The Day of the Outlaw recognizes the changing role of women during the late 1950s. In this film, a dispute between ranchers and cowboys is interrupted when a foreign threat, a group of outlaws rolls through town seeking a place to stay for a bit. The ranchers and cowboys unite together to make sure the outlaws cause as little damage to their town and women as possible, which, during this period, symbolizes the uniting of all Americans against the Communist threat during the Cold War.
The leader of the band of outlaws is an ex-army officer by the name of Jack Bruhn. Bruhn wants as little trouble as possible to come to the members of the town and thus tell the town members to hide the alcohol and that his men will not bother the towns women. While the women of the town stick up to some of the devious outlaws and are respected, they still require the protection of the town men and even Jack Bruhn.
While the women in the film are more independent than women of the past, they are still powerless against the will of the outlaws and the men of the town. They do as they are told and respect the men. In this film, one woman in particular sticks out as a strong woman. Helen defends her marriage and is a key player in the effort to resolve the issue between the ranchers and the cowboys. However, in the end the alpha male cowboy Starrett must take responsibility to save the town from the outlaws. He sacrifices himself and leads the outlaws down a harsh path in an attempt to have the outlaws kill each other off. In the face of true adversity, the alpha male is still called upon to make things right. While women in the 1950s were fighting for civil rights, the men still dominated society.