Important Women in Colorado History

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Colorado’s amazing women include some well-known names like The Unsinkable Molly Brown, but many more women worked successfully behind the scenes.

Gold brought many people to Colorado in the 1800s, but many people came for the reported health benefits of the state’s sunshine and dry air. It was believed that if you were suffering from tuberculosis, Colorado was the cure.

Part of The Wild West, Colorado has a history rich with cowboys, ranches, and rodeos. The environment developed many strong women, many of whom you can find in the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

Anna Lee Aldred (1921-2006)

Aldred was the first woman in the U.S. to receive a professional jockey’s license. She grew up around horses – her father was a horse trainer and two of her brothers, successful rodeo riders. She rode her first horse at three, competing in her first pony races by six. By eighteen, according to the Hall of Fame, she had earned her jockey’s license, perhaps in part, because officials couldn’t find any rules saying a woman couldn’t be a jockey. She remained a jockey until she was too big to continue being competitive – in the world of professional horse racing, too big was five feet, five inches tall and 118 pounds.

Mary Elitch Long (1856-1936)

Dubbed The First Lady of Fun, Long has the distinction of being the first woman in the world to run an amusement park. Long and her first husband, John Elitch, Jr., purchased an apple orchard where they planned to grow food for the restaurants they owned, but before long, it became Elitch’s Zoological Gardens (Denver’s first zoo). Elitch Gardens is credited as being the first place in the American West where Edison’s Warograph’s were show – these became precursors to the movies of today. Theater and music were added to the grounds along with swings, a merry-go-round and train to take visitors through the Gardens with ease.

Hannah Marie Wormington-Volk (1914-1994)

The Hall of Fame notes Volk signed up for her first archaeology class by accident. Sometimes the best things in our lives come from what we originally think is a misstep. Volk went on to write seven books on prehistoric inhabitants, one of them by the time she was twenty-six years old. She was also the first woman to receive a doctorate in anthropology at Harvard and the first woman (and first archaeologist in the world) to receive a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

Frances Wisebart Jacobs (1831-1885)

Jacobs spent her life volunteering in charitable organizations. She organized the Hebrew Ladies’ Relief Society and the Denver Ladies’ Relief Society in efforts to fight poverty and illness. She established Denver’s first free kindergarten for poor families and was instrumental in the building of the National Jewish Hospital. In addition, she was the only female of the five founders of Community Chest, now known as the United Way.

Mary Miller (1842-1921)

Coal had been found on Miller’s property and the surrounding countryside. Miller had the foresight to retain all mineral rights for any mining done around the area of her home and the new town she created, which would be named after her husband, Lafayette. Miller funded the first schools, bank and churches, building a town from the ground up.

Margaret L. Curry (1898-1986)

Even back in the early 1900s, some women got into trouble. Curry was their guardian angel as Colorado’s first female parole officer for adults. She fought hard for the rights of the women in her care. The only activity female prisoners were allowed to participate in was laundry for the men. Curry built the first rehabilitation programs for female prisoners and helped them blend back into society after serving their time.