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The mother of pediatric audiology. A developer responsible for building a modern Denver. A former Miss America-turned-activist for sexual assault survivors—all these exceptional women hail from the Centennial State, but you probably don’t know their stories. At least not yet.
“We have some tremendous women who have come out of Colorado, and people just don’t know about them,” says Betty Heid, video project chair at the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF) and the brain behind Great Colorado Women, a new series premiering February 1 on Rocky Mountain PBS.
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Each episode of the five-part show will tell the story of one CWHF inductee, weaving together interviews, photos, and videos into a narrative that explores not just what she achieved or how she did it, but why.
Great Colorado Women will feature the stories of Marion Downs, an audiologist who spearheaded hearing testing in newborns worldwide; Dana Crawford, a historic preservationist and the developer responsible for Denver institutions like Larimer Square and Union Station; Marilyn Van Derbur Atler, a former Miss America who is now an award-winning author, speaker, and champion for sexual abuse survivors; Jill Teitjen, engineer and women’s advocate; and pilot and aviation educator Penny Hamilton.
“What I love about [the series] is that it spans every industry, every area,” says Julie Speer, vice president of culture content at Rocky Mountain PBS. “We’re excited to shine the spotlight on some of the key figures in our history.”
Heid says when she dreamed up the idea for a series more than four years ago, she intended the stories to be used as a teaching tool. With that in mind, she’ll be donating copies of the videos to schools and libraries, where the stories of these women will reach even more people. “It’s important to educate women and girls to tell them that they can achieve their goals, but it’s just as important to educate boys about what women can achieve,” she says. “So our message is for people of all ages— men, women, girls, and boys—to show them that we’ve had some phenomenal women in Colorado.”
Heid’s goal is to feature every woman in the CWHF. With 152 current members and 10 more inductees this March, that’s a tall order, but one Rocky Mountain PBS is willing to take on.
“This is something I can see going on, I’d love to say, in perpetuity,” Speer says. “As long as there is a hall of fame, Rocky Mountain PBS can partner with them.”
Watch it: Great Colorado Women airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. for five consecutive weeks.