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The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF) will cap off Women’s History Month by inducting 10 new faces during a gala on March 28. The event, held at the Denver Hilton City Center, will include a reception followed by dinner and the induction ceremony, featuring videos and remarks about the new members.
Founded in 1985, the CWHF currently honors 152 women, and adds 10 new exceptional candidates—six contemporary and four historic—with strong ties to Colorado every two years. Each women is nominated by the public and chosen by an independent selection committee based on her significant contributions to her field, how she elevated the status of or opened new frontiers for women, and inspired others to follow her example.
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In shattering glass ceilings and serving the public, these women exemplify true grit and passion—and this year’s class is no exception. Read their stories below.
Nonprofit leader and activist; president and CEO of the Gathering Place
Over the course of her 30-year career, Foster has transformed the tiny Denver nonprofit that aids women, children, and transgender individuals living in poverty into a formidable bastion for good. During her tenure, they’ve gone from serving 25 to 35 people a day with a $200,000 budget to one that sees 250 to 300 people daily, with an annual budget of $2.5 million. She is also a partner and founding member of the Denver Women’s Collaborative, an association of nine organizations that support women and girls.
Early childhood education activist; president and CEO of Hope Center
For 36 years, Grimes has worked for this Denver-based nonprofit, which provides educational vocational opportunities for special-needs and at-risk children. Both in her career and personal life, she has fought to be a voice for the voiceless, especially for women of color. She has held leadership roles in a large number of community organizations, including the Center for African American Health and Denver Early Childhood Council.
U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General (retired); astronaut
Helms’ career is full of firsts: She is a graduate of the first Air Force Academy class to accept women, the first female commander of Vandenberg Air Force Base, the first military women in space, and the first woman to serve on the International Space Station. Over the course of her NASA career, she crewed on four space shuttle missions, and holds the record for the longest spacewalk (eight hours and 56 minutes). While in the Air Force (she retired in 2014), Helms returned to the academy to teach aeronautical engineering and was assigned to Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, where she now lives.
Educator; Chancellor of University of Colorado Denver
From high school teacher to leader of the Colorado Community College System to university chancellor, Horrell blazed her way through the education sector often as the first or only female in her position. Her illustrious career—successes she attributes in part to growing up on her grandparents’ homestead in northeastern Colorado—also includes 10 years as the president of Red Rocks Community College and president of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, an arts and culture nonprofit.
Lawyer; Asian activist
As a woman of Asian descent, Matsukage navigated through a male-dominated field to build a reputation as a highly respected, ethical, and tenacious attorney. Matsukage used her success to help others—founding the Asian Pacific American Bar Association and establishing its nonprofit arm, which in 2016 permanently endowed two scholarships for the University of Denver and University of Colorado Boulder law schools. She is also active in the Asian Pacific Development Center, which helps immigrants adjust to life in Colorado.
Banker; former Colorado Lieutenant Governor; women’s activist
A Stanford graduate at the time when only a third of the class was allowed to be female, Schoettler started her Colorado political career by winning a race against two men to become part of the Douglas County school board. She went on to become the first woman to be both Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor and State Treasurer, and narrowly lost the governor’s race in 1998. Frustrated by the lack of funding available for female political candidates, Schoettler co-founded Electing Women, a political action committee that helps secure money for women running for office. She is also active with the International Women’s Forum, where she has helped mentor young women from around the world to become leaders in their countries.
A common name around Denver, Boettcher was an integral part of her family’s foundation—one of the largest philanthropic organizations in Colorado—helping grow its charitable contributions from $11 million to over $220 million by the time she passed away in 2001. While she was on the board, the foundation gave out 1,600 college scholarships to high school seniors, half of them to young women. She is also known as one of Colorado’s first female pilots and a member of the Ninety-Nines, a group of women aviators founded by Amelia Earhart in 1929.
Dubbed the “Susan B. Anthony of Colorado,” Meredith was the leading figure for women’s suffrage in Colorado, working for the national movement after it became the second state to grant women the vote 1893. As a journalist, she worked for the Rocky Mountain News, advocating for voting rights in her column, “Women’s World,” and published articles in several other Colorado newspapers and national magazines about women’s suffrage. She was also a political trailblazer, holding several positions, including delegate to the Denver City Charter convention and city election commissioner.
Speech pathologist and audiologist; educator for the deaf
Pollack’s pioneering practice for teaching listening and spoken language to deaf children became a world-renowned method still used today. As a children’s audiologist at the University of Colorado Medical Center from 1959 to 1964 and later the director of speech and hearing services at Porter Memorial Hospital in Englewood, Pollack developed a radical idea that powerful hearing aids could help children who were deaf. In 1969, a group of parents of children that had benefitted from her methods formed the Listen Foundation in Denver, the first organization in the world to advocate for Pollack’s Listening and Spoken Language Therapy.
Instrumental in bringing multi-cultural thinking to Colorado, Prowers was a full-blooded member of the South Cheyenne tribe. Her and her husband, John Wesley Prowers, operated a successful cattle farm at Boggsville, which served as a meeting place for Native American, Mexican-American, Euro-American, French, and other diverse groups of people passing through the region. She used her multicultural experience to be a mediator between the Euro-American and Native American cultures at the time when her Cheyenne people and their lands were under attack.