The middle child of three, Josie and her family
moved to San Francisco when she was young. Her baker-father, Henry,
and her mother, Sophia, were both Jewish immigrants from Prussia;
it is not known when they arrived in the United States. The Marcus
household also included siblings Nathan (born about 1857) and Henrietta
(born about 1863). Marcus wanted to become an actress and at the
age of eighteen, Josie and friend Dora Hirsh ran away to join a
theatrical company, where the two girls were hired as dancers.[citation
As members of Paulina Markham's traveling theater
company, Marcus and Hirsh travelled all over the wild west, including
Arizona Territory. Records show that the Markham troupe reached
Tombstone in December of 1879, after which they headed north to
Johnny Behan and Tombstone, Arizona
While on their way to Prescott, Josie met Johnny
Behan, then a Yavapai County sheriff's deputy. At the time of the
troupe's trek to Prescott, Behan was travelling the same route,
following the trails of three fugitive robbers. Marcus caused quite
a stir in Behan's heart, and he left the pursuit in order to spend
time getting to know the woman with whom he had fallen in love.[citation
needed] Soon after arriving in Prescott, however, Marcus became
homesick and returned to San Francisco.
Johnny Behan followed her, in order to ask her to
marry him. Marcus declined, and he returned to Arizona Territory.
Marcus, however, soon changed her mind and returned to Tombstone,
where she lived with a lawyer for some time, while working as a
housekeeper for Behan and his ten year old son, Albert. This version
of her return has been disputed, as some believe that she was really
living with Behan all along after her return to Tombstone, while
other versions indicate she was working as a prostitute with the
lawyer acting as her pimp.
In the midst of their romantic relationship, Behan
continued to see other women, a fact known by most, including Marcus.
She wrote a letter to her father, who sent her $300 for a return
to San Francisco. Rather than leaving Tombstone, Marcus was instead
convinced by Behan to use the money to build a house for them. In
addition to using her father's money, Josie pawned a diamond ring
in order to complete the construction.
Relationship with Wyatt Earp
In 1881, Behan became involved in a serious romantic
relationship with another woman and Marcus then left him for good,
becoming enamored instead with Wyatt Earp. Behan suffered public
embarrassment because of this; in Tombstone, everyone thought that
Marcus and Behan were legally married. Her breakup with Behan and
her arrival into Wyatt's life were publicized by the Tombstone Epitaph,
a leading local newspaper. To add to the scandal, Earp was in a
common-law marriage with Mattie Blaylock since sometime in 1873.
It is reported that the two women had at least two verbal altercations
over the affair between Josie and Wyatt Earp..
Gunfight at the OK Corral
The embarrassment suffered by Behan was one of
many factors that may have contributed to the gunfight at the O.K.
Corral. Numerous other events between Wyatt Earp and Ike Clanton,
and others of the Clanton gang, actually sparked the gunfight; the
feud between Behan and Earp was little more than a side show. On
October 26, 1881, Josephine Marcus was at her home when she heard
the sound of gunfire. Taking a wagon in the direction of the shots,
Marcus, to her relief, saw Wyatt standing and uninjured.
By 1882, Josie Marcus had adopted the name of "Josephine
Earp", although no official record of their marriage exists.
Following what has been dubbed as the Earp vendetta ride, Josie
and Wyatt travelled through various western states hunting for gold
and silver. It is also said that they ran horse races in San Diego
as well as operating saloons in Idaho and Alaska.
Wyatt and Josephine became gamblers during this
period. She became friends with millionaire Lucky Baldwin, from
whom she received money in return for her jewelry. Eventually, Josephine
would give almost all of her jewelry to Baldwin in exchange for
Earp biographer, Stuart Lake, learned that Wyatt
and Josephine were hostile to each other during their relationship
when he went to collaborate with Wyatt on his autobiography. In
the course of writing the Earp biography, Lake learned some other
unsavory aspects of Josephine's life: the fact that she had worked
as a prostitute. Wyatt became critically ill in 1928 and died on
January 13, 1929. Before Wyatt's biography was released soon after
his death, Josephine traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, in an attempt
to convince the publisher to stop the release of the book.
Much later, in 1939, Josephine tried to stop 20th
Century Fox from making a film based on the book, Wyatt Earp: Frontier
Marshal. Under the condition that Wyatt's name be removed from the
title, the movie was later released, as Frontier Marshal.
In Los Angeles, Josephine became friends with many
celebrities, including Cecil B. DeMille and Gary Cooper. She received
part of the money made by Stuart Lake's book about her husband as
well as royalties from the movie Frontier Marshal. Josephine also
wrote her own book entitled I Married Wyatt Earp; The Memoirs of
Josephine Sarah Earp. She approached several publishers for the
book, but backed out several times due to their insistence that
she be completely open and forthcoming, rather than slanting her
memories to her favor. It was later printed, but many parts were
refuted as being fictional and inaccurate by Wyatt's sister-in-law,
Allie Earp, wife of Virgil. Ownership of the book, following Josephine's
death, eventually fell to Glenn Boyer, following his obtaining rights
from the relatives of Josephine Earp. 
Josephine Earp spent her last years in Los Angeles,
where she suffered from depression and other illnesses.[citation
needed] One of her few consolations toward the end of her life was
the correspondence she kept with Albert Behan, whom she had grown
to love as her own son.
Sarah Josephine Marcus died on December 20, 1944
in Los Angeles, California. Her body was cremated and buried next
to Wyatt's cremains in Colma, California in the Marcus family plot
at the Hills of Eternity Memorial Park cemetery.
Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp. I Married Wyatt Earp:
The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp; ed. Glenn W. Boyer;
University of Arizona Press, 1976. ISBN 0-8165-0583-7. This book
has come under criticism for supposedly having mostly come out of
the imagination of the editor. Boyer, however, is explicit about
the methodology he used, and the fact that he edited Josie Marcus'
own (two) intended autobiographical manuscripts using interviews
with family members and those who knew the Earps, letters, and other
documents. He footnotes the manuscript copiously and notes where
Josie is prevaricating or fabricating herself, letting her own words
stand. Thus, the book remains an invaluable Earp resource, and the
best historical treatment available on Josie Marcus and her life
and marriage to her controversial husband.