The State of Colorado was the first state in the union to enfranchise women by popular vote, and in 1894, Colorado became the first state to elect women to the state Legislature. In other words, …
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The State of Colorado was the first state in the union to enfranchise women by popular vote, and in 1894, Colorado became the first state to elect women to the state Legislature.
In other words, it’s safe to say Colorado has been a place for women to lead for well over a century. But it’s never had a place dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the state.
That all changed on March 21, with the opening of the Center for Colorado Women’s History at the Byers-Evans House Museum, 1310 Bannock St., Denver.
“This place provides opportunities to share the stories of women that have not been told before,” said Jillian Allison, director of the new center. “But it’s not just about the past. We want to help uncover the stories that are happening now, and be part of the conversation for the future.”
The opening was an opportunity for local leaders to celebrate National Women’s History Month, with a focus on the women that have made a particular impact on Colorado — women like Dr. Justina Ford, who became the first female African-American doctor in Denver, or Dana Crawford, who led the historic preservation efforts in the 1960s that saved many of Denver’s historic buildings.
“By understanding how Colorado got to where we are today, we can uncover and appreciate the diversity of the area,” said Charleszine “Terry” Nelson, community resource manager for the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library. “This museum shows there have been and are lots of can-do women in our state.”
The Center for Colorado Women’s History will not be a museum in the traditional sense, explained Steve Turner, executive director of the History Colorado Center. While there will be the kinds of exhibits that fill most museums, it will also serve as a gathering place that focuses on scholarship, research, public programs, narrative, lectures and school tours.
But what makes these programs particularly exciting is their location. Allison said the center will host a book club in the historic Byers-Evans library, and there will even be concerts in the house’s music room — surrounded by beautiful historic artifacts from one of Colorado’s most important families.
“When I used to come here, this house was always a place where the women lived, and they were very strong women,” remembered Mag Hayden, the great-great-granddaughter of territorial Governor John Evans and Colorado’s pioneering family, and namesake for the Byers-Evans House Museum. “If some of those family members knew what was happening here now, they’d be thrilled. It will be a place of hope, inspiration and education for both men and women.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper proclaimed March 21 as “Center for Colorado Women’s History Day,” which supporters hope is just the first effect the new museum will have.
“As someone who works with libraries, I libraries and spaces like this are treasure troves of knowledge,” said Nelson. “This museum will allow us to keep the doors of diversity wide open — diversity in women, diversity in thinking, diversity in approach, and diversity in Denver.”
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