True Women (1997)
Director: Karen Arthur.
Starring: Dana Delany (Sarah McClure), Annabeth Gish (Euphemia Ashby), Angelina Jolie (Georgia Virginia Lawshe Woods), Tina Majorino (Young Euphemia Ashby), Rachael Leigh Cook (Georgia Lawshe), Michael York (Lewis Lawshe), Jeffrey Nordling (Dr. Peter Woods), Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Martha), Tony Todd (Ed Tom), Julie Carmen (Cherokee Lawshe), Matthew Glave (William King), Terrence Mann (Captain Haller), John Schneider (Sam Houston), Michael Greyeyes (Tarantula), Anne Tremko (Matilda Lockhart).
lives of three women through the Texas Rebellion ,Comanche raids, the Civil War, Reconstruction and beyond
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
1835. Two girls, Euphemia Ashby and Georgia Virginia Lawshe, are playing outside on the Lawshe Plantation in Georgia. A messenger comes riding hard and passes the girls, who both run home to see what's going on. Pheme's father had a heart attack and died coming to pick his daughter up. Pheme will be taken to Texas to be with relatives. In fact, she will be staying with her sister Mrs. Sarah McClure. Her brother-in-law Bartlett is coming to get her. Pheme says she's not leaving Georgia.
Bartlett arrives to speak with a reluctant Pheme. He says that Sarah, their boy Travis and he want her to come live with them. They are looking forward to it. A very upset Georgia says goodbye to a very upset Pheme. They say they will keep in touch with each other.
1835. Peach Creek, Texas (in Millican, near College Station, northeast of Austin and northwest of Houston). Pheme and Bartlett arrive at the McClure home. Sarah and Travis come out to greet Pheme. It will take Pheme awhile to adjust to her new surroundings. A message arrives that Santa Anna is headed for San Antonio, Texas with 4,000 soldiers. At that time Texas was a part of Mexico. The Texas Rangers are bound to be called up and Bartlett is a Texas Ranger.
Pheme writes a letter to Georgia. She says that Texas isn't even a state yet.
A bunch or horsemen come riding up to the McClure ranch. The leader of the group is General Sam Houston. He tells the McClures that the Alamo in San Antonio was under constant siege by Santa Anna and his Mexicans. He has recently learned that the Alamo has fallen and everyone is side was killed. Houston adds that "the terrible slaughter of the Alamo must be avenged." Another rider arrives and tells everyone that Santa Anna has set fire to Gonzales, Texas, northwest of San Antonio. Houston says the local women must be evacuated. He puts the pregnant Sarah McClure in charge of this important task. They are to evacuate to Louisiana. Houston and his men leave.
Bartlett has to leave to fight the Mexicans. Sarah tells him to make sure he comes back. Pheme seconds the idea. Bartlett smiles and leaves.
The women come together with their wagons and horses to start the evacuation. They move out with Sarah barking orders. Other women and other groups of women keep joining the wagon train. They make camp for the night. A report comes in that Santa Anna is close by. Sarah gives the order that the women are to abandon everything they don't really need. As this order is carried out a group of bad men descend on the wagon train. Some start grabbing women, while other start burning the wagons. One of the men says that he knows they are hiding gold in here. The women are armed and they grab their weapons. They kill quite a few of the men and the rest quickly retreat. Sarah checks on Pheme and her infant son. The baby is crying and Pheme is very shaken. To cheer Pheme up, Sarah show her a drawing of her dream house that she wants to build one day in Texas.
A very badly wounded soldier has made it to the wagon train. He is saying repeatedly that they are dead -- at Goliad (southeast of San Antonio and north of Corpus Christi). Fannin was trying to hook up with Houston, but the Mexicans cut him off. They executed all of them. Listening to this frightening report, a woman panics and starts screaming: "We're all going to die." Sarah tries to calm her without success. Sarah finally slaps her saying that she will not let the woman spread fear among these brave women.
Pheme talks with Sarah about their mother. She says she thinks that mom died when she (Pheme) was born. Pheme adds that God killed papa too. This upsets her. Sarah tells her not to be mad at God.
The women are going to be heading over the Brazos River (that goes from west of Fort Worth, southeast through Waco, just west of Bryan and into the Gulf of Mexico). They build a raft. The eight-months pregnant Sarah overworks herself and goes down. The baby is coming. To make things worse her son Johnny is sick. Sarah's baby is stillborn. Johnny also dies. Now Sarah has to bury to very young children.
The raft is set up and a pull rope is taken to the other side of the Brazos River by one of the horsewomen. The raft is used to take everyone to the other side. On the other side of the river Pheme write another letter to Georgia.
Near the San Jacinto River Houston attacks the Mexicans. The women can hear the cannon booming down below them. There are shouts of "Remember the Alamo!" The Texicans score a victory with only two killed. Bartlett returns to Sarah and Pheme. They now are going back home to Peach Creek.
Back in Georgia, Georgia Virginia speaks up for the Indians. Some Georgians call her a "squaw baby" because her mother, named Cherokee, is half-Indian and has darker skin than the whites. Georgia is hurt by the prejudice at her. She goes to visit and Indian woman named Tobe who lives with a black man named Josiah. Josiah tells Georgia that her granddad was a great man. Georgia says her mother is an Indian, but she doesn't know anything about her grandmother. Josiah tells Tobe that she should go because with all the anti-Indian activity it is not safe for her to stay with Josiah.
Georgia wants to move. Her father says that they might move to Texas. This is just wonderful with Georgia, but mom doesn't want to leave. She wants to stay in Georgia where her roots are.
And edict expels the Creek Indians from Georgia. Their homes are being burned by the whites. Cherokee still won't leave. She says if they start running now they will never stop running. At night their barn is burned down. On one of the wall of the barn there was a written message: "No dog, pig or Indian". Georgia gets so upset that she cuts her hair short. When her mother sees her long hair gone she tells Georgia that it is time she told her about her ethnic background. Cherokee's mother was an Indian woman. She smiles and says that when she looks at Pheme she sees her own mother. Cherokee's father was a white military man.
Georgia walks over to Josiah's place. She sees three rednecks approaching the house. She hides herself because she fears something bad is going to happen. And something bad indeed happens. They shoot Josiah and grab Tobe in the cabin and throw her outside. Then they throw a rope over a tree limb and hang Tobe. Josiah is still alive and gets up. He snaps the neck of one of the rednecks then he shoots the other two. He grabs the dead Tobe and cries. Josiah shoots himself in the head. Georgia runs for home. Along the way she runs into soldiers pushing Creek and Cherokee Indians to Fort Hawkin. The Indians look so sad about being forcefully moved.
In Texas Sarah tells Bartlett that Pheme hardly ever smiles anymore. Bartlett has to leave again to fight the Comanches raiding and killing Texas settlers. Pheme writes to Georgia saying she can't come to visit her now because of the Comanche threat. One day Pheme rides with Sarah to check out their land. They stop and talk for awhile near a stream. Suddenly Sarah realizes that there are Comanches just below them near the stream. The Comanches don't see them yet. Sarah tells Pheme to travel south back to the ranch house. After Pheme is gone, Sarah yells at the Comanches. The Indians jump on their ponies and give chase. Sarah knows that the Indian ponies will never be able to jump a draw and she heads for it. At the draw she stops to investigate her landing place. She starts back a little ways to giver her horse running room. As the Comanches near her, she and her horse jump the draw. The Indians stop to just look at her, as she turns her horse around so she can look at the Comanches. The Indians seem impressed by her jump. The Indian leader wearing a black stove-pipe hat really stares at her. Sarah gives a slight tilt to her head to acknowledge the Comanchees, turns her horse around and leaves.
Seven years later. Peach Creek, Texas. There is a party at the new McClure house. Pheme and her best friend Mattie are talking about boys. Pheme says she wants William King even though she has never really talked to him. The men at the party talk about the Comanche Tarantula who likes to wear a stove-pipe hat. Everyone goes inside at dark and the dancing starts. Tarantula comes to the ranch to look at Sarah again. Sarah comes outside while Tarantula is just behind a nearby tree. Another woman comes out and tells Sarah to rejoin the party. They go in. Tarantula leaves. Pheme dances with William King. After the dance William just moves on, upsetting Pheme.
One day Indians comes to the house. Tarantula grabs Sarah and tells her that he wants her to come with him. Because of the draw jumping, he calls Sarah the woman who can make horses fly.
Lawshe Plantation, Georgia. Georgia goes to visit Josiah's abandoned home. She remembers the hanging of Tobe and cries.
Vultures flay around up in the sky. It probably indicates that settlers have been killed. Bartlett checks out the Lockhart place. All are dead, except Mattie. Bartlett has to tell Pheme that the Comanches must still have her best friend Mattie.
Lawshe Plantation, Georgia. Cherokee is crying. Her brother just died. In his will he transferred his "best people" (in other words, his slaves) to the Lawshe Plantation. When the slaves arrive Georgia looks at one of the young ladies and see features of her uncle. She guesses that this Martha must be her cousin. Georgia treats Martha better than she would treat any slave, but Martha keeps reminding her that she herself is still a slave. Georgia asks if Martha is her cousin or a slave? Martha says both. This starts a pattern of critical remarks between the two women. One day Georgia has had enough of Martha's smart remarks and tells her that she might try being friendly for once.
In Texas Pheme is given a Christmas present of a beautiful white horse. Sarah has a new son named Jonah. The family still prays for Mattie's return. The black Tildy eats with them. One day Travis decides to tell the family that he doesn't want a nigger to eat with them. This upsets Pheme who likes Tildy. She tells Travis that Tildy is eating with them. Sarah backs up Pheme. Travis is disgusted. Pheme writes something on a paper, which she asks Tildy to sign. Pheme says this paper, which she signs too, makes Tildy her "unofficial" sister.
In Georgia there is a party at the Lawshe Plantation. Some hunting dogs get loose and the virtually run Georgia down. She falls on the grass of the lawn. A man rushes over to help her up. Georgia looks at him as though she has been "stupified". The fellow is the young doctor Peter Woods who lives in Springdale. Georgia gets tongue-tied and it is hard for her to speak a coherent sentence. Peter is tickled at this and asks her to go to a county fair with him. She agrees.
At night when Georgia is taking a bath with Martha in attendance, she kicks the bath water in disgust because of terrible performance in front of Peter. Martha is curious about what this might lead to, but Georgia says it will never work. They are just too different. And Georgia is only half his age. Martha says that doesn't matter.
Bartlett at home in Peach Creek tries to convince Sarah that she must go to Gonzales for her own safety. There are some one thousand Comanche on the warpath in the Texas Hill country. He asks why can't she go? Travis has already gone. Sarah refuses. She also does not kiss her husband goodbye, but just walks back into the house. Bartlett says goodbye to Pheme.
At night the women have to work to make sure all their weapons work and are clean. Pheme scolds Sarah for not saying goodbye to Bartlett. Sarah says she knows that Pheme is right. Pheme wants to go out to the barn to check to see if her white horse Saracen is okay. Sarah forbids this, saying it is too dangerous because of the Comanches. When Sarah goes into another room in the house, Pheme is going to sneak out. But Tildy says she will go in her place to check on Saracen. They look around the outside area and with a rifle Tildy heads over to the barn.
When Sarah comes back she wants to know where Tildy is. Pheme is hesitant about telling Sarah that she let Tildy go to the barn, but Sarah gets her answer when she hears Tildy screaming. She is a captive of the Indians. Tarantuala is not with this raiding party. The Comaches put a rope around Tildy's wrists and throw the rope over a tree limb. They then lift her off the ground and Tildy secreams in pain. Pheme is so upset that she let Tildy go out to the barn, but Sarah stops her from saying anything more about lit by firmly saying: "It's done." After awhile, Sarah makes the decision to take a weapon and go outside to get Tildy back. She tells Pheme that if she is captured, Pheme is to shoot her dead, then Tildy, then the baby and then herself. Sarah goes outside and his shot in the thigh with an arrow. Down she goes. She is dragged over near Tildy to have her hands tied and hoisted off the ground.
1842 Peach Creek, Texas. Tarantula arrives and he immediately stops what's going on. Pheme is ready to shoot him, but she holds her fire. Tarantula looks at her wound and removes the arrow from her thigh. He then bandages the wound. In very broken English he tells that she will walk again, but not very well. Then he indicates to his warriors that they are leaving. Before he leaves he goes over to Pheme to tell her she is a brave "squaw child". He give her the ornament from around his neck. The Comanches leave.
At the Lawshe Plantation a dance is being held. Georgia dances with Peter. She says she has something to tell him, but Peter says he already knows. In a round about way he lets her know that he knows that she is one-quarter Indian. He tells her that he's going out to Texas where doctors are greatly needed. Very enthused, Georgia asks if Peter will marry her. He says yes, he will. With he couple go some of the slaves, including Martha.
In Texas Bartlett comes back home. He tells everyone that Mattie's still alive. The Comanches are making a peace treaty with the whites and they will release their kidnapped women. On the day the peace treaty is about to be signed, the whole family is down there to greet Mattie, who has no family anymore. It takes awhile before they spot Mattie. Her left profile looks normal, but when she turns her head her right profile makes her look like a monster. It is so horrible to Pheme that she turns and starts to run away. Sarah stops her. They warmly greet Mattie. While they are talking, a shot is heard and then many more shots. Something bad has happened and the Indians are running for the horses, some of them being shot dead. Bartlett tells the women that the Comanches did not release all their white women, a dispute arose and it went to gunfire.
Mattie goes home with the McClures. At night she cries in her bed. Pheme comes into her room and tries to comfort her. Mattie tells Pheme that her time with the Comanches was so awful. They delighted in torturing her. On the bed the two young women hug each other. Sarah talks with Bartlett who tells her that they have asked him to be a judge on the riding circuit. He says he doesn't want the work, but Sarah tells him oh, yes he does. Not many days later Bartlett takes off to work on his new job.
Bartlett is still gone on the expected day of arrival. Sarah and Pheme ride their horse to see if they might find Bartlett. They suddenly come across Bartlett's horse by a stream. The horse appears to have been snake bitten in the ankle. They look around but don't see Bartlett. Sarah starts walking along the stream. Sarah suddenly sees the dead body of her husband. His body and head is flat on a huge rock. It's rather obvious that the horse got bit, it got scared, reared up and threw off Bartlett who then hit is head on the rock. A funeral is held for Bartlett.
Sarah now decides to send Pheme to school in Gonzales. Pheme strenuously objects saying that Sarah will need her help. Sarah says she doesn't need Pheme and, besides, she needs to be by herself for awhile. Pheme keeps coming back with reasons not to go. Sarah gets so frustrated that she slaps Pheme across the face saying: "You don't want to be around me. Now get on your horse and go. " Pheme gets on her horse. Before leaving she says that she forgives Sarah for slapping her.
In Gonzales there is an outbreak of cholera. Pheme rides her horse through the main street of town. On the same road coming from the other direction is Georgia and Peter in their coach. Georgia sees Pheme and does a double take. She thinks that young woman look so familiar, but she can't quite place the face.
Peter and Georgia with their slaves set up camp on their new land. Peter says that he has to go into town to help with the cholera outbreak. Nine people have already died. Georgia is shocked that he will leave her behind to help watch the camp. She tries to make him take her, but her takes off.
In the night Georgia hears the screams of a woman. She rushes over to the tent from which the noise is coming. She see the slave Nellie trying to give birth. Georgia watches as the poor woman struggles to give birth. Her situation becomes dangerous and then Nellie dies. This scares the hell out of Georgia who has lived a very sheltered life. One day she tells Peter that she wants to go back to Georgia. Peter tells her that this is now their home. Georgia then blurts out that she doesn't want to have children. Peter says that he does want children. He then says: "I'm sorry you saw that woman die."
In the large tent Georgia hangs up a painting of an Indian woman. Out swimming one day, Georgia bumps into a dead man's body. She screams. Peter tells her it's another cholera victim. He says they will go back to Georgia. But now it's Georgia who tells her husband that she doesn't want to go back. Her cotton crops will be coming up for harvesting. She tells him to at least wait for the harvest.
Pheme writes a letter to Sarah. Sarah reads that Pheme is going to writer her own history of Texas stressing the sacrifices of such women as Sarah McClure. Pheme wrote: "I need you, Sarah. You can make horses fly." Sarah visits the grave of her late husband and talks to him. She says it is time to stop her mourning and get back to work. She dedicates herself to her future life.
Pheme rides like the wind headed home to Peach Creek Inn. Sarah is very happy to see her when Pheme arrives.
Pheme goes to see Georgia, who is shocked to see her. Georgia introduces her cousin Martha to Pheme. She asks Pheme if she ever got her letter about the Trail of Tears and Pheme says she didn't. Pheme says those long summers back in Georgia are some of her fondest memories. But then Pheme gets upset when she learns that Georgia owns many slaves. She leaves saying that she just can't tolerate slavery. Georgia can't believe she is leaving.
Georgia goes to talk to her slave Ed Tom. She relies on him a great deal. Ed Tom tells her that she is very kind to her slaves. Georgia tells him that she would never sell him.
Pheme tells Sarah that Georgia owns people. Sarah urges her to still maintain a relationship with Georgia because love matters.
Georgia gives birth to a child. Then Martha starts giving birth to her child. The cotton crop is harvested and Georgia relies on Ed Tom to take the cotton and sell it.
At Peach Creek Inn there is square dancing. Pheme dances with William King. Now William likes Pheme. The next day they go out for a long walk. Pheme says she's going to run a horse farm. She already has the land.
Georgia's young child develops a high fever. Peter says the baby has cholera. Peter goes to sleep. During the night, he is awakes to the sound of Georgia crying. The baby has died. Georgia runs through the cotton fields screaming. Peter has to run to catch her and bring her back.
Ed Tom returns and brings around $4,500 dollars with him for Georgia from the sale of the cotton.
Time passes and both Georgia and Pheme have four children.
Pheme wants to free Tildy. She and Sarah go to see a lawyer about it, but he explains to Pheme that this move could ruin her husband. People might think he is an abolitionist. Pheme gets angry about this and leaves. On their way out they meet Georgia. Pheme introduces her to Sarah. Georgia and her husband have now moved from outside of Sequin to San Marco. Pheme and Sarah are going to listen to Sam Houston speak and wonders if Georgia would like to accompany them. Georgia tells them that she does not like Sam Houston (who opposes slavery and secession). Georgia and Pheme get into an argument and Pheme refers to Georgia and her husband as cotton rats.
The Civil War begins. Sarah says: "Damn it! Another war." Sarah has to say goodbye to her youngest son Joel and Pheme has to say goodbye to her husband William. At the cotton plantation, Georgia has to say goodbye to Peter. The women work together to make bullets for the war. Sarah and Pheme work with the women. One day Georgia comes in to join the women. Pheme and Sarah greet her and introduce Georgia to the other women. Georgia soon tires of the work and talks about the insanity of the war. Here they make bullets to kill Yankees, while up north the women are making bullets to kill Rebs. It just doesn't make any sense to her.
Sarah tells Pheme that she likes Georgia. She then says that Pheme needs her. Pheme is shocked at this statement. Sarah explains she needs Georgia for the war that's coming -- the war for the vote for women. She says Georgia is a natural speaker.
Pheme comes to visit Georgia. She tells Georgia that women need the vote and she hopes that Georgia will help them get it. Georgia says that she really does not have an interest in the matter. She also mentions that she thought Pheme might be coming to renew the friendship between them.
Pheme shouts to Sarah that someone's coming. Joel is being brought home. One of the men explains that Joel was wounded at the Battle of Shelbyville. Sarah is very happy to see him again. Not that much later, Sarah tells Pheme that Joel is dead.
Georgia comes outside to speak to her slaves. She tells them the war is over. And now as of June 9, 1865 the Emancipation Proclamation becomes the law. They are now free. Georgia says that if they go, she wants to thank them for taking care of her and her family.
Ed Tom and Martha tell Georgia that they are staying. Georgia seems very relieved and happy. She even cries. Martha tells Georgia that she loves her. Georgia tells her that she loves her too.
Peter finally comes home. He looks very pale. One his his girls, Little Sweet, is now quite big. William King also comes home much to the delight of Pheme.
When Peter's health is restored, he tells his wife that he has been asked to come to Austin, Texas to help draft a new state constitution for Texas. Georgia asks him not to leave her again.
While Peter is gone, a group of Yankees come to the house. The Yankee Captain tells Georgia that she will have to go stay in the slave quarters because the house is being taken to house Northern officers. The Captain starts taking an interest in Cherokee, Georgia's 18 year old daughter. One day Little Sweet takes a shot at the Captain. The Yankees rush the house. Later the Captain tells Georgia that Little Sweet could be charged with attempted murder since the war is now over. He then tells Georgia that if she uses her influence on Cherokee to get her into his bed, he will not press any charges against Little Sweet. When Georgia starts to tell him off, the officer tries to rape her. He kisses Georgia for a long time. Georgia is able to get away from him, because the Captain starts coughing so hard that he can't hold her down. He starts spitting up blood as he coughs.
Cherokee starts being nice to the Captain. She asks him to promise not to hurt her sister. She takes the Captain into the barn and the Captain tries to kiss her. Then he hears a noise and looks around. He asks why the horses are saddled? Georgia and Ed Tom approach the Captain with pistols in their hands. Georgia shoots the Captain in the back. He grabs Cherokee to shield himself, but Georgia comes right up to him and shoots him again. The captain dies. Ed Tom and Georgia bury the man hear the river. Georgia is shaken by the event and Ed Tom helps to console her.
Pheme comes to Georgia bringing her food. The two friends take a walk together. Georgia tells her about the incident with the randy officer. Pheme asks if the Captain is still around and Georgia says the man just disappeared. Pheme says she is still working for the women's vote. They have a petition out for the vote. In Austin the women are there to hear what happens to their petition. A Texas politician says that the petition for female suffrage is really an insult to their sex. No decent woman wants to admit that she is so unwomanly as to want the privilege to vote. The petition is rejected. Georgia speaks up refuting some of the statements made about women by the speaker. The politician tells her that she is out of order and place. He says: "We will hear no more from you."
Georgia's barn in burned down. She and Pheme see painted on the barn the three words: "Women No Vote."
Georgia is now coughing up blood like the Yankee captain once did.
Pheme speaks with Georgia about the Indians. She says that when she saw what the Indians did to her best friend Mattie, she hated all Indians. Now she knows that this was wrong. It's her way of apologizing to Georgia for not writing for a long while to Georgia when Pheme learned Georgia was one-quarter Indian.
Georgia is on her death bed. Her family, Pheme and others are there to say goodbye. She dies.
The Real Wild West Show comes into town. As the performers walk down the street, Pheme on her horse recognizes that one of the Indians is none other than Tarantula. She gets off her horse and goes to speak to Tarantula. He recognizes her and smiles. Suddenly she just decides to give her horse to Tarantula. Tarantula gets on the horse and tips his hat to Pheme. The towns people look at her with disgust. Pheme gets mad and says: "You see I have given him my horse!"
Pheme and Sarah are much older women now. Sarah says that they endured; they kept the devil at bay; and that's enough for two old Texas women.
Interesting attempt to show the history of Texas from the viewpoint of the contribution of Texas women to that history. One of the more interesting contributions of Sarah was that she led the women and children on a trip to safety in Louisiana during the Texas War of Independence. They didn't have to go all the way to Louisiana because the war suddenly ended. These Texas women run ranches and plantations and use weapons to fight outlaws and the Comanche. Later they work on the home front making bullets for the southern troops. When the Civil War ends they work even harder for the right for women to vote.
There is too much history and too little time in the film to do it justice. The period from the Civil War to Reconstruction and beyond goes by so fast as almost to be a joke. One minute the women are still young looking and then suddenly one has all gray hair and the other some gray hairs. Gone with the Wind is a long film but at least it only deals with the Civil War and a bit of Reconstruction. This film does that and adds the story of the Texas War of Liberation, statehood for Texas and the struggle against the Comanche. It's just too much.
And another thing. How can one person be so prejudiced toward the native Americans and yet be so outspoken in her support for the abolition of slavery to aid the blacks? I don't think I have ever met such a person: a person from the more fortunate group who is prejudiced against one minority but is a civil rights activist for another. Most tolerant people are tolerant to all or almost all of the minorities.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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