Women’s impact on Colorado told in history book


“Colorado Women: A History”

(University of Colorado Press) by Gail M. Beaton, $34.95

From the unsinkable Molly Brown to the unflappable Patricia Schroder. From the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union to the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association.

Women in Colorado have definitely made their mark on the Centennial State over the years.

And all of it is highlighted in a new book on the subject that’s simply titled, “Colorado Women: A History.”

“On any given late evening as the sun sets behind the Rocky Mountains, one can look west and see layers of mountains, their colors a gradation of whites, grays, mauves and blues,” author Gail Beaton writes in the preface of the 380-page book. “They evoke in me a sense of layers of Colorado women’s history. ... Layers of stories sweeping from the eastern plains to the Western Slope. Layers of stories affected by economic and social class. Layers, even, in individual women’s stories.”

Beaton highlights a lot of women “firsts,” including some local ones, such as Sisters Mary Balbina and Mary Lewis, who started St. Mary’s Hospital in 1895, and Hattie Pearson, Grand Junction’s first female undertaker.

While the author spends much time writing about the suffrage movement in the state, which gave women the right to vote years before they had that right nationwide, she also writes about women’s role in prohibition, which likewise happened years before it went national.

Women were instrumental, for example, in making Mesa County a dry county.

“The Western Slope chapters (of the temperance union) proved quite successful,” Beaton writes. “In 1908 Mesa County voted to become a dry county. When the issue rose again in 1911, the drys reinforced their dominance and one again won by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin.”

Beaton doesn’t restrict her history of Colorado woman to those in the majority white communities, either. She delves into the contributions of women in the Black, Jewish, Hispanic and Native American communities, too.

Her book starts with the work women of the native Ute tribes did, and continues to the present day, even citing former Gov. Bill Ritter’s appointment of Grand Junction native Monica Marquez to the Colorado Supreme Court, the first Latina and openly gay women on the high court.

The author goes on to encourage today’s women to continue to impact the state through the next century.

“Instead of balancing a baby on one arm and a basket of laundry in the other and being surrounded by other children and a family’s livestock, today’s woman is juggling a cell phone, her work schedule with her husband’s and children’s schedules, and volunteer organizations.”


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