CBS has a tendency to pull clips from this show down as soon as they’re up, so I highly recommend watching it now: the 1993 Women of Country documentary. It traces the history of women in country from the early days all the way through 1992. When it first aired, it was my crash course in the history of the genre, along with a celebration featuring female artists that all rank among my favorites.
The live performances are fantastic. Nearly every major female artist of that time performs: Suzy Bogguss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, Tanya Tucker. Michelle Wright, Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood. There are also performances from legends Emmylou Harris and Tammy Wynette, and an all-star finale.
However, the real reason to watch is to see the story of women in country music told by those who lived it, including some who are no longer with us today, like Wynette, June Carter Cash, Rose Maddox, Patsy Montana. The vintage clips of Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline and others are priceless.
For me, the most powerful moment is Jeannie C. Riley’s heartbreaking story of the beautiful layered dress that she had bought to wear to the 1968 CMA awards, where she would win Single of the Year for “Harper Valley P.T.A.” When she went to pick up her dress, it had been butchered into a miniskirt at the direction of her producer. Even 25 years later, she still remembers the humiliation. It’s really the perfect metaphor for how women had no control over their careers through most of the genre’s history. That’s in Part 10, at the 1:50 mark.
Here’s a list of all the videos. If you’re at all interested in country music’s past, it’s essential viewing.
Part 1: Introduction; performance of by Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Part 2: Spirit of the Mountains; performance by Emmylou Harris.
Part 3: Heartsongs; performance by Trisha Yearwood.
Part 4: Cowgirls in a Man’s World; performance by Suzy Bogguss.
Part 5: Honky Tonk Angels; performance by Pam Tillis.
Part 6: Rockabilly; performance by Tanya Tucker.
Part 7: The Nashville Sound; performance by Lorrie Morgan.
Part 8: The Folk Revival; performance by Kathy Mattea.
Part 9: Heroines; performance by Tammy Wynette.
Part 10: Women Ascending; performance by Michelle Wright.
Part 11: New Country; performance by Patty Loveless.
Part 12: 80’s Ladies; performance by Wynonna.
Part 13: The Future: all-star finale.