LADY IN RETIREMENT
She was soon able to travel the vaudeville circuits again, but in 1916 she decided to quit show business and retire to the Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst, N.C. Here Butler managed the skeet range and Annie gave shooting lessons to fashionable ladies. Asked why she gave up the excitement of the arena for this, she replied, "Because I made hay in the heyday of my youth, and felt that I earned a change. Why am I teaching ladies to shoot? Well, that is my pleasure for which there is no charge or compensation on my part."
During World War I Annie packed her buckskin costumes and went on the road again to Army camps around the country. She gave exhibitions with the same spirit and skill that had made her world famous. Four years after the war an automobile accident sent her back to the hospital with all the hopeless signs that she might be an invalid again. The following year, however, she broke a gun club record when she neatly picked off 98 out of 100 clay pigeons.
Annie died in 1926 in Dayton, Ohio, where she and Butler had decided to spend their old age together. Butler died, brokenhearted, 18 days later. But even before her death Annie had become a legend and a part of American folklore. Will Rogers called her "a greater character than she was a rifle shot." She had an indomitable spirit which enabled her to override poverty and hardship as a child, and the pain she suffered as a woman. Today she is still the most outstanding woman "shootiste" (as she was billed) that this country has ever seen. Actor Fred Stone wrote in his autobiography 20 years after her death, "There was never a sweeter, gentler, more lovable woman than Annie Oakley."