Why Women’s History Matters

By Chaer Robert, CWCC Member

Where are you from?

I was born a couple blocks off Colfax Ave in Denver. I went to East High School, right off Colfax.  For 35 years my office has been on Colfax. For forty years I have lived within four blocks of Colfax.  If I ever wrote my autobiography, Colfax would have a starring role.

A strong sense of place gives one a strong sense of identity. History helps us understand and appreciate the character of where we are and where we’ve gone.

History has an important role in creating a sense of community.  For those who have lived here a long time, our local history has helped shape us.  For those new to Denver, history can help one understand why Denver is like it is. 

For example, Denver has always had a large number of women’s organizations.  Colorado Women’s College (now the Women’s College at the University of Denver) was first organized in 1888. Florence Crittenton School for pregnant and parenting teens was established in Denver in 1893—the same year Colorado women won the right to vote.   Almost one hundred years later—in 1988–the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce was formed. That same year the Gathering Place — for homeless women and women facing poverty –started.

Denver has its share of “Forgotten Firsts”. Dr. Florence Sabin was the only woman to serve in the Denver Mayor’s cabinet prior to 1983.  A retired professor of anatomy at John Hopkins University, she became the Manager of Health and Charities in 1947. During her tenure, the tuberculosis rate was cut in half and the syphilis rate was reduced from 700 per 100,000 to 60 per 100,000. Sadie Likens was hired as Denver’s first female police matron in 1888, after a separate jail for women and lost children was set up.  Denverites  first elected City Councilwomen in 1975- Cathy Reynolds and Cathy Donohue. However, the first to serve as a City Councilwoman was Elisa Dasmascio Pallidino– appointed to a vacancy in 1935. She chose not to run when her term expired.

Celebrate Women’s History Month.  Find inspiration not only in nationally famous individual women, but in how women helped shape your city. A sense of community is critical to moving women forward. If we are all one community, the success of any woman is a victory for me as well.

Chaer Robert is the Director of the Denver Women’s Commission.

The mission of the Denver Women’s Commission is to promote the social, economic, and political quality of life in Denver by assisting women in the attainment of equality and full opportunity.

On our website:  www.denvergov.org/women , we have a special section on Denver Women’s History.   We have Denver Women History Quizzes, a Timeline of the Establishment of Colorado Women’s Organizations, “Forgotten Firsts”, our 1986 report “Denver Women Today” , “History of Latinas in Denver”,  “History of African American Women in Denver”, as well as unique pieces on local women’s history.

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