Rooster Cogburn, High Noon, and The Ballad of Little Jo have all share the more dominant role of strong women. Although they have some similarities, the different time periods in which the movies were made reveal the changing roles of women.
High Noon, made in 1952, starts the journey to the alteration of women’s roles. Amy Kane just got married to Marshall Will Kane. When Amy discovers that her husband decided to stay in town to permanently get rid of the town tyrant, she leaves. Will thought it was best for her to not be there when anything happens; he states "I know it’s against your religion and all." Amy knows that there is a chance that her husband could die and she doesn’t want to wait around until she becomes a widow. Amy runs into woman named Helen Ramirez. It is apparent that Helen is a strong woman when she decides to leave town after her secret relationship is revealed. Helen runs into Amy, and Amy tells her the reason why she is leaving town. Helen tells Amy that she should be there for her husband, even if she doesn’t agree with his tactics. Amy takes Helen’s advice and goes back to her husband. Ironically, Amy ends up saving Will’s life by killing the town tyrant. Both Amy and Helen’s roles show how it is important to be there for your husband even if you don’t agree with him. But, in a way, it also shows that what a woman says or thinks is not as important as what a man says or thinks; men and women are not equal in that aspect. Tompkins argues this is because “For a man to speak of his inner feelings not only admits parity with the person he is talking to, but it jeopardizes his status as potent being…” (p. 60).
Rooster Cogburn, made in 1975, portrays women in a stronger light. Eula Goodnight is a very outspoken woman. When the dandy’s were trying to scare Goodnight and her father, she continued to say a Bible verse aloud, even though the villain told her to be quiet. Goodnight constantly stood up for what she believed in. Goodnight’s character shows how women have changed since the Civil Rights Movement. Tompkins says that “women feel ashamed of their need to talk” (p. 61) which is no longer the case in this movie. Women, in the past, were not allowed to go with the men on their journeys. Goodnight, however sets a new standard. Goodnight stays by Rooster Cogburn through his dangerous journey to the West. Goodnight also uses a gun and helps Cogburn trick the criminals at the end of the movie by telling them Cogburn was dead, when he wasn’t. Lastly, Goodnight speaks up for Cogburn in court, allowing him to be reinstated. It is clear that this movie was made after the Civil Rights Movement because of this sudden change in women’s roles in the West.
The Ballad of Little Jo, made in 1993, demonstrates the most change in the role of women in the West. Josephine is the strongest woman character out of all three movies. Josephine takes care of the livestock, learns how to use a gun, and minds for gold; these tasks are usually associated with men. Usually men are viewed as loners who live on their own. Tompkins quotes Octavio Paz “…definition of macho as a ‘hermetic being, closed up in himself’” (p. 56). Tompkins goes on to say “The male, by remaining ‘hermetic,’ ‘closed up,’ maintains the integrity of the boundary that divides him from the world” (p. 56). In this film, however Tinman moves in with Josephine. Tinman tends to household activities such as cooking and cleaning, which is typically the woman’s job. During this period, women were able to have the same jobs as men and were not only viewed as domestic beings. This film showed this dramatic change in women’s roles in not only the West, but also in society.