For as long as Mag Hayden can remember, the Byers-Evans House was occupied by women.
The great-great-granddaughter of Territorial Governor John Evans recalled the strong women of her childhood while standing inside the historic family home of Colorado’s pioneering family — now home to the Center for Colorado Women’s History.
“Before I was born there were men that lived here, but my own memories are only of women and of very strong women,” she told the crowd gathered for a ribbon cutting. “My grandmother was perhaps the strongest mentor of my life. Even though she grew up in a time when women weren’t meant to be independent and so forth, when she was 17, she left Denver and went to Paris. … And Anne Evans … everybody in the family that knew her revered her. She was the god of the family, far more than any of the men.”
With that and a big pair of scissors, the Center for Colorado Women’s History opened Tuesday morning.
Hayden’s words were accompanied by remarks from Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Kristen Blessman, Center for Colorado Women’s History committee member and Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library Community Research Manager Charleszine “Terry” Nelson, History Colorado Executive Director Steve Turner and Center for Colorado Women’s History Director Jillian Allison.
“We are seeking opportunities to uncover and share stories of women that have not been told before,” Allison said.
Aside from two rooms at the entrance that act as an information center, the Byers-Evans House will remain the same. A handful of the rooms will be used for Center for Colorado Women’s History programming — music events in the music room, for example.
“This is not a museum in the traditional sense of the word,” Hayden said. “This is truly and center for talking about, learning about, understanding the importance of women in Colorado.”
The center will be focused on scholarship, research, public programs, narratives, lectures and exhibits that amplify women’s history and support women in the present and future.
And that means all women. Tuesday’s speakers emphasized the inclusivity of the center and it’s goal, as Nelson put it, to encompass “diversity of women, diversity of thinking, diversity of approach and diversity in Denver.”
In honor of the center’s opening, Gov. John Hickenlooper (not in attendance) wrote a proclamation marking March 21 as Center for Colorado Women’s History Day.
But the site of it is more powerful. The Byers-Evans House sits surrounded by the Denver Art Museum, Denver Public Library and Civic Center Park — all institutions that Anne Evans either founded or helped build.
“For me,” Hayden said, “when the museum doors open, it is a long-awaited symbol of hope and opportunity and support for women.”
Now, for your knowledge and entertainment, here is a sampling of facts about Colorado women provided by the center:
- Colorado was the first state in the union to enfranchise women by popular vote.
- In 1894, Colorado became the first state to elect women to the state legislature.
- Today, Colorado ranks 9th in the country for woman-business owners; and the number of woman-owned businesses continues to grow.
- In its first 75 years, the Colorado School of Mines had four women graduates. From 1898 to 1998, more than 2,000 women graduated from the School of Mines.
- In 1950, Dr. Justina Ford became the first female African-American doctor in Denver.
- Amy Van Dyken, NCAA “Swimmer of the Year” at Colorado State in 1994, became the first U.S. woman to win four medals at one Olympics in 1996.
- Lindsey Vonn this year became the oldest female Alpine skiing medalist in Olympic history.
- Crisanta Duran was the youngest Latina legislator in Colorado history and later became the state’s first Latina House majority leader. Today, she is Colorado’s first Latina Speaker of the House.
- Madeline Albright, the first woman to represent the U.S. in foreign affairs as Secretary of State, grew up in Denver and completed an internship at the Denver Post.
- Colorado has the fourth-highest number of women serving in a state legislature.
And how about some bonus national women’s history facts?
- Women earn more than 60 percent of all college degrees in the United States.
- The two highest IQ scores in recorded history belong to women.
The Byers-Evans House is located at 1310 Bannock St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Guided tours are given on the half-hour every hour.
The Center for Colorado Women’s history is accepting applications for its Fall Fellowship. It’s open to “scholars, activists and artists who want to help inform the understanding of women in Colorado’s history — specifically through women’s studies, gender studies, and/or race and ethnic studies,” according to a release. Three fellows will receive stipends of $5,000 each. The deadline to apply is March 31 and applications can be found at historycolorado.org/center-colorado-womens-history.