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The Vote's In: Colorado Women Changed History

Margaret Brown was an early advocate of women's suffrage
Margaret Brown was an early advocate of women's suffrage
Molly Brown House Museum

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, and there are celebrations across the country to mark that momentous occasion in 1920. But once again, Colorado was there first: Twenty-seven years earlier, it was the first state in the union to give women the right to vote; a popular referendum — in which only men voted — passed in 1893. (Technically, Wyoming beat Colorado to the punch, but it was a territory when it granted women suffrage in 1869.)

Still, women didn’t get the vote in this state without a fight. While some delegates to the 1875-’76 convention on statehood pushed for women’s suffrage to be included in the Colorado Constitution, their efforts failed. So did the first popular referendum on the issue in 1877, the year after Colorado joined the union; at the time, Presbyterian preacher Reverend Thomas Bliss dismissed the suffrage movement as “bawling, ranting women, bristling for their rights,” according to the Colorado Encyclopedia. And those women continued to bawl, and brawl, for another sixteen years before they got their rights.

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Learn plenty of other fascinating facts on women’s suffrage in March, Women’s History Month, when numerous organizations around town offer related programming. The Denver Public Library's offerings start at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 1, at the Sam Gary Branch Library, 2961 Roslyn Street, where Mona Siegel, author of Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women’s Rights After the First World War, will discuss her book. Thursdays throughout the month, the library will host "Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers," a series of silent films, at the Preservery, 3040 Blake Street. The first film is 1916's The Ocean Waif, in which Alice Guy-Blaché explores the travails of a woman in search of peace, love and a place to call her own; get the full schedule of the library's Pioneers films, as well as other Women's History Month events, here.

History Colorado started a lecture series titled "Bold Women. Change History." back in September; an exhibit of the same name will open on March 7 at the Center for Colorado Women's History at the Byers-Evans House Museum, 1310 Bannock Street. The lectures will continue through spring, culminating with a Bold Women. Change History. summit planned for May 27 at the History Colorado Center. Find out more at historycolorado.org.

And the Molly Brown House Museum is also going all in for Women's History Month, since Margaret Brown was an early advocate of suffrage. A free salon series includes History 101 lessons; first up is "Women of Color and the Suffrage Movement," set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, at the museum at 1340 Pennsylvania Street. Get the complete schedule at historicdenver.org.

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