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It is evident that the things that are historically accurate about the film Bad Girls are few and far between. Also, given the plot line and theme of the film, Bad Girls is clearly directed at women who sought to be entertained by tales of female empowerment. In the film, four prostitutes -- Cody Zamora, Anita Crown, Eileen Spenser, and Lily Laronette -- leave their former lives behind after Zamora commits a justifiable homicide and escapes from police custody. After Zamora and her cohorts escape, a duo of Pinkerton detectives is hired to apprehend Zamora and bring her back to Colorado, where the homicide took place. While on the lam, Zamora and company are faced with bank robberies, kidnapping, and a seemingly unattainable dream of owning a sawmill, which they hope will provide them peace and stability.
Bad Girls focuses on four women and the social conventions and limitations that they attempt to escape from. During westward expansion in the 1800s, women's roles began to slowly expand to become more equal to the roles of men. The expansion of roles, however, was limited within the roles that had already been established. For instance, women expanded on their role as homemaker by taking in and cooking for boarders, establishing restaurants, opening up laundries, and mending and making clothing (Lewis). In essence, "women's domestic skills became the basis for a profitable business" in the West (Lewis). In the film, Zamora, Crown, Spenser, and Laronette do not subscribe to these traditional roles, but rather have "fallen" into prostitution in order to make a living. While the film makes it appear as though these women have no other choice but to be prostitutes. Furthermore, Bad Girls makes it appear as though prostitutes during this time were denied many rights, while in fact, they probably had the most rights of women during the time. "When women were barred from most jobs and wives had no legal right to own property, madams in the West owned large tracts of land and prized real estate. Prostitutes made, by far, the highest wages of all American women. Several madams were so wealthy that they funded irrigation and road-building projects that laid the foundation for the New West" (Russell). While Zamora has been responsible with her money, wiring $12,432 (~$41,398.56 adjusted for inflation) over six years to a bank in Agua Dulce, Texas, it appears as though her fellow prostitutes have not been as careful with their money and the only other person that has anything valuable in their possession is Crown, who has homestead paperwork in her possession (Bad Girls).
While on the run, Crown reveals that she and her now deceased husband, applied for land as allowed by homestead laws. She also reveals that it was their dream to open a sawmill that they hoped would be extremely profitable. However, since her husband died, Crown was forced to continue their dream by herself. As such, when Crown attempts to file her homestead claim, she is denied her claim because the land office official with whom she talks with tells her that the only way that she can claim land is if her husband is with her. This may be one of the most jarring historical inaccuracies in the film. Given the environment, social and technological, in which the women find themselves in, it is evident that the action in this film, although not clearly defined in the film's narrative, takes place in at least 1862, but most likely takes place thereafter. If the film takes place during this time, then it is probably that the Homestead Act of 1862 would have already been passed. The Homestead Act of 1862 "required that a prospective homesteader be either a head-of-household or a single person over the age of 21. (Single women were eligible to claim homesteads, and many did. Depending on time and place, approximately five to twenty percent of homesteaders were women)" ("The Museum Gazette: The Homestead Act of 1862). In order to for a homesteader to stake a claim, he or she had to: 1) be a citizen of the United States, or had to have filed his or her intention to become one; 2) begin living on the property claimed within six months of filing said claim; 3) build a dwelling and raise crops sometime within the five years of required residency; 4) not establish a legal residence elsewhere nor…[continue]
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