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Kansas Day at Riley Elementary - photos

Photos taken Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 at Riley Elementary School in Great Bend. For Kansas Day, the school was visited by Amelia Earhart and Calamity Jane.

 As a youngster, Earhart kept a scrapbook of women who broke new ground for their sex.   Calamity Jane might very well have been a candidate for inclusion in Earhart's scrapbook--their lives overlapped by six years. 

     Joyce Thierer has been performing Calamity Jane since 1989.  She is also a history professor at Emporia State University.  Thierer has researched, published, and lectured in the areas of women's history, rural life, and agricultural history.  Her doctorate in American History is from Kansas State University.

               Ann Birney, who portrays Amelia Earhart, has her doctorate in American Studies from the University of Kansas.  She researches women and work and has been performing with Ride since 1993.

               According to Thierer and Birney, one of the most fascinating things about the women they portray is how an ordinary girl becomes a young woman whose choices change history and make her an American symbol, a mythic figure.  They want their performances to help people understand "what each of us has in common with these extraordinary people--and with each other.  It is our choices that make each of us extraordinary."

               As a “new woman” of the twentieth century, Amelia Earhart was a risk-taker, becoming a public figure, participating in sports, and speaking her mind.  But she had also been raised to be a proper lady.  Her modesty and manners made her acceptable to people who identified with the Victorian age.  Earhart was one of our first celebrities, known throughout the world, but very private in an age when that was still possible.  She knew that as a public person she had to create an image acceptable to both herself and her public.

               Although Calamity Jane was of the nineteenth century, she had much to offer Earhart’s generation of risk-takers.  As Thierer remarks, "She may have lived largely outside proper roles for women, but those roles were clearly labeled, and she knew the meaning of the choices she made.  Earning wages which would enable her to be independent meant wearing men's clothing and becoming a man among men, and an outsider in 'proper' society.  Circumstances having placed her on the western frontier, she became also a marker on the frontier of possibilities for women.  In her later life Calamity Jane manipulated her public image, earning her living not as a scout or stagecoach driver, but as a novelty, a storyteller who told her stories in exchange for basic necessities.  She was a survivor who died young."