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  • Karen Frost

Introducing the Lady Adventurers: Clara Pickering

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

The next member of the Lady Adventurers Club is Clara Pickering.

Clara was born in 1885 in Wellsburgh, Grundy County, Iowa. Coincidentally, this is also the year Annie Oakley joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West, and Clara would come to share many similarities with America's most famous trick shooter. In 1903, at age 18, Clara joined Cummins' Wild West Show (full name: Colonel Cummins’ Wild West Indian Congress and Rough Riders of the World) in advance of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, which occurred from April 30 to December 1, 1904. After the fair, she then joined L. O. Hillman’s Wild West Aggregation, where she was a trick shooter from 1905 until 1920. Like Oakley, Clara can shoot with any gun, and do tricks like shooting coins out of the air, cigarettes out of mouths, or buttons off coats.

Given that by 1923, when the book begins, almost every Wild West show had disbanded, Clara is professionally adrift in the world. A cowgirl in a world that no longer needs or values cowgirls, she's taken to watching the world of new cars and flappers pass her by. She travels to the Canadian back country to explore, looking for a future for herself, but she doesn't know how to find it.

While Clara can be quiet and shy in new situations, particularly if she feels self-conscious or intimidated, first impressions can be deceiving. Once you get to know her, she's brave, empathetic, and curious about the world around her. She's also quick to defend herself and her friends, even if it means chasing after a would-be assassin in an unfamiliar bazaar. Used to the rough and tumble atmosphere of Wild West shows and saloons, she's a fish out of water when surrounded by high society...and that includes Anna.

The real life inspiration for Clara is Annie Oakley, America's most famous exhibition shooter/sharpshooter. The visual inspiration for Clara is Ali Liebert, a queer actress from Canada famous for playing Betty McRae in "Bomb Girls."

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