Colorado Leaders of Democracy

Women working to strengthen our government and commmunities

1893 Women's Suffrage in Colorado by Denver Public LibraryColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Women are leaders of democracy – working to further the form of government that we revere in the U.S. and working to strengthen our communities. Colorado has led the nation in democratic progress and women’s rights in many instances: Colorado was the first state in the US to expand suffrage rights to women, the first state to elect female state legislators, including those of color, and Colorado women regularly turn out to vote in numbers that dwarf other states’ records.

Women of Colorado - Votes for All Women by Library of CongressColorado Women's Hall of Fame

But women’s leadership in Colorado began long before official statehood – not surprisingly, our region’s indigenous and pioneer populations produced women with the strength and courage to demand equal voice and power and serve as leaders of their communities. One powerful platform for these leaders has been and remains the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Colorado, established in 1928.

League of Women Voters Colorado LogoColorado Women's Hall of Fame

This exhibit is a collaborative effort between the League of Women Voters of Colorado and the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame to celebrate these outstanding women “Leaders of Democracy” through history.

Amache ProwersColorado Women's Hall of Fame

A member of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe, Amache Ochinee Prowers innovatively mediated between cultures in Colorado in the 1860s and 1870s. She and her husband operated a cattle ranch, general store, and hotel. Prowers is credited with helping to build the foundation for the American West.

Frances Wisebart JacobsColorado Women's Hall of Fame

The founder of United Way (1887), Frances Wisebart Jacobs* is called the “Mother of Charities.” She also founded National Jewish Hospital which treated patients suffering from tuberculosis without requiring payment. Jacobs is the only woman featured in the sixteen stained glass windows in the Colorado Capitol dome.

Elizabeth EnsleyColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Elizabeth Ensley served as treasurer of the Colorado Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association and helped get Colorado women the right to vote in 1893. She founded several organizations for African-American women to ensure they were educated about voting rights and were provided with ways to advance their communities. Ensley was honored in 2021 as a League of Women Voters of Colorado Leader of Democracy for her advocacy for racial and gender equity.

Antoinette Perry FrueauffColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Antoinette “Tony” Perry-Frueauff was a stage actress, director, humanitarian and activist. She co-founded the American Theatre Wing through which she coordinated thousands of auditorium and hospital wing entertainments during World War II. After her death, the Tony Awards, recognizing excellence in the theater, were established and named in her memory honoring her lifelong efforts to foster new talent.

Oleta CrainColorado Women's Hall of Fame

One of only three African-American women to enter officer training in the U.S. military in 1943, Oleta Crain initially served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. The only black woman retained by the U.S. military after World War II, she retired from the Air Force as a major. A lifelong advocate for women and people of color, after her retirement from the Air Force, she served as a regional administrator for the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Elizabeth Morley BallantineColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Morley Ballantine and her husband purchased the newspaper in Durango, Colorado in 1952. For fifty years she wrote columns and editorials and was a pillar in the community. The Ballantine Family Fund supported many arts and educational organization. Ballantine achieved numerous firsts, received many awards and was active in the League of Women Voters for 54 years.

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 – Carlotta Walls LaNier* wanted the best education possible as she knew that education was the key to opportunity. A lifelong advocate of equal education for all, she was honored in 2014 as a League of Women Voters of Colorado Leader of Democracy.

Ruth StocktonColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Ruth Stockton became a powerful legislator, running for state office for the first time after her daughter left for college. She served a total of 24 years – first in the Colorado House of Representatives for which she won the 1960 election and then in the Colorado Senate. The first woman president pro tempore of the Colorado Senate, she worked to improve health and education for children and rights for women.

Rachel Bassette NoelColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Rachel Noel dedicated herself to equal education and opportunity for all. In 1965, she was the first African-American woman elected to public office in Colorado and the first African-American elected to the Denver Public School Board. There, she advocated for school desegregation. Noel chaired the Department of Afro-American Studies at Metropolitan State College and was elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

Cleo Parker RobinsonColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Cleo Parker Robinson uses the power of dance to unite communities across cultures and language barriers. Her philosophy of “One Spirit, Many Voices” is evidenced in all of her activities around the world to bring joy and understanding through dance. Her Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, founded in 1970, uses dance to champion social justice and unite people across all backgrounds and ages.

Arie TaylorColorado Women's Hall of Fame

At age 12, Arie Parks Taylor became the guardian for her ten brothers and sisters (including a newborn) after her mother died in childbirth. She successfully reared them and after a ground-breaking career in the Women’s Air Force, moved to Denver, where in 1972, she became the first African-American woman elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. She championed many issues for women and the poor during her years in the legislature and continued breaking ground in her later career.

Patricia SchroederColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Pat Schroeder represented Colorado for twelve terms in the U.S. House of Representatives starting in 1972. She worked tirelessly to establish national family policy, including issues like parental leave, child care, family planning, and more. Pat wrote the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1985 and worked to enact legislation and secure funding for key legislation to support women's health research.

Linda AlvaradoColorado Women's Hall of Fame

In 1976 when Linda Alvarado* wanted to start her own construction company, she couldn’t get a loan because she was a woman – her parents mortgaged their home. Yet, by the time she was 27, she was asked to sit on a corporate board. In 1992, she became the first Latino (male or female) to bid for the ownership of a Major League Baseball franchise. Today, as co-owner of the Colorado Rockies, Alvarado takes seriously her role as a Latina role model and benefactor.

Polly BacaColorado Women's Hall of Fame

The first Latina elected to the Colorado Senate (1978), Polly Baca has a very long list of firsts for women and Latinas. Fueled by her determination from age three to prove herself “as good as” others, she has served as a very strong advocate for Latinx and gender equity. Baca was the first Latina to chair the Democratic National Convention and the first to receive a major party nomination for the U.S. Congress. Baca was honored in 2021 as a League of Women Voters of Colorado Leader of Democracy.

Jean DubofskyColorado Women's Hall of Fame

The first woman to serve as a Colorado Supreme Court Justice (1979), Jean Dubofsky spent most of her legal career in the service of disadvantaged, underserved and voiceless populations in the state. Dubofsky is most remembered for filing the case Romer v. Evans which she successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was filed against Amendment 2 which prohibited laws banning discrimination. The decision finding Amendment 2 unconstitutional laid the groundwork for overturning bans against same sex marriages nationwide.

Maria GuajardoColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Educator and advocate for the Latina community, Maria Guajardo was born to illiterate Mexican migrant workers. Since 1988, she has committed herself to improving the lives of children and has advocated to keep children in school by understanding why they drop out, worked for world peace and advocated for children in third-world countries. She has been active in youth development as well as issues related to Latino education and health care.

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 the Denver Public Schools and the first secondary bilingual counselor. Her exploration of the reason for students dropping out of high school led to her deep commitment to Montessori as an education delivery mechanism that enables students from all backgrounds to thrive and succeed.

Mary Lou MakepeaceColorado Women's Hall of Fame

The first woman to serve as Mayor of Colorado Springs (1997), Mary Lou Makepeace advocated for equal treatment for all. After her terms which saw the first female municipal judges appointed, she worked at The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado furthering her objectives of equality, diversity, and inclusivity. Mary Lou continues her efforts to build economically self-sufficient and strong women who pursue an education and participate in the electoral process.

Dottie LammColorado Women's Hall of Fame

Former First Lady of Colorado Dottie Lamm is an author, speaker, university educator, activist and feminist. She ran for the U.S. Senate in 1998 after twenty years as a columnist for The Denver Post. A co-founder of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, she served as its first president. A founder of the Democratic Women’s Caucus of Colorado, Lamm was honored in 2016 as a League of Women Voters of Colorado Leader of Democracy.

Lauren CasteelColorado Women's Hall of Fame

The first person to head three foundations in Colorado, Lauren Casteel has served as the CEO of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado since 2015. A lifelong advocate for Social Justice she has worked with nonprofits to help them become more inclusive of underrepresented populations and people of color. Lauren is acknowledged as an advocate for women, children, youth and families. She was honored in 2021 as a League of Women Voters of Colorado Leader of Democracy.

Credits: Story

*An inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

In collaboration with the League of Women Voters of Colorado.

Curator: Jill S. Tietjen, P.E. co-author of Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America and Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies. An inductee 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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