DENVER — This March, the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame will celebrate the addition of 17 exemplary women known for shaping Colorado's past, present and future.
The Class of 2022 includes both contemporary and historical women who have made enduring and exemplary contributions to their fields, inspired and elevated the status of women, and helped open new frontiers for women and society. Their contributions span Colorado’s colorful and storied history, reaching all four corners of our state, and have spread to touch our nation and our world.
The Class of 2022
Libby Bortz, community activist and psychiatric social worker, observed that a large percentage of her patients with mental health concerns were women. She knew she could do something about the issues she saw to help make those patients feel worthwhile and enable them to contribute to society. She worked to provide needed services and facilities including education, housing and criminal justice for everyone, particularly women, poor and seniors. Her efforts led to Littleton becoming the first suburban community nationally to create a Housing Authority (1971). She was instrumental in helping to establish an assisted living center for the elderly who needed housing but were not candidates for nursing homes. Bortz was one of the first women to get a credit card as women could not usually get credit cards in their own names prior to the enactment in 1974 of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act which prohibited the withholding of credit on the basis of gender.
Vicki Cowart is the former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM). Previously, she was the first female director of the Colorado Geologic Survey (CGS) and the first female state geologist. She has elevated the status of women in a male-dominated field and was founder and national president of the Association of Women Geoscientists. Cowart graduated from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM). Recognized by CSM as a champion for women scientists in both academics and in the industry, she was honored with the Young Alumnus Award in 1988 from the CSM, the Distinguished Achievement Medal in 1999, and an appointment to the CSM Board of Trustees for two terms by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. Vicki was chosen by her Planned Parenthood CEO peers to receive Planned Parenthood’s most prestigious tribute, the Ruth Green Award, recognizing her as a “dedicated crusader for the rights of women to plan and control their childbearing.”
Susanne E. Jalbert, PhD
Susanne Jalbert, PhD, earned a Master’s Degree in Education and Human Services in 1997 from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She continued at CSU to earn her PhD, where she designed and implemented the International Business Education and Training program. Basing her activities from Colorado, Dr. Jalbert is a veteran global activist who has employed economic development as an essential tool in creating a more equitable, safe life for women in more than 50 countries over the last 30 years including war zone areas and countries in political transition and upheaval. Working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and with Chemonics, she has served as a diplomat in Afghanistan at the Herat Consulate, as a business services director in Iraq and as a senior advisor to USAID’s implementing partners in numerous other developing and transitioning economies.
Lydia Prado, PhD
Dr. Lydia Prado has revolutionized mental health care in Colorado and beyond, placing care in the context of community wellbeing and addressing the connections between mental health, physical health, and most importantly, creating space that enables people to influence the decisions that affect their own lives. An advocate for the most marginalized and underserved members of our community, Dr. Prado has made it her life’s work to create opportunities for engagement, build connections, and cultivate trust based on a genuine respect and care for the communities she serves. She is passionate about tackling inequalities that keep certain populations from being as healthy, educated, nourished, housed, and hopeful as others.
Patricia Barela Rivera
Patricia Barela Rivera works to achieve unity, diversity, and equality through the promotion of public policy changes that benefit women. She attended the University of New Mexico majoring in Business Administration. She worked with the U.S. Forest Service and the Office of Personnel Management in Colorado where she had the opportunity to recruit women and ethnic minorities. She created an open line of communication for rural communities that had never truly been heard. She was the first Latina appointed nationally as a district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Rivera works to improve people’s lives, especially women, and help them develop as leaders at all levels of society.
Theodosia Grace Ammons
Theodosia Grace Ammons was a powerful suffragist and nationally prominent leader in an academic discipline designed to dignify and empower women which was just emerging at the time (today it is called home economics or family and consumer sciences). While defying conventions and challenging gender norms, Ammons homesteaded her own government–granted land, created an acclaimed academic department for domestic economy within what is today Colorado State University, became the first female dean at that college, and advanced teacher education within the Chautauqua movement. She designed and built a structure that stands today as tribute to her success in lessening the domestic burdens of women of the early 20th century.
Frances Xavier Cabrini (Mother Cabrini)
Mother Cabrini was a champion of immigrants, the poor and the sick. She established 67 social service agencies, schools, hospitals, and orphanages, including several in Colorado. In 1880, she founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which opened a school and convent welcoming sons and daughters of Italian immigrants. The school eventually became the Mount Carmel grade school and high school in North Denver. In 1910, Cabrini founded a summer camp for orphan girls in Golden. The Mother Cabrini Shrine in the foothills of Golden, Colorado continues to provide programs including donating excess food to the Jefferson County Action center.
Ruth Cousins Denny
Ruth Cousins Denny was a civil rights activist, teacher, and philanthropist. She overcame racism, sexism, and poverty to leave a legacy of a life well-lived in service to children, women, and people of color. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Stowe Teachers College in St. Louis, Missouri, became a teacher, and moved to Denver earning additional credits from the University of Denver and the University of Colorado. She taught in Denver Public Schools for 26 years. Denny served on various community boards and committees including YWCA, YMCA, Urban League of Denver and the League of Women Voters. She quietly donated thousands of dollars to politicians and organizations that worked for equality for all people.
Zipporah Parks Hammond
A lifelong Coloradan, Zipporah Parks Hammond was the first Black person to earn a nursing degree from the University of Colorado School of Nursing, persevering despite segregation and overt racism. She was the only Black nursing student in the U.S. Nurse Corps in Colorado during World War II, the first minority director of medical records at Presbyterian/St.Luke’s Medical Center (becoming the first Black person to hold that position in Colorado), a philanthropist, historian of Black history in Denver, and volunteer. Gracefully breaking down barriers and elevating the status of women, she refused to be held back and kept reinventing herself – even after contracting tuberculosis, which ended her nursing career.
Katharine Stegner Odum
Kathy Stegner Odum was one of the most influential women at Amache, Colorado’s Japanese American “relocation” camp during World War II. She was an extraordinary teacher/senior advisor at Amache High School, and a counselor to and advocate for all ages, especially young women. She archived the student records and Amache newspapers. She not only mentored her students, but found them colleges, scholarships and homes, and became a lifelong friend to them. She taught and spoke about what she learned from that experience.
Julie Villiers Lewis McMillan Penrose
An astute community leader, dedicated philanthropist and patron of the arts, Julie Penrose significantly influenced the growth and development of Colorado. She founded several pillar institutions including El Pomar Foundation and Broadmoor Art Academy (now the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College). Julie’s professional career and contributions were rooted in her love for the people and communities of Colorado. She also advocated for education and healthcare in addition to the arts. She was invited to serve on multiple boards, including Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Central City Opera, and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Agnes Ludwig Riddle
Agnes Riddle made her mark as a State House Representative, a State Senator, and the president and co-founder of Glendale’s Grange. She was an ally to farmers, fondly referred to as the “dairy legislator” and served as a role model and community organizer. Riddle was the first woman to serve in both houses of Colorado’s General Assembly, as a State House Representative from 1911-1914 and as a State Senator from 1917-1920. Human rights were always at the core of her heart, and her drive, passion and political bravado were admired.
Minnie J. Reynolds
Minnie Reynolds was an ardent suffragist, one of a handful of professional women journalists. In Denver during the 1890s, she used her position as a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News to advance women’s voting rights and political rights. She served as press chair for the state’s successful women’s suffrage campaign of 1893 and worked on a national scale for women’s right to vote as a writer, organizer, and spokeswoman from 1893 to 1920. Reynold’s legacy of women’s rights activism lives on with her founding, in 1898, the still-vibrant Denver Women’s Press Club, which is one of the oldest continuously operating organizations of women authors and journalists in the nation.
Mary G. Slocum
Mary Slocum was a champion of post-secondary education for young woman, making it possible for hundreds of young women to attend college, earn their degrees and find their place in the world. In 1887, when she and her husband arrived at Colorado College, there were no dormitories on campus. Students were housed at various boarding homes or temporary facilities in town. After her husband became president, a men’s dormitory was built, as a direct result of Mary’s leadership and advocacy. The next dormitories to be built housed women. In 1889, along with 36 other women Mary recruited, she founded the Women’s Educational Society of Colorado (WES) to provide physical, intellectual, and spiritual aid to young woman.
Agnes Wright Spring
Agnes Wright Spring authored 22 books and over 500 published articles, most of which related to life in the history of the American West. Spring was the first female editor of The Wyoming Student. She worked in the fields of applied history, and history of the American West. After her marriage, the couple moved to Colorado where she worked as a librarian and research aide at the Denver Public Library during which time she also authored several books and articles. In 1950, Spring was appointed as the interim Colorado State historian, and later the official state historian. Spring challenged the boundaries of traditional historical practices, forged a path for other women in the field, and shaped the public’s perception of western history.
Olibama López Tushar
Olibama López Tushar was born in Los Rincones, Colorado in the San Luis Valley to one of the families who were founders of the area’s first towns, schools and churches. She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and became one of the first Hispanic graduates in 1930 with a degree in education and fluency in six languages. Her college thesis was expanded into the book, "The People of El Valle," which outlines 300 years of Hispanic culture and traditions and is the keystone resource for scholars, historians, genealogists, and students throughout the southwest.
Elizabeth Georgiana Barratt Wells
Elizabeth Georgiana Barratt Wells’ extraordinary hard work, innovations, determination, and leadership along with her bringing together parents, teachers and other like-minded people built the Pueblo PTA Chapter. She traveled to outlying Colorado towns to speak and help organize new branches of the Mother’s Congress, and the PTA. Her major focus was the welfare of mothers and children. Elizabeth’s hard work and leadership with the Child Welfare Committee was so successful that it became a permanently funded department in the City of Pueblo. She wrote articles that appeared in the La Junta Tribune about deplorable living conditions, as child welfare and infant hygiene were concerns of Elizabeth’s. She extolled Colorado’s assets, the mountains, sun and schools as well as agriculture.
Denver7/KMGH-TV and News5/KOAA are proud to partner with the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame for this year's induction ceremony. Denver7's Anne Trujillo will host the gala on Wednesday, March 15.
About the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame
Since its founding in 1985, the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame has inducted 172 women of a myriad of races, backgrounds, economic levels, career choices, political philosophies, and religious beliefs united by their outstanding contributions to society. The lives of these extraordinary women are shining examples of what can be achieved with passion, commitment, spirit, and the willingness to stand tall in the face of obstacles. They are trailblazers, visionaries, women of courage, glass-ceiling breakers, and innovators from all walks of life. Their contributions span Colorado’s colorful and storied history, reach its four corners, and have spread to touch our nation and our world.
To learn more about inductees, visit Women In the Hall.