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This documentary with dramatized footage focuses on five women who succeeded in carving a place for themselves out of the American West. Narration is accompanied by vintage photographs, stock film footage, and dramatized segments taken from the writings of the women portrayed. The first segment tells the story of Sarah Winnemucca, the granddaughter of a Paiute Indian chief who was raised in a white household in Nevada and became a well-known activist, working hard to secure rights for her people. Winnemucca's work is described, including her efforts to restore her people's lost homeland to them. The second segment focuses on former slave Clara Brown. Incidents related include her gaining her freedom, her move to Denver, and her search for her lost family. The third segment highlights Mexican-born Teresa Urrea, whom many people came to consider a saint. After experiencing a seizure as a young woman and remaining in a trance for several months, Urrea developed an ability to heal the sick. The political situation in Mexico at this time was dire, viewers learn. Teresa was forced to leave, moving to El Paso with her father and then to Clifton, Arizona. After a failed marriage, Urrea began performing "miracles" for live audiences, married her translator, and lived in Clifton with her two daughters before dying of tuberculosis in 1906. The fourth segment features Chinese-born Mary Bong. Bong ran away from her family in China as a young girl, making her way independently to North America and marrying a Canadian. She worked as a midwife and moved with her husband to Alaska, where she got along very well with the Native Americans and gave birth to two daughters. After her husband died, she remarried and carried out tasks not traditionally undertaken by women, such as hunting and fishing. The fourth segment focuses on Laura Evans, who took her baby and moved to Denver alone, working there as a prostitute before moving to the silver town of Leadville. When the value of silver plummeted, Evans left for Salida and became "the last of the red-light queens." She opened a parlor house and made her own way in a time when it wasn't easy to do so, especially for a woman, the program explains.

Cataloging of this program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 2000.


  • DATE: May 12, 1995 Friday 10:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:26:39
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:38440
  • GENRE: Public affairs/Documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: West (U.S.) - History; Women - History
  • SERIES RUN: PBS/Maryland Public Television - TV, 1995


  • Mirra Bank … Producer, Director
  • Richard Brockman … Co-Producer
  • Michelle Harrison … Associate Producer
  • Margaret Johnson … Research, Photo Research
  • Linda Lilienfeld … Research, Photo Research
  • Bob Summers … Research, Film Research
  • John Crowley … Writer
  • Richard Einhorn … Music by
  • Blair Brown … Narrator
  • Tantoo Cardinal … Cast, Sarah Winnemucca
  • Esther Rolle … Cast, Clara Brown
  • Angela Alvarado … Cast, Teresa Urrea
  • Bai Ling … Cast, Mary Bong
  • Cloris Leachman … Cast, Laura Evans
  • John Hosking … Cast, Reporter
  • Mauro Jaramillo … Cast, Lupe Rodriguez
  • Robert Cimorelli … Cast, Sick Boy
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