This life (in an isolated mountain cabin) is in some respects like being on board a ship—there are no mails, and no one knows nothing beyond one’s little world, a very little one in this case. We find each other true, and have learnt to esteem and trust each other. I should, for instance, go out of the room leaving this book open on the table, knowing that the men would not read my letter. They are discreet, reticent, observant, and on many subjects well informed, but they are of a type which has no antitype at home (England). All women work in this region, so there is no fuss about my working, or saying, “Oh, you mustn’t do that,” or “Oh, let me do that.”
-Isabella Bird, 1873
In 1873, English adventurer Isabella Bird set out to explore the American West and glimpse herself the rough-hewn life lived by those in the western states and territories. Hers is one of the most detailed, poignant, and exciting accounts of life on the frontier and a must-read for any fan of Western US history.
In March, we honor Women’s History Month. It’s a time to pay special consideration to the important role women have played in our development as a nation, culture, and society. And, while the voices of women are now much more frequently included in historic narratives than when Women’s History Month was first conceived in the late 1970s, it’s still an appropriate time to ponder the diverse and crucial roles that women have filled. A woman’s life in early Colorado was little different from a man’s—hard scrabble, difficult, and perilous. And women, like men, had to be strong willed, entrepreneurial, and cunning just to survive. From pioneer mother to suffragist to prostitute, women played important and invaluable roles in the development of our state.
To celebrate the month, the Golden History Center Museum Store has curated a special selection of books that examine the colorful lives of the unique women who contributed to the development of Golden and Colorado.
Here’s a short list of highlights:
A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird
Following Isabella: Travels in Colorado Then and Now by Robert Root
A Woman’s Life in Golden edited by Lorraine Wagenbach
The Quilt that Walked to Golden: Women and Quilts in the Mountain West by Sandra Dallas
The Best of Covered Wagon Women Vols. 1 and 2 by Kenneth L Holmes
Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith
Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains by Jan MacKell
Hell on Horses and Women by Alice Marriott
Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West by Anne Seagraves
These terrific titles can all be purchased at the History Center and the proceeds of the sale benefit Golden History Museums. As always, GHM members receive a 10% discount. But even if you are unable to purchase a book, we hope you will visit your local library branch, check out one of these books, and learn more about the fascinating women who helped make Colorado the amazing place it is.