Lady at the OK Corral


LADY AT THE OK CORRAL is the biography of Josephine Marcus Earp, the woman who was Wyatt Earp’s common law wife for nearly 50 years, the woman who sparked the world’s most famous gunfight, the one who buried her husband in a Jewish cemetery after he died — in her bed — in 1929, and the one who shaped the legend of Wyatt Earp and the Wild West.  


Ann in Earp, CA

I’ve always been interested in how people’s lives are shaped by the accidents of history.  My first book, Sala’s Gift, told the story of my mother, a Holocaust survivor who lived through five years of war as a Nazi slave laborer.  I wrote that deeply personal story with the help of hundreds of letters that she received in labor camps, but then kept hidden after the war.   My mother’s friends and family were a remarkable cast of characters; I wanted so much to bring them to life, as so few of them were alive to tell their own story.

How different this book appears to be — and yet I hope you will see the thread of re-invention and history that ties my interests together.  I was first drawn to Josephine by the incongruity of a 19th century Jewish woman in Tombstone.  When I was a kid, westerns dominated the networks, but the cowboys, Indians, and lawmen I watched on TV rarely had mothers, sisters, or wives.  Now I was fascinated by the enigma of Mrs. Earp.  For four years, the detective work of untangling her secrets led me from the boomtowns of Arizona to Nome, Alaska, and finally to California deserts and the Hollywood backlots where Josephine and Wyatt spent their final years.

Autry Museum, LA
Autry Museum, LA

My hope is to inspire and entertain once again with the story of a remarkable woman, an unforgettable marriage, and the frontier history that shaped America.


“Scrumptious is the only word to describe Ann Kirschner’s Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp. This quick-paced biography has it all going on: sex, beauty, blood, guns, bad men and wild girls. Not to mention Hollywood and history….In the end, it’s a modern love story.”

–Deidre Donahue, USA TODAY

 “They say that the winners get to write the history books… According to Ann Kirschner’s splendid “Lady at the O.K. Corral”…making people see her husband as one of history’s good guys was something of an obsession.”

–Mark Yost, Wall Street Journal

“Lady is as engaging as a novel. [Kirschner] has provided a delightful, thoughtful account of a little-known woman who shared a half-century of devotion with a legend.”

–American Jewish World

“Lady at the O.K. Corral is the sort of book from which movies are made. Two very tarnished characters walk through its pages. It is a colorful tale of ambition, adventure, self invention and romance.”

Bismarck Tribune

“Ann Kirschner brings a fresh, lively perspective to one of the great stories of the American frontier…a fascinating intersection of Jewish history and the Wild West.”

–Julie Salamon, author of Wendy and the Lost Boys

“A vivid tale of romance and high drama.”

Abigail Pogrebin, author of Stars of David

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

 “Ann Kirschner delivers a frontier story for the ages–part Unsinkable Molly Brown, part Mama Rose, part Queen Esther.”

–Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems of Gotham and Payback: The Case for Revenge

 “Thanks to Ann Kirschner’s brilliant Lady at the O.K. Corral, we finally have the definitive story of Josie Earp…a must-read book for anyone who loves narrative nonfiction, or simply enjoys a hellaciously well-told tale.”

Jeff Guinn, author of The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral

 “A tour de force in the detective work of biography Ann Kirschner writes Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp back into American history…”

–David S. Ferriero, Former Director of the New York Public Libraries

 “Old West aficionados will find in this book a fresh account of the most famous of gunfights, but Ann Kirschner’s engrossing biography of Josephine Marcus Earp offers much, much more.”

–Stephen Aron, UCLA and Autry National Center

 “This is a story that has never been told and that is just fine. It awaited Ann Kirschner’s imagination, research, and sweeping prose.” —Hasia R. Diner, A Time for Gathering:  The Second Migration

Nome, Alaska

Nome, Alaska

 “Kirschner’s fascinating profile captures the restless spirit of the frontier as deftly as it does Josephine’s energy, affection, and limitless appetite for adventure.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

 From the dusty trails of the Old West emerges the story that Wyatt Earp’s wife never wanted told: her own.  A simple question from a friend about why Earp was buried in a Jewish cemetery prompted Kirschner (Dean of Macaulay Honors College at CUNY; Sala’s Gift: My Mother’s Holocaust Story, 2006) to uncover the truth of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp, the fourth wife and most constant companion of the famed frontier hero. The author mines letters, archives and manuscripts to tell Josephine’s story, panning for gold in a very muddy family history. After the showdown at the O.K. Corral and long before his death, newspapers and local lore had already made a legend of Wyatt and his family, with plenty of controversy and inconsistencies to fuel it further. To make matters more complicated, beautiful and theatrical Josephine was hard at work on her own self-made myth, burying her poor, Jewish origins and obscuring the more tragic, scandalous and, consequently, interesting periods of her life.
From Tombstone to Nome to Los Angeles, Josephine created a maze of challenges for her future biographers, all of which Kirschner handles skillfully. Even with all of the rootless couple’s many adventures to recount, nearly half the book is an untangling of the drama that began just a few years before Wyatt’s death in 1929 and continued through the rest of Josephine’s life and into the next century.
With vividness and certainty, Kirschner lays her story to rest at last.  Tragedy, adventure, romance and scholarly investigation come together like pioneers to a boomtown, with something for Earp worshipers and casual readers alike.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS