Feature

The Colorado Woman

Colorado has the most confident, intelligent, thoughtful, inspiring, dedicated, joyful, influential, resilient, adventurous, independent, gutsy, innovative, groundbreaking women in America. Meet them.

December 2013

Historically Significant

Colorado women have long been a force to reckon with.

1859

Freed from slavery, Clara Brown makes her way to Denver, reportedly the first black woman to do so during the Gold Rush, and opens a laundry in Central City.

1859

Chipeta marries Ute Chief Ouray and begins improving relations between their tribe and white settlers. She travels to Washington, D.C., to negotiate a treaty and, following her husband’s death, continues advocating for peace.

1887

Frances Wisebart Jacobs, Denver’s “Mother of Charities,” establishes what is now the United Way. (In 1892, she also creates what is today called National Jewish Hospital.) She is the only woman with a stained glass window in the state Capitol’s dome. 

1890

Mary Elitch Long opens Elitch’s Zoological Gardens with her husband; after he dies a year later, she continues running Elitch’s for the next 26 years, becoming the first woman to own and manage a zoo in the United States.

1893

Eliza Routt, wife of Colorado’s first state governor John Routt, becomes the first woman registered to vote in Colorado—the first state to adopt women’s suffrage by popular vote.

Katharine Lee Bates pens the lyrics to “America the Beautiful,” jotting them down as she admires the view from Pikes Peak. 

1895

Clara Cressingham, Carrie Clyde Holly, and Frances Klock are elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, becoming the first three women elected to a state Legislature anywhere in the country.

1896

Mary Lathrop passes the bar and becomes the first female member of the Colorado Bar Association and the first woman to practice law in Denver. Lathrop later becomes the first woman to argue before the Colorado Supreme Court.

1897

Dr. Susan Anderson, fondly known as “Doc Susie,” moves back to Colorado after graduating from medical school and is the only female doctor in Fraser for 49 years. Lacking the means to buy a horse or a car, Anderson treks to patients’ homes on her Norwegian snowshoes.

1912

Margaret “Molly” Brown, who lived in Leadville and Denver as a young woman, gains attention for her heroism during the sinking of the Titanic, which she survives. 

Josephine Roche becomes Colorado’s first policewoman. Years later, she becomes the first woman to run a major coal company. After running for governor in 1934, Roche is named Franklin Roosevelt’s assistant secretary of the treasury and finds herself the second woman to sit in a presidential Cabinet.  

1917

Florence Sabin of Central City becomes the first female professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. After “retiring” in Colorado, she works in public health, helping cut Denver’s tuberculosis rate in half. She is one of two Coloradans featured in the statuary hall of the U.S. Capitol.

1925

After graduating high school at 15, college at 17, and working her way through medical school, Dr. Frances McConnell-Mills becomes Denver’s first city toxicologist.. 

1932

Helen Marie Black helps found the Denver Symphony Orchestra and subsequently acts as its business manager for more than 30 years. 

1935

Jane Ries opens her own firm to become the first female landscape architect in Denver and the third person ever to obtain a landscape architecture certificate in Colorado.

1939

Longtime Denver resident Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award when she earns an Oscar for her supporting role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.

1952

Margaret Curry becomes the first female parole officer in the state. The native Coloradan uses her position to fight for equal rights and rehabilitation and education programs for
women prisoners.

1962

At 14, Carlotta Walls LaNier was the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, the group that integrated Little Rock Central High School. For safety reasons, LaNier’s family moves to Denver after she graduates. LaNier later receives her degree from Colorado State College.

1965

Rachel Noel, the first African-American to serve on the Denver Public School board, introduces the “Noel Resolution,” which ultimately leads to the integration of the city’s public schools.

1968

Reynelda Muse becomes not only the first female, but also the first African-American, news anchor in Colorado when she starts at KOA-TV. Twelve years later, she is one of the founding anchors at CNN. 

1972

Arie Taylor becomes the first African-American woman to serve in the Colorado Legislature. During her six terms in the House, she is known as an ally for women and the poor.

1973

Denver native Emily Howell Warner is hired by Frontier Airlines, becoming the first woman pilot for a major U.S. airline. Three years later, she becomes the first woman to earn her captain’s wings.

1977

Selected as the first woman president of the Colorado Mountain Club, Gudrun Gaskill works tirelessly for the next 11 years to complete the Colorado Trail, which stretches from Denver to Durango.

1996

Lieutenant General Carol Mutter, born in Greeley and a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, is the first woman promoted to Lieutenant General in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

1997

Madeleine Albright is named the first female secretary of state under President Bill Clinton. Born in Prague, Albright moved to Denver in 1948 when her father accepted a teaching spot at the University of Denver. 

1999

While working for Boulder’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Susan Solomon receives the National Medal of Science for her work explaining the Antarctic ozone hole and advancing understanding of the global ozone layer.

2005

Condoleezza Rice, who received her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Denver, becomes the first black female U.S. secretary of state, serving under President George W. Bush. 

2008

As the president and chair of the board for the Denver 2008 Host Committee, Elbra Wedgeworth, the first black woman to hold the position, is chiefly responsible for bringing the 2008 Democratic National Convention to Denver.

2010

Time includes Temple Grandin, a CSU professor, in its list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” One of the country’s best-known autistic adults, Grandin publishes insights into animal behavior and lectures on autism and livestock handling. 

2012

Coloradan Katherine Archuleta becomes the first Latina to lead a presidential campaign as national political director. In 2013, President Barack Obama nominates Archuleta as director of the Office of Personnel Management.  

Eighteen-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin, who grew up in Centennial and attended Regis Jesuit High School, takes home four gold medals and one bronze medal and sets two world records at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

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