Women of Denver History


The city of Denver was shaped by the efforts of many great people. Join Active Minds as we focus on the women of Denver and their contributions to the city and the state. We will cover some familiar names as well as some lesser known figures as we trace the impact of these women and their place in history.

Key Lecture Points

  • Denver was founded over 150 years ago as a rough-hewn mining town. >From the beginning, women played an important role in Denver’s establishment as a hub of economic and cultural activity in the West. Sharing the burden of pioneering, women were often able to rise in power and influence in Denver, beyond what women were permitted to do in the East.
  • In its century and a half of existence, Denver has experienced economic booms and busts. Women civic leaders often played a role in establishing institutions that softened the impact of economic hardship upon the city and its residents. Additionally, women also played a strong role in diversifying the economy of the city beyond its initial focus upon mining.

Exploration Questions

  • Are there common characteristics among the women profiled in this presentation? What drove them to be contributors, to make a difference?
  • Is there still a need for social reformers as there was at the turn of the 20th century? If so, who do you consider to be the social reformers of our time?

Reflective Questions

  • Did you or anyone you know attend the Emily Griffith Opportunity School?
  • Are there women in public life today that you think will leave a lasting mark on our city and our state? Who are they? What are their contributions?
  • Did any of the women profiled in this presentation make a difference in how you see the city today?

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Riley, Marilyn Riggs and Thomas J. Noel. High Altitude Attitudes: Six Savvy Colorado Women. Johnson Books. 2006. 170 pages. Detailed biographies of Louise Sneed Hill, Justina L. Ford, MD, Mary Madeline Bonfils Stanton, Helen Gilmer Bonfils, Caroline Bancroft, and Mary Coyle Chase.
    Click here to order
  • Varnell, Jeanne. Women of Consequences: The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Johnson Books. 1999. 319 pages. Profiles of each of the members of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.
    Click here to order