When Betsy Johnson draws her gun and kills a Klansman in defense of a young black man, she dramatically alters the course of her life—and that of her young daughter Sara. Faced with almost certain lynching in her native Kentucky, Betsy dons a man’s dress and identity, takes Sara, and flees for her life to Early, a dusty, unknown, one-horse town in the New Mexico Territory.
Passing as a man, Betsy quickly becomes the law in town. Fortunately, Early is ahead of its time, and the townspeople don’t balk when Betsy’s disguise comes off and her gender is known. She and Sara quickly find their place among the town’s population of characters and misfits.
John Tunstall, the mayor of Early, believes that women are equal to men and Indians and blacks are as deserving of human rights as white men. Francine, a young woman herself, runs the town’s saloon, and Doc Hill and Enoch Swank are the town’s doctor and apothecary, respectively. Betsy and Sara make a life for themselves, and under Betsy’s watchful eye peace prevails in the progressive little town.
Not all Early’s citizens agree with Tunstall’s dictatorial rule and Betsy’s legal views, so when Francine’s long lost husband reappears and claims the saloon, it leads to murder and tests Betsy’s mettle to its limit.