A Brief History of Some Incredible Boulder Women
Revealing Our Routes: Women of Boulder County was originally developed by the Women of the West Museum back in 2002. Now the exhibit is now hosted by Boulder History Museum’s site. There are dozens of dynamic ladies documented in this collection, and today we’ve brought you a few of our favorites.
Ruth Cave Flowers (1903-1980) was a native Boulderite who graduated from Boulder high in 1920. Because she was African-American they refused to award her a diploma featuring her catchy name. Despite her lack of diploma, CU accepted Ruth Flowers as a student. She earned a doctorate in Romance languages in Washington D.C. She also earned a law degree, married a lawyer, and even practiced law awhile, but she preferred teaching. She taught languages in North and South Carolina before deciding that Boulder was the place for her. She taught Spanish and Latin at Fairview, and was the first African-American teacher in the Boulder Valley School district. In 1970, Flowers gave the commencement speech for Boulder High School and was surprised to be given a diploma in her name, 50 years after being refused her original. In 1969, Harvard University named Dr. Ruth Cave Flowers one of four outstanding teachers in the country.
If you are attending, or have attended anything at CU Boulder campus, you may have heard of Mary Rippon Theatre. The theatre is named for Mary Rippon (1850-1935) because she was one of the school’s first professors. She studied languages and history in Europe before taking the position at CU. She headed the German language and literature departments, and retired in 1909. At the time of her teaching, female professors were not allowed to marry or start families. But Mary Rippon began an affair with a student, twelve years her junior, and kept it secret. They did eventually marry and had a daughter, but the marriage did not last. Professor Rippon took her work very seriously and did not take time to be a mother to her daughter, and said as much herself. Her obituary called her daughter a “friend and protege”.
Two widows from Syracuse, NY, Florence Molloy (188X-1951) and Mabel MacLeay (188X-1950), moved to Boulder in 1916 and became the city’s first female taxi drivers. They were known as opposites: Mabel was lady-like and petite while Florence was stern and imposing at 6 feet tall. Their taxi business began in 1922 and was run from the Hotel Boulderado. In the winter they simply drove folks around the city, but the summers allowed them to take Boulder tourists on scenic mountain drives. They eventually opened the Double M dude ranch in Gold Hill, CO where they offered scenic driving tours, horseback riding, and summer vacation lodging. The duo spent their winters at 1019 Spruce Street, which is now the oldest house in Boulder.
There are dozens more stories like these at the Revealing Our Routes full site. Western history often focuses on male influences, and this site offers a broad look at the influence that women had on Boulder County. Whether they established more domestic lives for themselves or were vigorous entrepreneurs, women played an enormous part in developing the culture and history of Boulder and its neighboring towns. Everything from local restaurants to the Boulder green belt were only made possible by capable women. Check out the site and keep making herstory Boulder.