By: Gail Frances and Judy Taylor Issue: Transformation Section: Community
The Wonder of Ten Great Colorado Women
Defining moments in our lives unfold in various ways to create the multidimensional thread that weaves women’s history together. Thanks to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF), 132 women who exemplify the best qualities of the people who have built and sustained Colorado are now part of Colorado history.
The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame—one of the oldest in the country—celebrated held its annual induction in March 2012. The gala event honored ten Colorado women for their outstanding achievements.
Founded in 1985, the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF) is dedicated to recognizing and preserving the history and accomplishments of past and present Colorado women. Both historical and contemporary women have shared foresight, vision, and the power of accomplishment but lacked a forum for recognition. “I still think there is a great need to discover women’s history,” said M.L. Hanson, a founder of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. “We continue to surface heroines from our past.”
The Hall strives to educate the people of Colorado about the stories of the women who shaped our state and the nation’s history with courage, leadership, intelligence, compassion and creativity. Women of diverse backgrounds, from pioneers to politicians, educators to entrepreneurs, are inducted every even-numbered year. The women inducted into the Hall of Fame have made a major impact on the lives of others and helped elevate the status of women in our state, our nation and around the world.
“The event is always about the inductees. They are the stars of the show,” Hanson said. “It is so inspiring. Many women who attend stand taller, walk with greater confidence and are very optimistic.”
The esteemed and talented Mistress of Ceremony, Marilyn Van Derbur Atler, a prior CWHF inductee herself, introduced each recipient and shared their stories and accomplishments with her distinctive style and grace. It was a thrill to listen to the inspiring speeches of these noteworthy women whose incredible lives give particular meaning and poignancy in our current political environment.
The courage, leadership, intelligence and creativity that guided these remarkable women to accomplish that for which they are revered is told in moving and complex narratives illuminated by many challenges and sacrifices along the way.
A brief snapshot of each of THE 2012 CONTEMPORARY inductees appears below .
Kristi S. Anseth - Ph.D, Biomedical Engineer - Anseth was the first engineer to be named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers named her one of the “100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era,” and Popular Science named her one of its “Brilliant 10” in 2008. And, her great-grandmother homesteaded as a single woman.
Loretta C. Ford - Ed.D, R.N., Nurse Practitioner Movement Founder and Women’s Health Advocate - After receiving her doctorate in education from the University of Colorado in 1961, she began her work with Dr. Henry Silver to develop the nurse practitioner curriculum. She pioneered a pediatric model in Colorado that has been replicated and expanded into the fields of family health, gerontology, adult health, mental health, school health and more. She is saddened by the recent return to the fight for reproductive rights in the United States.
Temple Grandin - Ph.D, Animal Sciences and Autism Expert and Advocate - A truly remarkable woman who “thinks in pictures” and “embraces all types of thinkers,” Grandin received a standing ovation after her acceptance speech. Grandin has identified special abilities and helped decode the thinking processes of both humans and animals. Her life’s journey is filled with trailblazing on so many soulwrenching levels.
Ding -Wen Hsu - Businesswoman and Asian Community Leader - Hsu, the granddaughter of a prominent Chinese revolutionist, is best known as the founder of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, the largest Asian festival in the Rocky Mountain region. 04.12 - 06.12 ( 113 )
Mary Ann Kerwin - Women and Children’s Health Advocate - Kerwin and her co-founders of Le Leche League International were commonly referred to as the “Revolutionaries Who Wore Pearls.” She was guided early in life by her father’s encouragement. He told her, “it doesn’t matter what others are doing, you do whatever is right for you.” Kerwin’s recommendation: “Right the wrongs you find.”
Mary J. Mullarkey - Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice - Nominated in 1998 and serving for 12 years as Colorado's first female Supreme Court chief justice, Mullarkey encourages people to “take a chance.” She ominously warned that “progress for women is not a straight line,” and that “it can be rolled back.”
A brief snapshot of each of the historical inductees appears below .
Janet Petra Bonnema - Civil Transportation Engineer - In 1970, Bonnema was barred from working on the Eisenhower Tunnel by supervisors because she was female. Undaunted, she won her fight in the courts and opened up vast new job opportunities for women in highway construction, mining and other previously all-male professions in Colorado and the nation. Her family accepted on her behalf, describing the late pioneer as their Auntie Mame.
Fann ie Mae Duncan - Colorado Springs Businesswoman and Community Leader - Duncan, the granddaughter of Alabama slaves, was the first African-American woman to succeed as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and community activist in Colorado Springs. She founded the Cotton Club, a jazz mecca where she booked luminaries such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Mahalia Jackson and Etta James, all of whom attracted a racially diverse following. A sign reading “Everybody Welcome” was proudly displayed in the Cotton Club window and is now the name of an annual multicultural Colorado Springs festival.
Erinea Garcia Gallegos - Educator and San Luis Valley Postmaster - Gallegos was one of Colorado’s first Hispanic women to attend college. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her postmistress in San Luis in 1935. Ancestors of both of her parents were among the earliest Spanish-speaking settlers, establishing farms and towns on Mexican land grants in southern Colorado and New Mexico. Her grandfather and father served among Colorado’s earliest territorial and state legislators. She lived by her motto, “The more you learn, the more you want to learn.”
Laura Gilpin - Landscape Photographer - A native Coloradan, Gilpin attained international recognition as a landscape photographer, specializing in artistic techniques and honoring Southwest native cultures. She was known for her “highly individualist eye,” and influenced many fine artists such as Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe. Many still regard her as the only significant woman landscape artist of her time.
In addition to the well-regarded inductions, the Hall of Fame works to share the contributions of these outstanding women through its outreach programs, including:
• Permanent and traveling portrait exhibits—The Hall of Fame maintains a collection of individual inductee portraits and displays the portraits at the induction event and receptions at schools and galleries around the state. • The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame Speakers Bureau develops, coordinates and implements speakers’ presentations across the state. • The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame Oral History Project, a more recent initiative, records and preserves the oral histories of the contemporary inductees, sharing those histories through community outreach programs.
Women of Consequence celebrates the lives and stories of the first 59 inductees of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Published in 1999 with a foreword by M.L. Hanson, a CWHF founder, this insightful and thought-provoking book is an excellent reference as generations explore and celebrate these extraordinary lives.
Gail Frances, MPA, is a writer with a background in finance, marketing and public affairs. Judy Taylor is an award-winning journalist and speaker. She is the former president of the Women’s Regional Publications of America.