“Westward the Women” is a rare look at the female pioneers of the American West. A wagon train of potential brides is headed for a ranching town out west, where they will meet the men they are supposed to marry – meet them for the first time.
140 women – and 16 men – set off from Chicago and across the country, learning to kill their own food, drive horse teams, repair broken covered wagons, and bury the ones who don’t survive the trip.
Heavy on the drama, and also inspiring, “Westward the Women” is one that TCM shows next-to-never, so you really don’t want to miss this one. It’s a lesser known gem, to use an already-overused-but-entirely-appropriate phrase.
And while the specific wagon train in the movie is fictitious, the heritage of America’s female pioneers is very real. When we lived in Oklahoma, I had a job researching land ownership, all the way before statehood, to the Land Run. It wasn’t uncommon to find a deed for a quarter-section or part of a quarter-section with a woman’s name on it, or even two women. See, back then, the law was that each individual could own up to parcel of land, male or female. But if you were a married couple, you could only own one parcel between you. So plenty of single women stayed single to stay landowners, and several wound up bunking together for company and safety. There were also a fair number of cohabitating couples back then, since marriage meant giving up your property rights.
Your mini history lesson there, to the best of my baby-eaten-brain recollection. Don’t cite me.
Anyway, I love this movie for lots of reasons. The cast, while not made up of household names (except Robert Taylor, who leads the train) is a strong one and carries the weight of the story very well. It’s not one you want to watch every week, but every time it comes on, I absolutely have to catch it.
“Westward the Women” will be on Thursday, January 16, at 5:00 pm CST
Little Women (1949) - Wednesday, January 15, 5:15 am CST
The Canterville Ghost (1944) – Wednesday, January 15, 3:00 pm CST
The Talk of the Town (1942) – Wednesday, January 15, 7:00 pm CST
12 Angry Men (1957) – Wednesday, January 15, 1:30 am CST (Wednesday night)
Annie Oakley (1935) – Thursday, January 16, 2:00 pm CST
The Women (1939) – Thursday, January 16, 7:00 pm CST
The Spirit of St. Louis (1957) – Friday, January 17, 7:00 pm CST
The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Saturday, January 18, 3:15 pm CST
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) – Saturday January 18, 5:15 pm CST
Lover Come Back (1961) – Sunday, January 19, 3:00 pm CST
Adam’s Rib (1949) – Sunday, January 19, 5:00 pm CST
The Trouble With Angels (1966) – Sunday, January 19, 7:00 pm CST
Where Angels Go…Trouble Follows (1968) – Sunday, January 19, 9:00 pm CST