More and more women today are being welcomed into positions of power and roles as decision makers—but many iconic Colorado women have been getting stuff done for centuries, and the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame is continuing its tradition of honoring these achievements with the announcement of its class of 2020.

From civil rights activists to a physician and a journalist, the list of inductees is whittled down from hundreds of citizen nominations every two years to highlight the work of both contemporary and historical figures who have impacted and contributed to the community at both the local and national level. This year’s group, featuring six contemporary and four historic women, will be ushered into their distinguished place in the history books at the Induction Gala in March 2020.

“[These women’s] lives are models of aspiring higher,” says Deborah Radman, chair of Hall of Fame board. “They believed they could do something and they did it … their stories are ones of grit. They’re truly gracious and graceful people, and most of all, they’re really inspiring.”

The Hall of Fame, which will have inducted 172 women after this new class since its founding in 1985, aims to educate Coloradans on the legacies and impact of these women through the bi-annual inductions, as well as virtual exhibits, collaborations with youth programs, podcasts and more. “That recognition of their contributions that shaped Colorado and America and in some cases, the world, it’s really important,” Radman says. “Because, frankly, women’s accomplishments have really been under emphasized, under reported, under recognized by business, by the news media, and certainly by educators.”

With 2020 marking the 100 years since passing of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, the Hall found it only fitting to highlight several of Colorado’s most influential suffragettes, adding to the 11 others already listed in the Hall of Fame. But the trailblazing doesn’t stop there: Learn more below about each of the pioneers in the new class of inductees, or visit the Hall of Fame’s website to read more.

Contemporary Women

Katherine Archuleta
Archuleta was appointed as the first Latina to lead the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in in 2013 by President Barack Obama, overseeing a budget of roughly $250 million and managing human resources for the federal government’s 2 million employees. Archuleta also served as chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña, where she strived toward justice and equality through her direct influence on policy at the state and national level.

Lupe Briseño
Briseño made waves within Colorado’s Labor Movement after organizing the Kitayama Carnation Strike—the women-led social movement in 1969 at the Kitamaya floral plant in Brighton, which centered on demands for worker’s rights, especially in regard to the treatment of female workers. Her demonstration of leadership in the fight for civil and labor rights, social justice, and feminism played a pivotal role in the Colorado Chicano Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and ’70s.

Rosalind “Bee” Harris
Harris shifted the Colorado media landscape when she founded the Denver Urban Spectrum in 1987 — a monthly publication built to elevate the stories of communities of color and highlight the voices that were not otherwise reflected in mainstream media. Harris also went on to found the Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation in 2000 as a journalism mentoring program for 11- to 17-year-olds.

Velveta Howell
Howell was the eighth African American female to graduate from the University of Colorado Law School, and went on to become the first woman of color appointed as Colorado’s Deputy District Attorney. Howell was also later appointed to the Colorado Health Care Reform Executive Steering Committee and helped establish the Colorado Office of Health Disparities—only the second in the nation.

Marianne Neifert. Photo courtesy of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame

Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS
In the late 1970s, Neifert was the first U.S. physician to promote the routine use of modern breastfeeding technologies and helped establish the then-burgeoning field of breastfeeding medicine. In 1984, she co-founded the Mothers’ Milk Bank—the nation’s largest nonprofit human milk bank. In 1990, she co-founded the Colorado Breastfeeding Task Force (which later became the Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition) with a mission to educate and advocate for the practice, and later co-founded the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine in 1994.

Gale Norton
Norton was the first female Colorado Attorney General from 1991–99 and later the first female U.S. Secretary of the Interior from 2001–06. During her time as Colorado Attorney General, Norton claimed many victories, including negotiating the largest legal settlement in history: A $206 billion national tobacco settlement. While serving as Secretary of the Interior, Norton worked with Congress to enact the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and also settled the 70-year water dispute between Colorado and California.

Historical Women

Mary Lou Anderson
Anderson was a long-time advocate for cultural arts and arts education and founded both the National Parent Teacher Association Reflections Program—dedicated to supporting and recognizing students and educators artistic achievements—as well as the Arts Business Education Consortium with the mission of promoting the growth of arts education within Pikes Peak Region Schools.

Dr. Alida Cornelia Avery
Avery is said to be the first woman in Colorado to practice medicine after moving here in 1874 from her residency as a physician and professor at the newly founded Vassar College. She also served as the Superintendent of Hygiene for the state, but did not just limit her efforts to the world of healthcare. Avery was elected the first president of the Colorado Woman Suffrage Association in 1876 and is credited for her leadership in securing Colorado women the right to vote, making Colorado the first state to do so by popular vote in 1893.

Elizabeth Ensley. Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library

Elizabeth Piper Ensley
Along with being an educator, Ensley was another notable suffragist and political activist recognized for her work in promoting women’s rights, and especially the rights of African American women. She founded the Colorado Association of Colored Women’s Clubs in 1904 and worked to bridge the gap of representation in other women’s organizations, such as the Colorado Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association.

Carolina González
Carolina Acuña Díaz González was known for her open doors and open arms, providing support for youths riding the rails to Colorado during the Depression, as well as with her restaurant, Casa Mayan, a “Mutalista” or refuge for immigrants in Colorado for over 40 years. González also opened a safe haven in the 1950s, “Carolina’s Casa,” for anyone of any background fleeing persecution during the McCarthy era.

Madi Skahill
Madi Skahill
Madi Skahill is 5280’s former associate digital editor.