Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp

by Ann Kirschner

Hardcover, 2013



Call number

F786 .E18


HarperCollins (2013), Edition: 1st Edition, 304 pages


For nearly fifty years she was the common-law wife of Wyatt Earp, yet Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp has nearly been erased from Western lore. Kirschner brings Josephine out of the shadows of history to tell her tale: a spirited and colorful tale of ambition, adventure, self-invention, and devotion; from the post-Civil War years to World War II, and from New York to the Arizona Territory to old Hollywood.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jaylia3
There were three women he had considered himself married to before her, but Josephine Marcus Earp was Wyatt Earp’s common-law wife for fifty years. She was around for the famous shoot out at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, she panned for gold by his side in the wilds of Alaska, and she tried to mold his image to her liking in the early days of Hollywood while leaving herself as far out of the story as possible.

Josephine was Jewish, but though she returned to her roots and buried Wyatt in a Jewish graveyard when he died, religion wasn’t a big part of her life during the years she and Wyatt were together. Her family had moved from Poland to New York City and then San Francisco while she was still young, but the limitations of city society didn’t offer Josephine the life she wanted. She left for Tombstone as a teenager seeking adventure, and she and Wyatt were living as husband and wife to other people when they met. The fact that Wyatt deserted a woman who later died as a prostitute to be with her was embarrassing to Josephine, and it was part of the reason she didn’t want the particulars of her past tainting the legend of the man she loved.

Since Josephine actively tried to suppress her own part in Wyatt’s life, author Ann Kirschner had a challenging job researching this book, but she has succeeded in making Lady at the O.K. Corral fascinating as both a biography of a spirited woman and a history of the rapidly changing American West. Though Josephine only wanted one side of his story told, Wyatt Earp was a lot more complicated than the brave, courageous and bold frontier man who cleaned up the West in the 1950’s TV show. It’s true Wyatt was briefly a lawman but he also spent time in jail himself, and he earned his living as a respected saloon owner, a prospector, a gambler and a pimp while he and Josephine moved from boomtown to boomtown, seeking their fortunes.
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LibraryThing member memccauley6
Poor Josephine. She lived almost all of her life in Wyatt Earp’s shadow – even “The True Story of Her Life” is mostly about Wyatt. I found this to be a long and depressing read, detailing how Josephine followed Wyatt around like a puppy, living a very lonely, child-less existence, constantly in fear of being found out (She and Wyatt were not legally wed and he left his previous common law wife, Mattie, who spiraled down into addiction, prostitution, and suicide).

Poor Josephine. Her life is a cautionary tale about the importance of financial planning, Wyatt’s rootless existence as a saloon-keeper and gambler left her as a lonely and practically penniless widow, relying on the kindness of relatives to survive.

I really wish this book had pictures, but reading revealed that most of the items from the day were either lost in various calamities or scammed from her. Poor Josephine. Her squabbles with the other Earps and the various authorized and unauthorized biographers had the feel of one of those trashy scandal shows.
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LibraryThing member HarrietRochlin
With a passion for research and documentation and an engaging flair for prose, Ann Kirschner has composed a biography of Josephine Marcus Earp that is as thoroughly organized and cited as it is a pleasure to read. No previous account has equaled in depth and understanding Kirschner's portrait of the principal characters, Josie and Wyatt, their families, Jewish and otherwise, and diverse associates, as well as the erratically Americanizing West.… (more)
LibraryThing member rayub
Excellent job presenting facts. Good presentation in the narrative. Notes, sources and index make this book a good reference.
LibraryThing member book58lover
This is less a biography about Josephine Earp and more about the attempt to white wash the history of the old west and the part the Earps played in it. Josephine was constantly concerned about her own past and kept it buried as well.
DeBlank does a good job describing all the attempts to write a biography of Wyatt Earp by various authors as well as making television shows and movies and the role Josephine played in keeping secrets.… (more)
LibraryThing member bogopea
Well-researched and meticulously written story about Wyatt Earp's third and last common law wife. It's more then just Tombstone. It's 50 years of desert and tents and icebergs and 24-hour sun; family in San Francisco; loyal friends . . . That a Polish Jew from San Francisco found her way to Tombstone and spent her life roaming around the country with Wyatt Earp is truly remarkable.… (more)


Original language



0061864501 / 9780061864506


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