The gun-toting woman holds enormous symbolic significance in
American culture. For over two centuries, women who pick up guns
have disrupted the popular association of guns and masculinity,
spurring debates about women's capabilities for violence as well as
their capacity for full citizenship. In Her Best Shot
Browder examines the relationship between women and guns and the
ways in which the figure of the armed woman has served as a
lightning rod for cultural issues.
Utilizing autobiographies, advertising, journalism, novels, and
political tracts, among other sources, Browder traces appearances
of the armed woman across a chronological spectrum from the
American Revolution to the present and an ideological spectrum
ranging from the Black Panthers to right-wing militias. Among the
colorful characters presented here are Deborah Sampson, who
disguised herself as a man to fight in the American Revolution;
Pauline Cushman, who posed as a Confederate to spy for Union forces
during the Civil War; Wild West sure-shot Annie Oakley; African
explorer Osa Johnson; 1930s gangsters Ma Barker and Bonnie Parker;
and Patty Hearst, the hostage-turned-revolutionary-turned-victim.
With her entertaining and provocative analysis, Browder
demonstrates that armed women both challenge and reinforce the easy
equation that links guns, manhood, and American identity.