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Colorado Women

Colorado Women: A History

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Colorado Women
    Book Description:

    Colorado Women is the first full-length chronicle of the lives, roles, and contributions of women in Colorado from prehistory through the modern day. A national leader in women's rights, Colorado was one of the first states to approve suffrage and the first to elect a woman to its legislature. Nevertheless, only a small fraction of the literature on Colorado history is devoted to women and, of those, most focus on well-known individuals. The experiences of Colorado women differed greatly across economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Marital status, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation colored their worlds and others' perceptions and expectations of them. Each chapter addresses the everyday lives of women in a certain period, placing them in historical context, and is followed by vignettes on women's organizations and notable individuals of the time. Native American, Hispanic, African American, Asian and Anglo women's stories hail from across the state--from the Eastern Plains to the Front Range to the Western Slope--and in their telling a more complete history of Colorado emerges. Colorado Women makes a significant contribution to the discussion of women's presence in Colorado that will be of interest to historians, students, and the general reader interested in Colorado, women's and western history.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-207-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-X)

    Colorado history has been mostly his story. Her story has been seldom told. Bohdan Wynar’s exhaustive 1980 Colorado Bibliography lists 9,181 publications on Colorado, only 10 of which focus on women. Perhaps 25 other general works published since then concentrate on women. A third of those are devoted to Colorado prostitution—the only women’s field that seems to titillate authors and publishers.

    The official state website, Colorado. com, covers “Outstanding Women in Colorado History” in a paragraph that is less than 200 words long. Yet Colorado way back in 1893 became a global pacesetter by being the first state where...

    (pp. XI-XII)
    (pp. XIII-XVIII)
  6. ONE EARLY WOMEN (Pre-History–1858)
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the southwest corner of Colorado lies Mesa Verde National Park. For centuries, its cliff dwellings lay silent and empty until a rancher stumbled upon the site. Even then, it was years before the place buzzed once again with human noise and activity.¹ In centuries past, the dwellings snuggled beneath the overhang of cliffs were bustling with activity. Archaeological excavation and studies have helped to paint a picture of the lives of ancient cliff dwellers. Living high above the canyon floor, they threw what they did not want down the slope. Their garbage pits have provided scientists with an array...

  7. TWO PIONEERING WOMEN (1859–1877)
    (pp. 17-44)

    In 1858 prospectors panned out small pockets of gold from the banks of Little Dry Creek, a few miles up the South Platte from its confluence with Cherry Creek. News of the find spread quickly. By early September, would-be miners from Lawrence, Kansas, who had spent the previous two months unsuccessfully mining the streams of South Park and the San Luis Valley, arrived at Clear Creek. One of the original members of this group was Julia Archibald Holmes, who had walked from the eastern part of the Kansas Territory (which included portions of present-day Colorado) to the western part to...

    (pp. 45-64)

    In 1864 three nuns who were barely settled into their new home scurried around trying to find desks for the long line of students standing at their doorstep.¹ As days passed into weeks, St. Mary’s Academy, founded by Sisters Ignatia Mora, Beatriz Maes, and Joanna Walsh of the Sisters of Loretto, accommodated day and boarding students eager to take advantage of the first private school in Denver. Weeks later, the sisters could relax and laughingly recall their journey from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and their first hectic weeks in Denver. Answering a call for help from Father Joseph P. Machebeuf,...

  9. FOUR SETTLING IN (1878–1900)
    (pp. 65-96)

    As communities developed and residents settled in, opportunities opened for single women. Female teachers in particular knew their services would be welcome. One such woman was Phoebe Fidelia Skinner. Skinner was born in Ohio in 1841, making her of marrying age about the time the nation was torn asunder by the Civil War. As young men joined regiments and marched off to war, Skinner and thousands of other women supported the Union war effort. Following the surrender of General Robert E. Lee in April 1865, the men returned, but they were not the vibrant youth of five years past. War...

    (pp. 97-122)

    Although not nearly as large or industrialized as cities in the East, Denver shared urban characteristics with them. Streets were filled with the pungent aroma of horse “road apples,” rotting garbage, and roving bands of dogs. Soot from wood and coal fires darkened clothing, faces, and buildings. The poor lived in dimly lit, poorly heated, sparsely furnished, overcrowded dwellings.¹ The city’s elite increasingly moved out to virgin property, untainted by city industries and the working poor. One characteristic Denver did not share with eastern cities was its reputation as a refuge for tuberculosis sufferers. Although leaders shunned the label and...

    (pp. 123-156)

    In comparison to states on the Pacific Coast, relatively few Chinese or Japanese were living in Colorado in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The 1880 census recorded only 593 Chinese and 19 Japanese in the state. For men looking for a wife, the prospects were bleak. Female Chinese and Japanese comprised less than 4 percent of the total number of both populations. The 1910 US census revealed no better news for single Japanese men. Japanese women still made up less than 5 percent of the 2,300 Japanese recorded as living in Colorado. There were more than 2,000 Japanese...

    (pp. 157-180)

    In a crowded room at the Astor Hotel in New York City in November 1913, Helen Ring Robinson was introduced as the first woman state senator in the state of Colorado. In a nation in which only eleven states had granted women full voting rights, Robinson was an exotic creature to those awaiting her speech on woman’s suffrage.¹ Some were there to be inspired; others were waiting for an opening in which to heckle her. On a lecture tour of five northeastern states, Robinson was forced to rely on skills developed in her earlier career to handle the “antis” in...

    (pp. 181-214)

    In 1914 Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield founded a summer dance camp near Nederland. Although the inaugural camp was successful overall, there were problems. The camp was located too close to Denver, which meant proximity to the peering eyes of men anxious to see “scantily clad nymphs” dancing on the hillsides. At 9,000 feet above sea level, the rarified mountain air exhausted the dancers. Lightning storms frightened campers as well as their leaders, who were not known for their timidness. After all, how many women founded their own dance camp on a shoestring budget, even in the intoxicating Roaring Twenties?...

    (pp. 215-242)

    As the nation reeled during the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected the thirty-second president of the United States. The voters’ displeasure with Herbert Hoover was as much a factor in Roosevelt’s election as were his campaign promises to do whatever was necessary to move the nation forward. Once in office, Roosevelt and the US Congress passed a litany of bills and created dozens of agencies aimed at “relief, recovery, and reform.” Not everyone was pleased with the results, in theory or in practice. One disgruntled woman was Gertrude Rader of Loma, Colorado.¹

    Although a variety of programs were...

  15. TEN STEPPING UP (1940–1945)
    (pp. 243-264)

    With World War II raging in Europe and the United States precipitously close to joining the Allied forces, Oleta Lawanda Crain, a black teacher, quit her job in a segregated school in Oklahoma and moved to Colorado to look for a better-paying job. By late 1942 she had found a job cleaning toilets and mopping floors at the Remington Arms Plant just west of Denver.¹

    Although the company claimed publicly that it did not discriminate, Remington Arms initially hired African American women in only one of three areas—the restrooms, the cafeteria, or the lead shop. The first two positions...

    (pp. 265-286)

    “1958 Miss America Runner Up: Miss Georgia, Jody Elizabeth Shattuck.” With that pronouncement, Marilyn Van Derbur became the second Miss Colorado in three years to be named the nation’s ranking beauty queen. Crowned by the 1957 winner, Van Derbur walked calmly down the 120-foot runway in Atlantic City’s Convention Hall before a wildly applauding audience. Although she had not won top places in the preliminary judging, Van Derbur’s victory was not a surprise. Two of her three older sisters and her mother, Gwendolyn “Boots,” were former beauty queens at the University of Colorado (CU). Van Derbur started her climb to...

  17. TWELVE THE MODERN ERA (1961–Present)
    (pp. 287-310)

    In the economic boom years of the 1970s, construction sites were filled with workers wearing Carhartt jeans, denim work shirts, leather boots, hard hats, and safety vests. Large cranes glinted in the bright Colorado sun. Front-loaders packed clay between the treads of their large wheels as they hauled materials. Workers strode from one end of the site to the other like busy ants. Some workers carried items, some left for a break, and others wiggled into neon orange safety vests as they entered the worksite. At one site a sign on the enclosing fence read “Alvarado Construction.” An astute passerby...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 311-348)
    (pp. 349-356)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 357-380)