WESTWARD THE WOMEN is a 1951 western film directed by William A. Wellman and starring Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel and John McIntire. In 1851, Roy Whitman (John McIntire) decides to bring marriageable women west to California to join the lonely men of Whitman's Valley, hoping the couples will put down roots and settle there. Roy hires a skeptical, experienced wagon master, Buck Wyatt (Robert Taylor), to lead the wagon train along the California Trail. In Chicago, Roy recruits 138 "good women", after they have been warned of the journey's hardships and dangers by Buck, who flatly states up to a third of them might not survive the journey. The women range from Patience (Hope Emerson), an older widow from New Bedford seeking a new start after losing her sea captain husband and sons when their clipper went down while attempting to round Cape Horn, to Rose Meyers (Beverly Dennis), a pregnant, unmarried woman running from her shame. Telling the women about his valley, Roy encourages them to pick their prospective mates from daguerreotype pictures he has tacked to a display board. Two showgirls, Fifi Danon (Denise Darcel) and Laurie Smith (Julie Bishop), hastily change their flashy clothes when others like them are rejected, and return to try and sign on again. Whitman is not fooled by their disguise, but convinced their wish to reform is sincere he adds them to the group, bringing the number of women on the wagon train up to 140. pregnant of bride
The women perform heroically, persevering through hardships including a stampede and a wicked descent down a steep, rocky trail that kills one of them when an iron hook attached to the restraining lines straightens under load and sends the wagon plunging out of control. An Indian attack kills Roy, Sid, and six of the women. When a rainstorm causes flooding and undercuts the riverbank her wagon is parked on, Laurie is trapped inside and drowns. However, Fifi's bravery and determination begin to thaw Buck's attitude towards women in general and her in particular, and they fall in love.
On the edge of the desert, Buck orders the women to lighten the wagons, explaining how difficult the crossing will be. Reluctantly, the women leave everything from furniture to fancy clothing behind. As they proceed, Rose goes into labor and delivers a male baby. The train is nearly at the end of its tether when they come to a small lake that marks the border of Whitman's Valley and slake their desert thirst. Buck rides on ahead to inform the men of the valley that their brides are nigh.
Now that the survivors have finally reached their destination, the women balk at entering the town where their prospective grooms are waiting. They refuse to go any further until Buck brings them decent clothing and "pretty things" so that they will look presentable, telling him to warn the men anyone approaching the wagon train will be shot on sight. The men of the valley gather together curtains, tablecloths, Indian blankets, any material they can find, for the women to make into new clothes.
Back in proper dresses instead of the pants and working skirts they had worn crossing the continent, the ladies drive triumphantly into town and pair up with the men whose pictures they carried across the country, with Patience warning the men that it is the women and not the men who will be doing the choosing. All of them find mates, including Mrs. Maroni, who pairs off with a citrus farmer born in Milan, and Rose, who is chosen by a gentleman who does not care she has an infant son. Some of the happy couples get in line before the preacher, while others dance inside a large open air gazebo. Ito coaxes Fifi to swallow her pride and go to Buck, who is preparing to ride out, instead of waiting for him to come to her. Fifi and Buck join the line to be married as Ito watches the weddings.