By:Triche Guenin Issue: Collaborative Women Section:Collaborator Profile
For those who saw the recently released movie “Alice in Wonderland”, you’ll not be swayed by all the odd characters, but you’ll recognize the plot to be one of a curious little girl who grows up to be a strong-willed and powerful woman. She was not intentionally rebellious, but rather followed her passions, even though they weren’t popular or aligned with present day social norms. This was my takeaway as I left the theater.
And then it hit me. I’d recently had this same feeling walking away from the 25th anniversary induction ceremony of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF). This was a celebration of women who had followed their hearts in an area they had an interest in. They weren’t trying to be recognized as heroes or pioneers in their field, but they took the risks and made the associated sacrifices to follow their personal passion. These are the women of consequence who have helped shape Colorado’s heritage.
In order to share the vision, foresight, and power of accomplishment of Colorado’s women, CWHF inducts ten women into its organization every other year. Those who are chosen are a mix of contemporary and historical (deceased) ladies that comprise a multitude of backgrounds, accomplishments, and represent all geographical areas of the state. These women have made significant and enduring contributions to their fields of endeavor, elevated the status of women, helped open new frontiers for women and society, and inspired others by their example. There are now 122 such recognized women.
When speaking with current and past inductees it is obvious that many of these women have the adjective “FIRST” (or a variation thereof) describing their achievements. For those inducted this year, a minor snapshot of their accomplishments includes the following:
•Hattie McDaniel (Actress, 1895-1952) First African American to win an Oscar (supporting role as Mammy in ’39 film Gone with the Wind); however segregation laws prevented her from attending the film’s premier in Atlanta. •Susan Jean O’Brien (Journalist, 1939-2003) Denver’s first female television news director and first woman editor of The Denver Post’s editorial page. •Bartly Marie Scott (Rancher/Conservationist, 1896-1979) One of the Western slope’s first ranchers to diversify into grazing cattle with sheep, to plant native grasses for erosion prevention, and to lease pasture/cropland. •Alice Bemis Taylor (Philanthropist, 1877-1942) First woman trustee of Colorado College and lead female founder/benefactor of cultural and social institutions in Colorado Springs’ early days.
•Madeline K. Albright (Diplomat) First woman Secretary of State of the United States and founder/chair/leader of numerous educational, political, and foundation organizations. •Elinor Greenberg (Education Innovator) One of the first to create learner-centered educational programs, heading University Without Walls, creating the first BSN weekend college for rural nurses, developing degree programs for Native American mental health workers, to name a few. •Maria Guajardo (Clinical Psychologist, Early Childhood Development) An international advocate for children, as Executive Director of LARASA established a public policy center which publishes national research concerning Latino issues related to education, health, and labor force. •Philippa Marrack (Medical Researcher) Groundbreaking work on T-cells which has shaped medicine’s current understanding of the human immune system, vaccines, HIV, and other immune disorders. •Ramona Martinez (Politician) First Latina elected to Denver City Council and ongoing activist for women/minorities at all levels. •Jill Tietjen (Engineer) Advocate for women in technology, author of technical papers, expert witness, and top historian on scientific/technical women. These women have made significant and enduring contributions to their fields of endeavor, elevated the status of women, helped open new frontiers for women and society, and inspired others by their example.
The CWHF was founded in 1985 in response to a realization that there was no recognition of the lofty contributions that Colorado women have made to enrich the local community. ML Hanson, founder, reflected that “by acknowledging the lives of these women, we’ve provided both girls and boys the inspiration to achieve their own goals, regardless of the era or the tough times they’ll go through to do it. We’ve opened the door….”
Their talents, skills, struggles, and contributions form a legacy that the CWHF is dedicated to protecting. For today’s youth, Jill Tietjen, a new inductee, advises, “Follow your dream. It will take passion, determination, and persistence. There will be obstacles along the way, but keep your eyes open for opportunities. Your life’s path will not be as you imagine it will be.” Marilyn Van Derbur Atler, Emcee for the ceremony and prior CWHF inductee herself, introduced each recipient and shared their stories and accomplishments. She stressed their courage, leadership, intelligence, expertise, and creativity. Kristy Schloss, President of Schloss Engineered Equipment and an induction attendee, commented “Each of the recipients is renowned in their field. They serve as role models to all exemplifying that you can pursue your passion and impact the world.”
Several other positive comments were heard during the 25th anniversary CWHF Induction Ceremony, such as:
“All are quintessential women. Some are well known and some aren’t, but all of their accomplishments are worthy,” Sandra Shreve, past BOD Chair 2004. “I was a pilot (actually a “secret” astronaut program – Mercury 13, the men’s program was the Mercury 7) when women were supposed to be nurses and teachers, so quite an exciting time,” Dr Rhea Woltman, 2008 CWHF inductee (Astronaut, Parliamentarian). “It’s great to see so many people that helped me along the way (e.g. raising kids) – it’s a communal effort,” Dr Pippa Marrack, 2010 CWHF inductee “It feels like a family gathering, but also a humbling experience,” Stephie Allen, 2006 CWHF inductee (Business/Civic Leader), who accepted Madeline Albright’s award in her absence, since they were childhood friends. “The work (first woman and American to serve as Secretary General of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics) has been incredibly rewarding and I enjoyed it so much,” Dr. Jo Ann Cram Joselyn 2002 CWHF inductee (space scientist) “It’s an elating experience, but it’s unfortunate more women can’t be recognized that are so deserving,” Evie Dennis, 2008 CWHF inductee (School Superintendent, U.S. Olympic Committee Member) “We extend our congratulations to these women, who exemplify the best qualities of the people who have built and sustained Colorado. These are women who are making a contribution, who are inspiring, who didn’t take the easy way out, and who gave in extraordinary ways” said Dr. Christine Johnson, current Chair of the CWHF’s Board of Directors.
So, like Alice in her Wonderland experiences, these Colorado women drew from their strengths, overcame odds, denied societal norms, and focused on what was important to them, ultimately becoming the fabric and part of the foundation of Colorado’s rich heritage.
For more information on the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and/or the biographies of the past/current recipients please visit www.cogreatwomen.org.
Triche Guenin is President of Denver-based Partners Through Change, Inc., a process improvement firm that facilitates organizations in becoming more efficient/effective in everyday operations. www.partnersthroughchange.com.