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Josephine Frances James: The Life and Legacy of Jesse E. James’ Daughter

Josephine Frances James was the daughter of the notorious outlaw, Jesse E. James. Born in 1902, she lived a life that was overshadowed by her father’s legacy of crime. Despite this, she made a name for herself and left a mark on history that is worth exploring.

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Early Life:

Josephine was born on April 20, 1902, in Clay County, Missouri. Her mother was Zerelda James, Jesse’s second wife. Jesse had been killed by Bob Ford in 1882, leaving Zerelda to raise their two children alone. Josephine was just an infant when her father died, and she grew up hearing stories about his infamous exploits.

Growing Up:

Josephine had a difficult childhood. She was constantly reminded of her father’s legacy of crime and violence, and this made it hard for her to make friends. She was often teased and ostracized by her peers, and this led to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

In an effort to escape her father’s shadow, Josephine changed her name to Jesse James Jr. She also became a horse enthusiast and trained as a jockey. She competed in several horse races and won several awards.

Adult Life:

As an adult, Josephine became a successful businesswoman. She owned several gas stations and trucking companies and was known for her shrewd business sense. She also wrote a book about her father, titled Jesse James, My Father, which was published in 1951.

Josephine never married or had children. She died on March 31, 1964, at the age of 61.


Josephine’s legacy is often overlooked because of her father’s notoriety. However, she was a trailblazer in her own right. She defied societal norms by becoming a successful businesswoman and pursuing her passion for horse racing. Her book about her father also sheds light on the man behind the myth.

Childhood and Family Life:

Josephine Frances James was the second child and only daughter of Jesse E. James and his second wife, Zerelda Mimms. Jesse E. James was a notorious outlaw who was part of the James-Younger Gang, a group of robbers who terrorized the Midwest in the late 19th century. Josephine’s childhood was marked by her father’s violent death when she was just an infant. She was raised by her mother and older brother, Jesse Jr.

Education and Early Adulthood:

Josephine was educated in local schools and later attended the University of Missouri. She dropped out of college after just one year and started working odd jobs to support herself. She later moved to California, where she pursued her passion for horse racing and became a successful jockey.

Business Career:

In the 1930s, Josephine returned to Missouri and started her own business. She opened several gas stations and trucking companies and became known for her savvy business skills. She was one of the first women in Missouri to own and operate a gas station.


Josephine Frances James wrote a book about her father titled “Jesse James, My Father” which was published in 1951. The book provided insight into the personal life of her father, who was often portrayed as a ruthless outlaw. It was well-received by critics and helped to change the public’s perception of Jesse James.

Death and Legacy:

Josephine Frances James died on March 31, 1964, in Kansas City, Missouri, at the age of 61. She never married or had children. Her legacy lives on through her book about her father and her contributions to the business community in Missouri. Josephine Frances James is an example of a woman who was able to succeed in a male-dominated field and overcome the challenges of her family’s history.


Josephine Frances James lived a life that was defined by her father’s legacy of crime. Despite this, she was able to carve out a successful career for herself and leave a mark on history. Her story is a reminder that we should not judge people based on their family history but rather on their own accomplishments and character.

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