Colorado Education Pioneers

Women trailblazers of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame

Knearl School - Brush Colorado - Library of CongressColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Education wasn’t always available or of high quality for women and people of color. Women led the way to establish needed schools and provide access to a quality education for all. Let’s learn about some of those Colorado women education pioneers.

Carlotta LaNierColorado Women's Hall of Fame

The youngest of the Little Rock Nine – the nine African-American students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 – Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee Carlotta Walls LaNier wanted the best education possible. LaNier knew that education was the key to opportunity.

Mary RipponColorado Women's Hall of Fame

After pursuing her education in Europe at a time when most universities in the U.S. did not accept women, Mary Rippon arrived at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1878 as the first woman faculty member. During her 30-year career at the University she served as Dean of Women, chaired her department, and mentored women students.

Portia Mansfield & Charlotte PerryColorado Women's Hall of Fame

In 1913, Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield founded the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Steamboat Springs. Still in operation today, it is the oldest continuous dance school and camp in the U.S. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Emily GriffithColorado Women's Hall of Fame

In 1916, due to Emily Griffith’s advocacy, the Denver Public School (DPS) system opened the Opportunity School to provide basic adult education and marketing skills. Griffith, who had taught since she was thirteen years old, realized that the parents of the poor students that she taught needed to learn enough skills to earn a living. In 1933, it was named the Emily Griffith Opportunity School and today is the Emily Griffith Technical College.

Erinea Garcia GallegosColorado Women's Hall of Fame

One of Colorado’s first Hispanic women to attend college, Erinea Garcia Gallegos worked as a teacher and school principal for twelve years prior to her marriage in 1932. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her postmistress of San Luis. She served for 40 years.

Edwina Hume FallisColorado Women's Hall of Fame

The first DPS teacher to have a school named for her, Edwina Hume Fallis worked for 42 years as a kindergarten teacher. Her unique gift for helping children listen to and tell stories evolved into her 1940 book The Child and Things which resulted in the establishment of the Fallis Toy Shop.

Pauline RobinsonColorado Women's Hall of Fame

An Emily Griffith Opportunity School graduate, Pauline Short Robinson became the first African-American librarian in Denver in 1943. Robinson established one of the largest summer reading programs in the country and introduced Reading Is Fundamental to Denver.

Anna PetteysColorado Women's Hall of Fame

In 1950, Anna Petteys became the first woman elected to the Colorado Board of Education. After she came to the attention of the White House, Petteys served on the Committee for Special Education and the Committee on Education for Migrant Children.

Rachel Bassette NoelColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Rachel Noel dedicated herself to desegregating the Denver schools. In 1965, she was the first African-American woman elected to public office in Colorado and the first African-American elected to the DPS school board. Noel chaired the Department of Afro-American Studies at Metropolitan State College and was elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

Evie DennisColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Evie Dennis began her public education career in 1966 as a teacher, serving eventually as Deputy Superintendent and Superintendent of DPS. She developed a number of innovative programs before embarking on her second career in which she supported athletic endeavors and became the first woman on the U.S. Olympic Executive Committee.

Mary Lou AndersonColorado Women's Hall of Fame

An advocate for cultural arts and cultural education, in 1969 Mary Lou Anderson founded the National Parent Teacher Association Reflections Program and the Arts Business Education Consortium. Over the past 50 years, 15 million students nationwide have benefited from these programs.

Mildred Pitts WalterColorado Women's Hall of Fame

While working as a kindergarten and elementary school teacher in the Watts area of Los Angeles, Mildred Pitts Walter saw a need for books that would appeal to young black readers and that she was going to have to write them. Her first book, “Lily of Watts - A Birthday Discovery” was published in 1969, followed by her second book, “Lily Takes a Giant Step.” Walter is also a civil rights activist and women’s advocate.

Anna Jo HaynesColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Anna Jo Haynes has spent her life working to improve the lives of all children. She brought the Head Start program to Denver, founded Mile High Montessori Early Learning Center (1970), co-founded the Colorado Children’s Campaign and helped establish the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, to name a few.

Elinor GreenbergColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Because she believes in access for all and that education is the key to social change and social justice, Ellie Greenberg has been a leader in adult education and adult development. In 1971, she became the founding director of University without Walls. Later, she established education programs in Colorado prisons, developed degree programs for Native American mental health workers and established online degree programs for healthcare workers.

Arlene KramerColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Arlene Vigil Kramer, the first Latina to earn a Doctor of Education degree, brought bilingual education to Colorado and beyond. She was a founding member and first vice president of the organization instrumental to the passage of Colorado’s Bilingual/Bicultural Education Act in 1975. In 1979, she was a co-founder of “Adelante Mujer” which works to prepare high school and college Latinas for their career as well as a healthy lifestyle.

Lena ArchuletaColorado Women's Hall of Fame

In 1979, Lena Archuleta became the first Hispanic female principal in DPS. Over more than 30 years, she advocated for the Hispanic community in educational institutions and was the first woman to serve as president of the Latin American Education Foundation.

Gerie GrimesColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Gerie Grimes joined the Hope Center in 1982 and today serves as President and CEO. The center educates children and adults with developmental disabilities providing both specialized education and vocational services.

Lydia PenaColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Sister Lydia Peña, a Sister of Loretto, uses her fundraising skills to provide educational opportunities for the oppressed and underserved around the world. She taught at St. Mary’s Academy for many years, at University without Walls in 1988 and has raised funds to establish a school in Ghana.

Dorothy HorrellColorado Women's Hall of Fame

The first female President of the Colorado Community College System (1998), Dorothy Horrell sees education as an instrument of hope. She says “It changes lives, not just for this generation but for generations to follow.” She served for ten years (1989-1998) as the first woman president of Red Rocks Community College and was later Chancellor at the University of Colorado Denver.

Dr. Martha UriosteColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Martha M. Urioste was the first and only principal to pioneer a Montessori elementary school. The founder and former president of Family Star (1991), Urioste was a pioneering Hispanic-American counselor in DPS and the first secondary bilingual counselor.

Sister Alicia CuaronColorado Women's Hall of Fame

In 1992, pioneering Latina businesswoman, speaker and university faculty member, Sister Alicia Cuarón entered the Sisters of Saint Francis when she was in her fifties. The center she established – el Centro San Juan Diego – offers citizenship, GED, computer and English classes, leadership programs, and supportive social services It has 50,000 graduates.

Dr. Kristina JohnsonColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Inventor, entrepreneur and college administrator, Kristina Johnson became the first woman dean of engineering at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering in 1999 after many years as a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. After becoming the first woman Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, Johnson served as Chancellor of the State University of New York and President of The Ohio State University.

Credits: Story

Curator: Jill S. Tietjen, P.E., co-author of Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed American and Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies. Tietjen has been inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame and the Colorado Authors' Hall of Fame.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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