. More than 350 000 pioneers from 1841 to 1869 travelled on the 3 000 kilometres track which took them between four to five months. More than 20 000 people died.

During this long journey the convoy relied on a strict social organization. Women at the back with the children for cooking and cleaning, men at the front to take care of horses. As Martha was the eldest, she had to help her father, which was for her much more interesting and her choice was quickly made between freedom and women’s duties.

At the beginning The wild west was seen as something peaceful and a place where everything could be built. It was a symbol of freedom, independence for people living on the East coast.


The pioneers often stopped at Independence rock (a reference to independence day) to write their names on this rock, a small town had been erected. As Martha’s family had no money to survive they sent their children begging.

In December 1864 the local mentionned a little girl who was asking for food and money from houses to houses.The article was quite critical about Martha’s parents and even called her mother : “wild mouth” (she was often drunk and screaming to get some more from her children).

The contrast between how Martha felt when she was on the road and when she had to support her family is quite stricking. As soon as she settled down, problems occurred.

When Martha’s mother died, her father chose to disappear. Martha had to go to a foster home in Wyoming. This state was one of the first where the Union Pacific railroad was building tracks for railways. Piedmont, where Martha was sent, was a new railway city. It was the point where the East and the West joined and marked the endof America’s building.


A new life

During that period Martha did all sorts of jobs from maid to cook, she was drinking heavily in saloons even if she was only 12 years old. She was expelled from her foster home and as she had no family. She experienced independence, going from one saloon to the other from one town to the other.

These places were quite different from what the press exposed. Indeed in the newspapers or in movies saloons are shown as places where you had musicians, girls dancing in underwears with some bartenders all dressed up. Reality was quite different. Martha spent her times in real saloons with a wooden front in which the bar was only made of overturned barrels. Martha was only 12 but she behaved like she was an adult.

Those cities were full of Alcohol, gambling and hogs ranches (places for prostitutes and which were former places for pigs). Martha sold her charms and discovered the different possibilities of brothels. She was never able to work in classy saloons nor in classical brothels where beer replaced champagne and where you could meet only ugly girls. She worked in barracks with unhealthy girls called “siled doves”. These girls drank, smoked opium and used ladanum. Many of them committed suicide.


1874 : a turning point in American History

During that year the federal government violated the treaties signed the indians in South Dakota.

General Custer was missionned to find gold and to establish a new fort.In 1875 a new expedition was sent from Laramy to Black Hills. Black hills were a sacred place for Indians. the fights between the gold seekers only looking for gold and wealth and indians trying to protect what they considered as sacred was the first culture shock that America suffered from.

Martha decided to be part of that expedition and she embarked on it as a clandestine. Journalists were present during that expedition and thanks to them the legend of calamity jane began to be erected.


From Martha Canary to the legend of Calamity Jane

During the expedition led by Custer, Martha was photographed as she was wearing a cow boy costume. She was presented in the newpapers as the most eccentric prostitute of all times who was not afraid to be dressed like a man but who didn’t want to be taken for one of them. It is from this paradoxical situation that the legend emerged.

The Chicago Tribune, a famous newpaper, revealed the existence of a strange creature. Martha Canary shared the front page with Grant’s ultimatum to the indians urging them to go to Indian reserves.

General Grant


In 1876 General Crook was sent to Rose Budd in order to force Sitting Bull an indian chief to surrender.

General Crook


Sitting Bull


On June 25th, 1876 Custer was defeated at Little Big Horn. It was a shock.

In the newspapers however people got more and more interested in Calamity Jane brave acts. Soldiers related her bravery even if they had never met her.

This confused image widely contributed to settle Calamity’s image of a female warrior surviving among men and indians.

She became the legend of the Wild West.

As she headed back to Laramy, Calamity Jane went to saloon, drank heavily and ended in jail. During that period a bunch of cow boys called the band of whitehall decided to go to Laramy.

His leader Wild Bill Hickok became Calamity Jane’s new companion. He was a former sheriff who had killed several people including his own partner by mistake) and played in Buffalo Bill’s shows before he decided to go west to find some gold.

Calamity Jane followed him and was the storyteller of their long evenings.

She narrated the stories of the wild west and even if Will Bill Hickok didn’t like her that much he was consicous that she could bring to his fellows some quality times in their harsh lives.

In the American collective unconsciousness Calamity Jane was linked to Wild Bill Hickok as soon as they arrived in Deadwood.

A girl among men ready to fight, to love and to be the master of her destiny were the elements forging her reputation and her influence.

But Deadwood was undergoing major changes. Calamity Jane had to survive and to pay for her several drinks. she became a waitress in a saloon, a dancing girl and a prostitute. She had a double life. Another element which contributed to her legend. A cow girl during the day and a prostitute at night.

She met a journalist who was there to make and article on Deadwood. This one used the link between Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane to promote the article. the first serial novel appeared. In it people could read the stories of two heroes in the wild west fighting to survive among hostile surroundings.

The differences between the real Calamity and the fictionous one are important. People found her absoluteyl fascinating and women dreamt of her life as an independent woman.

In 1876 diseases stuck Deadpool and Calamity Jane remained next to patients at her own risks Her nickname was clearly established during that time : A calamity was fought by a simple girl of the west, people should therefore be afraid of her.

Unfortunately, on August 2nd, 1876 Wild Bill Hickok was murdered and Calamity was devastated. She went from towns to towns. Rumors went on and on. It was said for instance that she had 12 husbands and that she had killed some of them, people and the press were delighted to read that.In fact she had some love affairs because she needed men to survive.

She met Bill Stears ten years younger than her, a violent man she got married with because she was pregrant.They had a girl but calamity couldn’t endure more violence and she decided to leave her husband. This extreme solution was also seen as an act of courage in a century where women had to be submitted.

Journalists invented stories about her just to sell their newspapers but Calamity Jane wouldn’t do anything to change their versions. In fact the only thing she wanted was to be a normal woman with a normal life. Newspapers wer talking about her problems with alcohol and in 1895 she came back to Deadwood but the town had become a city and she was lost in an environment she didn’t know.

She met a female journalist who wanted to write her story, she let her daughter to a foster home and became a funfair phenomenon. she appeared on pictures which she would sell for some money and which contributed to keep the myth alive.

She appeared as the emancipated woman.

Buffalo Bill hired her but in 1901 due to a bad health she went back to the west where as she was unable to adapt she died on August 1st, 1903. She was only 47 years old and she was buried next to Will Bill Hickok after impressive burials.

Fin de l'extrait

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