Emily Griffith’s story deserved a happier ending. After giving so much to so many — she founded the first free adult-learning institution in the country, the Opportunity School — she retired in 1933 and moved to a cabin up in the mountains. And there the founder of the Emily Griffith Opportunity School (today split into Emily Griffith High School and Emily Griffith Technical College) and her sister were were found shot to death on June 18, 1947.
The murders have never been solved.
And Griffith definitely deserves to be played by an actress far more talented than me. But still, when Colorado Inside Out, the weekly public-affairs roundtable on Colorado Public Television, takes another trip in the time machine at 8 p.m. tonight — this episode is set in 1940 — I’ll be along for the ride as Emily Griffith. The series, which has won numerous regional Emmys (thanks to the efforts of producers Dominic Dezzutti and Larry Patchett, definitely not to my acting abilities), has traveled to 1858, the year Denver was founded; to 1964, when Colorado was on the edge of the New Frontier; and to 1912, when I portrayed Margaret Brown, the Denver social climber and do-gooder, fresh from the icy waters where she’d survived the sinking of the Titanic.
There’s plenty of documentation on Brown’s life, as well as a rousing, if completely inaccurate, musical. It’s not as easy finding information on other women who played a role in Denver’s history; Griffith was another refreshing exception. By 1940, she’d been retired for a half-dozen years but was still serving on the state board of vocational education, and she still had plenty to say about how important it was to make education available to all. She was one of those independent spirits who helped make Denver the city it is today.
Fortunately, my portrayal of Emily Griffith is far from the final word on this indomitable woman. On September 9, the Emily Griffith Foundation will launch a yearlong celebration of the school she founded, complete with many worthy opportunities to remember and honor Griffith.
She was a class act.
You can watch tonight's show and previous episodes online; find out more on the Colorado Inside Out website.