DENVER — A Secretary of the Interior and Colorado State Attorney General, a journalist and publisher, a frontier physician, a suffragist, journalists, educators, head of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, lawyers/civil rights activists, a community builder and restaurant owner comprise the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame Inductee Class of 2020.
Next spring, these ten inductees will become the next group of extraordinary contemporary and historical Colorado 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.
“Inspiration is the operative word,” says Deborah Radman, Chair of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. “These women are trailblazers, pioneers of opportunities for women, and all have left a positive mark on our state, nation and the world. They deserve to have their stories told and to be honored as shining examples of the potential of all women.”
The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF) was founded in 1985. Every two years, the organization inducts contemporary and historical women who have significant ties to Colorado and have made a difference for women and girls through their courage and leadership. The 2020 induction will be hosted by Denver7's Anne Trujillo in March.
Since its founding, the CWHF has inducted 162 women from many races, backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, career paths, political philosophies, and religious beliefs for their outstanding contributions to society.
The lives of these extraordinary women are proof of what can be achieved with passion, commitment, grit and the grace to stand tall in the face of obstacles. They are trailblazers, visionaries, and women of courage, glass-ceiling breakers, innovators, and rule changers from all walks of life. 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.
2020 Contemporary Inductees
Growing up in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, Katherine Archuleta has had an extraordinary and influential career that has changed the landscape for what is possible for women and, specifically, Latina women. Her work has allowed her to guide policy at the state and national level on significant issues that impact all Americans. She is an exceptional role model for what it takes to be successful in the public and private sectors, with an unwavering commitment to justice and equality. Her core values have led her to provide women, especially women of color, with opportunities we might not have imagined for ourselves.
In 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Archuleta to be the first Latina to lead the U.S. Office of Personnel Management with a budget of approximately $250 million. In this role, she had the enormous job of managing human resources for the federal government's 2 million employees.
Archuleta also served as Chief of Staff for two U.S. Cabinet members, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena. In one of the most important and influential roles in government, she was responsible for providing direct policy, program, and managerial support and served as the designated liaison between the Secretary, the White House, and other Federal departments and agencies. When Federico Pena became the Secretary of Energy, Katherine transitioned to his senior policy advisor.
As the organizer of the Kitayama Carnation Strike, Lupe Briseño demonstrated the strength and power of Latina leadership in Colorado’s Labor Movement and set the stage for the Colorado Chicano Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. Her story is an essential chapter in the history of Colorado, the evolution of Latina feminist leadership, and the struggle for Chicano Civil Rights.
The Kitayama Carnation Strike was one of the seminal events in 1969 that laid the foundation for the Chicano Movement in Colorado. The impact of the women-led social movement reverberated throughout the state within the Chicano civil rights movement.
But most importantly, Lupe Briseño and the Kitayama Carnation Strike demanded that women, as well as all laborers, be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserved. Fundamental human rights were at the heart of their demands – the same rights that are the foundation of many of the social justice movements today: equal-pay-for-equal work, immigration rights, anti-human trafficking, and the “me too” movement.
Lupe Briseño, her companions and their role in the Kitayama Carnation strike empowered Latinas in the civil rights, labor, feminist, education, and social justice movements of the 1960s and 70s. Her actions and leadership are the shoulders upon which current Latina leaders stand.
Rosalind “Bee” Harris
Rosalind "Bee" Harris has dedicated her career to elevating communities of color by providing a platform for their voices and their stories with the founding of the Denver Urban Spectrum newspaper in 1987 and the Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation in 2000.
The Denver Urban Spectrum newspaper started as a way of "spreading the news about people of color" through informative, entertaining articles, and grew into a thirty-two-year-old institution that went beyond merely delivering information to showcase voices not heard in the mainstream media. In 2000 Harris founded the Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation, a mentoring program that trained youth from ages 11 to 17 in the field of journalism. During a seven-week summer program, participants learn skills and techniques in writing/reporting, photography, layout and design, sales and marketing, and business management. More than 250 youth have attended the award-winning program and produced multi-page publications distributed to all DUS readers after each session.
Harris has not only facilitated communication and advocated for people of color, but she has also been a cultural ambassador, historian, and advisor on local, national, and international levels. Harris has led the publication of stories of African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian women throughout the years. Her passion for and commitment to empowering women to reach new frontiers is seen in every issue of the newspaper and every event she supports. By dedicating her life's work to the empowerment of others, Harris' dedication to elevating the status of women is indispensable.
Velveta Howell has made many contributions as a life-long champion for social justice and advocacy. She is known as an exceptional role model for other African American women and girls. She was the eighth African American female graduate of the University of Colorado Law School and the first woman of color appointed as Colorado's Deputy District Attorney. From her humble beginnings, she has worked tirelessly at the local, state, regional, and federal levels to advance the causes closest to her, succeeding in the fiercely competitive and often brutal world of criminal justice.
Through creative, solid, and sustainable policies, practices, and procedures, Howell designed roadmaps to enhance others' lives, especially society's most vulnerable. Her ability to visualize and eliminate impediments to social justice, equipped her to tear down barriers and increase access to social, civil, and criminal justice, quality and equal healthcare, clean water, affordable housing, food, and other critical services for people of all backgrounds.
Howell attributes her success to integrity, compassion for all people, and an unrelenting commitment to justice. This determination has resulted in a succession of women, especially women of color, following her into this still male-dominated arena. Today, many African American prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys in Colorado are inspired and/or personally mentored by her. Howell has worked to improve access to quality healthcare to all Colorado citizens, particularly underserved populations. She is one of twelve appointees to the Robert Wood Johnson-funded Colorado Healthcare Reform Executive Steering Committee and Turning Point Initiative . She is also the driver behind the committee's focus on racial and ethnic healthcare disparities. This focus has resulted in the establishment and legislative enactment of the Colorado Office of Health Disparities , only the nation's second.
Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS
Colorado’s earliest physician breastfeeding champion, Marianne Egeland Neifert, MD, MTS, has devoted more than 40 years to improving maternal-child health. She provided education to diverse health professionals, implemented model lactation services, helped re-establish breastfeeding as a community norm, and advanced the nascent discipline of breastfeeding medicine.
Beginning in the late 1970s, Neifert was the first US physician to promote the routine use of modern lactation technologies in the management of breastfeeding difficulties. Neifert helped pioneer society-wide institutional support for breastfeeding mothers, and helped establish and advance the new field of breastfeeding medicine. In 1984, she co-founded and served as the first Medical Director for the Denver Mothers’ Milk Bank (MMB). Today MMB is the largest non-profit human milk bank in North America, serving medically fragile newborns and infants. They have collected more than 5.5 million ounces of milk from more than 12,500 donors and dispensed screened-processed donor human milk to more than 120 hospitals in 35 states.
In 1990 Neifert co-founded the Colorado Breastfeeding Task Force, which later became the Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition. Their mission is to educate, advocate, and collaborate to reduce barriers and support all families to achieve their breastfeeding goals. Inn 1994, she co-founded the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, an international physician organization dedicated to the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding and the establishment of the field of breastfeeding medicine.
During her long career, Dr. Neifert has contributed to elevating breastfeeding from an individual mother’s “personal choice” to a public health priority warranting society-wide support. Her unwavering efforts to this end have made a significant impact on professional and lay breastfeeding education in Colorado and nationwide.
Gale Norton was the first woman Colorado Attorney General (1991-99) and the first woman to be appointed as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (2001-06). On behalf of Colorado and 45 other states as Colorado Attorney General, Norton helped negotiate the most extensive legal settlement in history: a $206 billion national tobacco settlement, the benefits of which continue to accrue. Gale is an exceptional role model for all women, but in particular those interested in pursuing careers in the law and public policy advocacy.
Norton pursued and won the suit against the Canadian mines speculator responsible for the environmental disaster at Summitville, caused by leakage of mining by-products into local waterways. She also won a significant court victory against the federal government, requiring the government to clean up hazardous waste at Rocky Flats and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.
During her time as Secretary of the Interior, the US faced an energy crisis, and Norton introduced and diversified new domestic energy supplies. Among other initiatives, she worked closely with Congress to enact the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which set a 10-year goal for 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy from public sources. Norton also resolved a 70-year water dispute between Colorado and California, launched her water initiative to address western-water challenges and championed the creation of two crucial Colorado conservation areas: the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Baca National Wildlife Refuge.
In 2011, she established the Norton Regulatory Strategies, where she provides policy advice to companies and organizations. She remains active representing the public interests in environmental policy and the protection of our natural resources, having chaired the National Park Foundation and the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission.
2020 Historical Inductees
Mary Lou Anderson
A passionate advocate for cultural arts and arts education, Mary Lou Anderson was an influential leader in Colorado Springs, and across the state and the nation through her work in the development of programs that engage students, educators, and business leaders in the cultural arts. Anderson founded the National Parent Teacher Association Reflections Program and the Arts Business Education Consortium. For the last 50 years, the program has advanced the support and recognition of nearly 15 million students and educators for their artistic talents and achievements. More than 55% of the students recognized were girls. Anderson had a “big idea,” and she strategically created a frameworkthat ensured the extension and legacy of that idea far beyond her initial efforts.
Anderson believed that recognition at an early age could help to combat gender discrimination by raising young girls’ awareness of and confidence in their artistic and leadership capabilities. These same experiences benefited all students, including boys and special needs students.
Dr. Alida Cornelia Avery
A graduate of the New England Female Medical College of Boston in 1862, Dr. Alida Cornelia Avery was a professor of Human Physiology and Hygiene, as well as a Resident Physician at the newly founded Vassar College from 1866-1874. In 1874 she moved to Denver, Colorado, and is credited with being Colorado's first woman to practice medicine while also serving as the Superintendent of Hygiene for the State.
In 1876 she was elected the first president of the newly founded Colorado Woman Suffrage Association and was a dedicated and inspirational leader in the efforts to achieve the right to vote for Colorado women. Upon her death, her accomplishments in the Suffrage movement were still being recognized as a significant part of her legacy for the women in Colorado.
Elizabeth Piper Ensley
Elizabeth Piper Ensley was an African American educator, political activist, and suffragist. Her leadership was instrumental in Colorado’s victorious campaign for full voting rights in 1893. Ensley dedicated her career to organizing for women’s rights, especially for African American women. She led critical local, state, and national women’s organizations where she worked to bridge the racial lines in women's organizations.
Ensley founded the Colorado Association of Colored Women’s Clubs in 1904 and served as an officer on the state Board of Directors of the Colorado State Federation of Women’s Clubs – the influential state organization primarily led by white women. Ensley was one of only a handful of African American women leaders nationwide who worked for suffrage rights within a racially integrated campaignorganization, the Colorado Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association.
Carolina Acuña Díaz González was a Colorado Renaissance Pioneer, renowned for her welcoming home, her active support for the arts and culture, and her uniquely authentic restaurant, Casa Mayan, a “Mutalista” or refuge for 40 years for immigrants in Colorado. Carolina was an essential element in building and supporting the Denver community and ensuring that everyone felt a part of that community. She opened her doors to people of all nationalities and walks of life.
González provided accommodations and a safe haven during the Depression for countless youths, "riding the rails" to Colorado. In the 1950s, she opened "Carolina's Casa" to anyone of any race fleeing persecution during the McCarthy era. She never turned anyone away, demonstrating the importance of community for all citizens, and the significant aspects of Mexican hospitality and generosity: "Mi Casa es Su Casa." Her former residence is now part of the National Register of Historic Places and a Denver landmark.
About the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame
Since 1985 the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame has inducted 162 women of various 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 in 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.
They are teachers, doctors, scientists, politicians, social activists, bankers, newspaper publishers, philanthropists, humanitarians, authors, a symphony conductor, a former prime minister, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, jurists,a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, an historic preservationist, a true Western pioneer, an aviation pioneer, a former Miss America, and a Cheyenne princess, to name a few. While some are well known throughout Colorado and the nation, others were pioneers in their small communities.