Women’s History Month: 5 Fort Collins Women Who Made History

For Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating Fort Collins women who have impacted the world with the help of our friends at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. We hope the glimpses into the lives of these unique women inspire further research and discovery. 

Elizabeth “Auntie” Stone | Founding Mother of Fort Collins 

Elizabeth “Auntie” Stone – Photo courtesy of The Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Elizabeth and her husband, Lewis, came to Colorado in a covered wagon pulled by cows in 1862. Two years later, they built a home and officer’s mess in the frontier post that would later become Fort Collins. This made Elizabeth the first non-native woman to permanently live in Fort Collins. Elizabeth converted the officer’s mess into a public hotel in 1867, where she cooked meals and baked treats for the officers. Her caring familial nature is what earned her the nickname “Auntie” among the soldiers. After the Fort of Fort Collins was decommissioned in 1867, Elizabeth flourished as a businesswoman. She continued to be in the business of running hotels at the Pioneer Hotel out of her cabin before buying the Blake House hotel in 1873. She also started the Lindell Mills, Fort Collin’s first flour mill. 

Elizabeth “Auntie” Stone’s legacy lives on in Fort Collins today. Her cabin, recognized as the oldest building in Fort Collins, now sits in the Heritage Courtyard in Liberty Park. Auntie Stone Street is named in her honor. She was an influential businesswoman, and she helped establish a community through her kindness and hospitality.  

Jovita Vallecillo Lobato | Education Trailblazer  

Jovita Vallecillo Lobato – Photo courtesy of The Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Jovita moved to Fort Collins when she was 4. Like many in the early 1900s, Jovita’s parents worked in the sugar beet fields around Fort Collins. They understood a better life was possible through education and thus encouraged Jovita and her younger brother, Salvador, to work hard in school and attend college. 

Jovita graduated from Fort Collins High School in 1932. She was the first Mexican American student to graduate from a public school in Fort Collins. She went on to attend Colorado Agricultural College (today’s Colorado State University). In 1936, she became the first Mexican American to graduate from Colorado Agricultural College, with degrees in economics and sociology, and a minor in education. She went on to earn her master’s in psychology and taught at schools in Colorado, New Mexico and New Jersey. In 1996, Jovita and her brother Salvador were honored at CSU’s El Centro Achievement Awards Ceremony. That year, 1,095 Hispanic students were enrolled at CSU, walking in the footsteps of Jovita. 

Margaret Martinez  | Community Builder 

Margaret Martinez – Photo courtesy of The Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Margaret was a long-time resident of Alta Vista, a Fort Collins community. She didn’t just live in the community, Margaret built and maintained community connections that lasted generations. Margaret’s family came to Fort Collins in the early 1900s from northern New Mexico to work in the sugar beet fields when she was young.  

Margaret married her husband, Charles, in 1927. The two moved from place to place, working in the sugar beet fields and saving for a home they purchased 10 years later. They bought their house in Alta Vista in 1937, on what is now Martinez Street (named after Charles). Originally a two-room adobe building, they purchased their home from Great Western Sugar for $190. Through the years, Margaret and Charlie improved their home and raised their seven children there. They also strived to improve Alta Vista. Both Margaret and Charlie became active community leaders and petitioned to bring essentials, like a sewer system, to the residents of Alta Vista. Margaret strove to build a better life for her children and others in Alta Vista. 

Hattie McDaniel | Actress and Activist 

Hattie McDaniel was a pioneer in acting, becoming the first African American to receive an Academy Award recognition for her role in the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind.” Hatty received credits in 80 films during her acting career and paved the way for African American actors to follow her.  

Hattie’s parents, Susan and Henry, who were born into slavery, moved their family to Fort Collins in 1901 and lived there for a few years before moving to Denver. They called Colorado home for the rest of their lives. While in Fort Collins, Hattie attended Franklin School as a third-grader. She was the only African American student in her class.  

From a young age, Hattie had a passion for drama and performing. She got her start as a radio performer for Denver’s KOA station before pursuing her career in acting. Along with being known as an accomplished actress, Hattie is remembered for her work as a civil rights activist. She advocated ending restrictive racial covenants in California. In 2016, Hattie’s family home in Fort Collins at 317 Cherry Street was dedicated, and a plaque was installed beside the door.   

Martha Scott Trimble | Educator & Arts Supporter 

Martha Scott Trimble – Photo courtesy of The Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Martha was a lifelong resident of Fort Collins. She attended Fort Collins High School, where she was involved in Spilled Ink, the school’s newspaper, National Honor Society and Latin Club. After graduation, Martha attended college at Colorado Agricultural College (today’s Colorado State University), where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1936.  

Martha found a passion for education, and she became an English instructor at the college in 1940. During World War II, Martha joined the Navy WAVES — Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. She served as a navigation instructor and technical writer, and she became a Senior Grade Lieutenant, instructing pilots at the Naval Air Base in Pensacola, Fla. After the war, Martha returned to Fort Collins and teaching. She was very active in clubs, including the Fort Collins Historical Society, Daughters of the American Revolution and American Association of University Women. She was also a great supporter of the arts in Fort Collins and organized the cooperative of local artists, now Trimble Court Artisans, in downtown Fort Collins. 

More Instrumental Women of Fort Collins 

This is far from an extensive list of all the women of Fort Collins who have, and continue to, shape history. Thank you to our friends at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery for writing this post in partnership with Elevations Credit Union. Please visit their website to find out more about these women and Larimer County’s history. 

All photos courtesy of The Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.


Sources: 

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