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Nannita Daisey, also known as Kentucky Daisey, gained fame during the late nineteenth century in Oklahoma's land runs, fame that extended after her death in a legend about how she claimed her first Homestead tract.
Nannita Regina H. Daisey was born in Pennsylvania in 1855. After the deaths of her parents she lived and was educated at the Sisters of the Good Shepherd Convent in St. Louis, Missouri. Moving east to work as a teacher, she lived in Kentucky where she also began a career in journalism, fighting the gender discrimination common at that time against women who sought professional careers. Moving to Oklahoma, she participated in four land runs, where predominantly white settlers were allowed by the US government to claim lands that had previously been allotted in perpetuity to Native Americans. In addition to teaching and journalism, Daisey was active in the Guthrie, Oklahoma community where she made her home, helping other women to claim homesteads, and helping initiate schools in the new towns. By 1890 she had married Scandinavian immigrant and US Army soldier Andreas E. J. Ueland Svegeborg; the couple had no children. Daisey died in 1903.
Daisey is, and was, most known for exaggerated accounts of her activities. Dramatically, in the first (1889) land run, she jumped from the front of one of the first trains into the Territory, staked her land claim, and reboarded the train before it passed her by. That feat gained her local notoriety, and the tale was reported in local, regional, and national newspapers. After her death, an obituary reported that she had leapt from the train's cowcatcher, a claim not supported by any contemporary accounts of her actions, nor by her own accounts in published interviews.
Nevertheless, that version of the tale has been passed on in printed histories of Oklahoma, the Land Run of 1889, and the town of Edmond (where Daisey's homestead site lies). On Independence Day (July 4) 2007 the town of Edmond unveiled a statue of Daisey, leaping from the cowcatcher at the front of a train. The statue is named "Leaping into History" and was sculpted by local artist Mary Lou Gresham. Estimated cost for the project was $160,000 by funded by the Edmond Parks Foundation, Inc. as well as private donations. Thus, Daisey, along with even more famous westerners such as Calamity Jane, has become most known for a mythologized version of her life and its events. These larger than life exploits were depicted in an episode of the Comedy Central show Drunk History, where she was played by Kat Dennings.
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- ‘Half has not been told', Dallas Morning News (25 April 1889).
- ‘Happy in Adventure', Chicago Herald (2 May 1892), p. 10.
- ‘Women as land boomers', New York Times (7 Sept. 1893), p. 8.
- J.B. Thoburn, A standard history of Oklahoma; an authentic narrative of its development from the date of the first European exploration down to the present time, including accounts of the Indian tribes, both civilized and wild, of the cattle range, of the land openings and the achievements of the most recent period (New York: The American Historical Society, 1916) 5 vols.
- S. Hoig, The Oklahoma land rush of 1889 (Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma Historical Society, 1984).
- S. Hoig, Edmond, The first century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).
- Debbie Kindt Michalke, ‘Fortunate enough and plucky enough” the unattached women of the Cherokee Outlet', Chronicles of Oklahoma 75 (1997-8), p. 52-69.
- L.W. Reese, Women of Oklahoma, 1890-1920 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997).
- J.L. Crowder, Jr. Historic Edmond, an illustrated history (San Antonio, Texas: Historical Publishing Network for the Edmond Historical Society, 2000).